As an imperial abbey outside of Rome, Farfa was at the nexus of sometimes aligned and often competing forces. In the mid-11th century, policies of the Holy Roman Empire and papacy converged to promote ecclesiastical reform. I and others have shown how a major rebuilding and mural decoration of the abbey church at Farfa around 1060 reflect this situation. However, an unusual scene in the fresco program, ‘The Adoration of the Phoenix’, has received little attention. Rather than simply a traditional symbol of paradise and resurrection, the Farfa phoenix should also be understood as an emphatic reference to important ideals of reform.
Political, religious, and economic forces in Ireland combined to give late 11th and early 12th century metalwork art a so-called Second Golden Age. The appropriateness of the title ‘Second Golden Age’ will be considered by comparing the outstanding artefacts of the period with those of the first ‘Golden Age’. The appropriateness of the terms ‘reform’ and ‘renewal’ will also be considered. ‘Renewal’ seems more relevant, given the continuous influence of Scandinavian styles on Irish art in the 11th century, but reform and renewal were both required in the very monastic institutions that commissioned the fine religious objects of the second flowering. Could figs of gold have grown upon thorns?
At the end of the 15th century, a cheaper version of relic-books emerged. Single-leaf woodcuts reproduced the sacred relics that belonged to a community, monastery, shrine, or church. These woodcuts could be purchased by the pilgrims and offered new possibilities: the singular materiality of the remains of the saints or reliquaries could now count on a massive multiplication. The reproduction in many images meant a widening of the cult of relics, ensuring the presence of the sacred in a direct way, without being restricted to a specific place and date. In the ‘Era of Private Image’, this unprecedented scale gave to the faithful a new practice and a renewal of devotion.
The discovery of previously unknown decorative murals in five medieval churches in the territory of medieval Livonia over the last few years have considerably broadened and changed the understanding of the medieval and post-medieval church decoration in this region. This paper will discuss who, for whom, how and why created these murals. It will also dwell upon the use of some changing and other remarkably persistent patterns in the murals. The final part of the paper will be dedicated to the post-medieval ‘life’ of these decorations.