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Hildesheim Portable Altar

  • Object:

    Altar

  • Place of origin:

    Hildesheim (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1160-1170 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Porphyry, framed in wood, with plates of gilt copper and partially gilded, embellished with vernis brun.

  • Museum number:

    10-1873

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery, case 4

The altar has long been thought to have been made for Cathedral of Hildesheim since St Godehard, Bishop of Hildesheim appears promminently. Hildesheim in Lower Saxony was a crucially important centre of medieval ecclesiastical patronage in an area renowned particularly for its metalworking skill. The cathedral and its treasury remain one of the great manifestations of the medieval arts in Europe.

Physical description

A portable consecrated tablet for use as an altar. An oblong slab of porphyry, framed in wood and covered, wholly on one side and partially on the other, with plates of gilt copper; engraved on both sides. The gilt copper plaque around the edge of the top face shows twelve saints, Mary and the following scenes from the life of Christ: the Nativity, the Crucifixion, the three Maries at the Sepulchre, the Ascension and Christ in Majesty. Amongst the saints represented the most noteable is Bishop Godehard of Hildesheim.

The base of the altar shows the Trinity, with saints St Boniface, St Pancras, St Peter, St Paul and at the base of the cross St Simplicius and St Faustinus.

Place of Origin

Hildesheim (made)

Date

ca. 1160-1170 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Porphyry, framed in wood, with plates of gilt copper and partially gilded, embellished with vernis brun.

Marks and inscriptions

C(ON)TINENTUR. HIC. EORUM. RELIQIE. QUORUM, IMAGINES. SVP. L(apidem). INFRA. SCULPTE. ST. ET S EORUM. LAURENTII. KYLIANI. GEORGII. OSWALDI. SEBASTIANI. MARURITII, THEBEORUM. MARTYRM. DIONISII. GREGORII. NICOLAI. MARTINI. LUCIE TE CLE XI MILIA. Virgines
The inscriptions allude to the numerous saints' relics within the altar.

Dimensions

Height: 2.7 cm, Width: 38.5 cm, Depth: 22.9 cm, Weight: 3.6 kg

Historical context note

The altar has long been thought to have been made for Cathedral of Hildesheim since St Godehard, Bishop of Hildesheim appears promminently. Hildesheim in Lower Saxony was a crucially important centre of medieval ecclesiastical patronage in an area renowned particularly for its metalworking skill. The cathedral and its treasury remain one of the great manifestations of the medieval arts in Europe.

Descriptive line

Gilt copper on wood, and porphyry, Germany. 12th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Williamson, P. ed. The Medieval Treasury (V&A Publications,1986) pp114,115
Algermissen, K. Bernward und Godehard von Hildesheim: ihr Leben und Werk (Hildesheim August Lax, 1960)

Materials

Porphyry; Wood; Copper gilt

Techniques

Gilding

Subjects depicted

Trinity, doctrine in Christianity

Categories

Christianity; Religion; Metalwork

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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