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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  November 2012

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION November 2012

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Subject:

Re: porphyry and altar stones

From:

John Shinners <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 17 Nov 2012 18:03:04 -0500

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

J. C. Cox and A. Harvey's "English Church Furniture" (2nd ed, 1908) devotes its first chapter to medieval altars and the effort to replace wooden ones with stone from 11 C onward.  It's free on Google Books (http://books.google.com/books?id=jkNLAAAAMAAJ&).  I don't know about continental Europe.

Best,
John

----- Original Message -----
From: "Margaret Jean Cormack" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Saturday, November 17, 2012 3:19:24 PM
Subject: [M-R] porphyry and altar stones

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Greetings,
I have just come across a statement, probably derived from an encyclopedia, that "the laws of the Catholic Church required that the altar consist of a stone slab of marble, porphyry, or granite." 
Can anyone help me identify the "laws" to which reference is made, and also the materials out of which altars
were in fact, made, especially in areas where the types of stone mentioned might not be easy to find? How common was the use of other materials if the right kinds of stone were not available? Also, it is my understanding that the point of an altar was that the stone be  in contact with the earth, which would not be the case if a portable altar stone was used. Does the blessed stone "replace" the requirement of being earth-bound?  Incidentally, my futile search for information on the net did however reveal numerous pages illustrating the "Treasures of Heaven" exhibition, well worth looking at! Google "Portable Altar of Countess Gertrude" 
Thanks in advance,
Meg

________________________________________
From: medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of Christopher Crockett [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Friday, November 16, 2012 10:27 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [M-R] Fwd: TMR 12.11.13 Monckton and Morris, Coventry (Leech)

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture



------ Original Message ------
Received: Fri, 16 Nov 2012 10:20:23 AM EST
From: The Medieval Review <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: TMR 12.11.13 Monckton and Morris, Coventry (Leech)

Monckton, Linda, and Richard Morris, eds. <i>Coventry: Medieval Art,
Architecture, and Archeology in the City and its Vicinity</i>. Series:
The British Archeological Association Conference Transactions XXXIII.
Leeds: Maney Publishing, 2011. Pp. xx, 362. $62.00. ISBN-13:
9781906540623.

   Reviewed by Donald Leech
        University of Virginia's College at Wise
        [log in to unmask]


This volume is the thirty-third in a long running series on art,
architecture, and archeology in various localities around Britain
where the British Archeological Association met (though four do
concern European locations). Coventry hosted the 2007 BAA conference
and this volume represents a collection of many of the conference
papers. It is a very useful update on the archeology of the medieval
period, which this historian especially appreciates as we tend to find
access across disciplines much less frequently than we may wish.
Across the volume the one element that most struck this reader was
that most of the buildings and artworks under discussion were produced
or greatly modified in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The
surviving physical evidence serves as a reminder of what must have
been impressive architectural, artistic, cultural, and economic
vitality in Coventry in the Later Middle Ages. The essays in this book
give us updates on recent work on the most significant buildings in
this important medieval city.

The first three essays set the archeological background and provide
some historical context. A useful introduction by Ian Soden sets the
framework of the collection of essays within the context of a medieval
timeline, as well as providing some early history of archeology within
the city itself. This introduction is smoothly followed by Chris
Patrick describing the more recent, and often impressive,
archeological projects in the city. Finally, Richard Goddard provides
the historical, primarily economic, context. From Goddard we get a
sequence of the various periods of economic growth and expansion and
their correlation with building and rebuilding programs. It is nice to
have the documentary and archeological evidence speak to each other so
directly. Goddard postulates a long growth cycle in the thirteenth
century, renewal after the Black Death, then a long mid-fifteenth
century slump, followed again by recovery. The last conclusion is
interesting as in a 2006 publication Goddard had presented a more
pessimistic case for fifteenth century decline. Now he has, though I
think insufficiently, moderated that dour stance.

I have two quibbles on Goddard's use of data. First, he shows a burst
of activity in issuances of certificates of debt from 1350 to 1419
then a massive drop off. What is measured here is not decline in
economic activity but survival of sources. The peak in Goddard's graph
illustrates the exceptional survival of a complete roll of debt
certificates covering 1392 to 1416. After 1416 all that exists are a
smattering of survivals in the national archives. So after 1416 there
are woefully insufficient numbers of surviving certificates of debt to
make any conclusions about the fifteenth-century economy. The second
quibble involves the data that reveal the burst of leasing activity in
the property market after the Black Death. This as much measures the
large scale recycling of property in a period of high mortality as it
does an economic peak.

