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Encyclopedic Museums-Medieval Treasuries

This lecture focuses on an historic precursor to the Encyclopedic Museum: medieval European church treasuries (ca. 1100-500 C.E.), whose most prized possessions were the relics of powerful saints gathered in Rome or Constantinople. In order to pay proper tribute to the saints, great patrons commissioned elaborate works of art to house relics. Works of art from other cultures-even other religions-were incorporated into the treasury collections, and therefore into the performance of the Mass. Included among these are Islamic carved ivories, rock-crystal vessels, and Byzantine and Sassanian textiles. Other curiosities such as ostrich eggs and coconuts were even fashioned into reliquaries.

Eight reliquaries from the Art Institute's collection acquired from the Church of St. Blaise in Brunswick, Germany, are showcased in this lecture.


Recorded Saturday, November 22, 2008 at The Art Institute of Chicago-Fullerton Hall.

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