The next group of papers get us up to date on Saint Mary's cathedral
after the impressive Phoenix Initiative excavations of 1999-2003.
Richard Plant and Richard Morris discuss the various phases of
Romanesque and Gothic building. Between them they provide us with an
increasingly full picture of the architectural history of this
cathedral and its associated priory before its demolition in the
1540s. After which George Demidowicz writes a tour-de-force account of
the building history of the cathedral and priory site from the
dissolution, through industrialization, and de-industrialization, to
the present. His excellent archeologically based micro-survey demands
further work of historical context and relationships from document
based historians. Such a detailed approach would benefit other defined
areas of the city.

Adjacent to the old cathedral stood the great cloth church, and much
later cathedral, of Saint Michael's. This great church deservedly
receives its own architectural survey. While, unfortunately the third
large church in the center of Coventry, Holy Trinity, does not get
this treatment. Linda Moncton's survey of Saint Michael's helps bring
the now bombed-out shell alive by following the different phases of
building and rebuilding over time rather than simply describing the
place. She also provides the stylistic relationship of Saint Michael's
architecture within the region and country which helps place Coventry
in a broader context.

The mercantile and artisanal aspects of the city are covered
artistically and architecturally in four essays. George Demidowicz
returns with a solid review of the various phases of construction and
development of the merchant guildhall of Saint Mary's. John Cherry's
discussion on seals and the metal working industry is necessarily
brief as there is simply not much to be gleaned besides metal seals
mean metal working. Richard Marks' iconoclastic essay on glass
painting rejects the existence of regional styles based in places like
Coventry, and instead claims regional centers of material production
for what was essentially a very mobile and dynamic craft. The essay on
the famous Coventry glazier John Thronton by Heather Gilderdale Scott
would have been better placed immediately following that of Marks
rather than later in the book. She argues convincingly that Thornton
was a very mobile businessman. He, and teams of masters working and
training under him, worked multiple commissions around the Midlands
and North (including the great east window of York Minster).
Gilderdale Scott furthers the argument of Richard Marks by moving away
from a regional Coventry style and more to a Thornton style of glass
work performed by Thornton and his protégées.

Glass-making allows for a transition to art in Coventry, which is
covered with an essay on a Revelation mural in Holy Trinity church,
and two essays on Saint Anne's Charterhouse. Miriam Gill's analysis of
the newly restored fifteenth-century Doom painting in Holy Trinity
reminds us of the incredible lost artistic wealth from the medieval
period of which fragments like this can only provide tantalizing
hints. Of the two essays on the charterhouse, Julian Luxford's
sensibly combines the architectural and religious histories of the
institution, while Mellie Naydenova-Slade reveals a little known but
very high quality mural fragment dated to the fifteenth century.

The book is rounded-out by several other essays on specific sites in
the Midlands (Combe abbey outside Coventry, Guy's Cliffe in Warwick,
St. Mary Newarke in Leicester, Kenilworth Abbey barn, and Kenilworth
castle). Although individually useful and informative, these essays
sit uncomfortably with the book's focus on Coventry (despite the
insertion of vicinity in the title). This reader would suggest
instead, without taking away from the merits of those essays, that the
focus remain in Coventry. The book almost entirely neglects work on
vernacular architecture and archeology, so there is plenty of scope
for essays on ordinary houses and shops. For example, both the
excavations in Bayley Lane between 2004 and 2006, and the 2006
excavations in Far Gosford Street received tantalizing summaries by
Chris Patrick in his introductory essay. I would like to read much
more. Also there has been considerable dendrochronology research
performed on surviving medieval houses in Coventry. A summary of that
work would be very useful in this context.

In terms of apparatus, the essays are well illustrated with black and
white pictures, diagrams, and maps. Twenty-four pages of quality color
pictures preface the book, and are referred to repeatedly by many of
the essays. Although it takes a little page turning to get back to
them, it is an efficient way of using pictures referenced by multiple
essays.  However, the endnotes should be converted to footnotes. In a
book intended for easy reading then endnotes are effective, but in a
very technical book like this I really prefer the citations on the
page in order to prevent near constant page flipping. Speaking of
citations, it appears some mechanism is desperately needed to help
archeologists to publish their results so that other scholars could
have access to the data. Too many references were of unpublished
reports of fellow archeologists.

This reader appreciates the opportunity provided by the book to cross
disciplines and get a deeper perspective on this important, wealthy,
and vital medieval city, and of its regional and national links. The
essays do excellent analysis of Coventry's medieval monumental
environment, but there is too little on vernacular architecture or
material culture. Finally, frustratingly, maddeningly, I got a strong
sense of how much has been lost since the Middle Ages, especially
during the twentieth century, and continues to be neglected today.






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-- 
John Shinners 
Professor, Schlesinger Chair in Humanistic Studies 
Saint Mary's College 
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556 
Phone: 574-284-4494 or 574-284-4534 
Fax: 284-4855 
www.saintmarys.edu/~hust 

"Learn everything.  Later you will see that nothing is superfluous."     -- Hugh of St. Victor (d. 1141)

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