Showing posts with label St. Elisabeth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label St. Elisabeth. Show all posts

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Hedwig Beaker and Other Medieval Objects at the Corning Museum of Glass

Headwig Beaker, 12th century.
Collection of The Corning Museum of Glass (67.1.11) 

During my recent visit to the Corning Museum of Glass (at Corning, New York), I was happy to see the Museum's Hedwig beaker, which is a great example of this mysterious object type. Originating from the late 12th century, about 15 such beakers are known today, most stemming from church treasuries. Their name comes from their association with Saint Hedwig of Silesia.  Several known pieces were mounted and transformed into reliquaries, and some of the most famous surviving pieces are still preserved in church treasuries: at Halberstadt cathedral, Minden cathedral and at the Wavel Cathedral in Krakow, as well as at Notre Dame d’Oignies in Namur (2 pieces). Important museum pieces are in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, the British Museum, and the Rijksmuseum, in addition to the Corning Museum's piece. The cut glass pieces are decorated with lions, griffins or eagles, and they seem to imitate rock crystal objects made in Fatimid Egypt. The origin of these small masterworks has been much debated: most likely they were made in Sicily, but other theories also exist. Ample literature can be found on the subject: the collection databases of the museums mentioned above or even the relevant Wikipedia article can be a starting point for further exploration. In fact, on the website of the Corning Museum of Glass, you can find an essay on these objects, written by David Whitehouse, as well as a nice video (see below).

Drawing (with reconstruction) of the fragment
from Buda castle. Budapest History Museum

It is important to mention that a fragment of a Hedwig beaker was also uncovered during excavations of the royal palace of Buda, the center of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Katalin Gyürky H., who had published the fragment, proposed that the object may have belonged to the royal treasury. Another of the beakers also has a Hungarian connection: the object in the Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg is said to have belonged to St. Elisabeth of Hungary (while some centuries later, it was in the possession of Luther). St. Elisabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II and Queen Gertrude - the latter being the sister of St. Hedwig of Silesia. Lack of early sources about these object prevent the creation of elaborate theories.

Naturally, the Corning Museum of Glass - which has one of the best collections of historic glass in the world - holds many other medieval treasures, including some pieces of stained glass as well as superb pieces of Islamic glass. One more object I would like to highlight is of a different nature: it is a 12th-century recipe book known as Mappae Clavicula. Among other things, it includes recipes for making colored glass. Held at the Rakow Research Library of the Corning Museum, the manuscript has been digitized and is accessible from the website.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

On the trail of St. Elisabeth in Marburg

A few weeks ago I had a chance to walk around Marburg, the burial place and the center of the cult of St. Elisabeth of Hungary. Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary, of the Árpád dynasty and his wife Gertrude, from the family of the Counts of Andechs-Meran. In 1211, the four year old Elisabeth was taken to the Thuringian court, to be raised with his intended husband, Hermann of Thuringia. Soon after she left (in 1213), her mother was killed by rebellious Hungarian lords. As Hermann passed away as well, Elisabeth in the end was married to his brother, Ludwig (in 1221). The couple had three children, but Ludwig passed away on a crusade in 1227. By this time Elisabeth started following Franciscan ideas of poverty, and was strongly influenced by the ascetic Master Conrad of Marburg. In 1228, in the Franciscan house at Eisenach Elisabeth formally renounced the world, and became one of the tertiaries in Germany. In the summer of 1228 she built the Franciscan hospital at Marburg and then devoted herself entirely to the care of the sick. She passed away in 1231, at the age of only twenty-four.

Her ascetism, her charitable acts as well as many miracles at her gave quickly led to her canonization (1235), and one of the most beautiful Gothic chruches in Germany was soon built over her grave in Marburg by the Teutonic Knigths. Elizabeth became one of the most popular female saints of the entire Middle Ages, venerated especially in Germany, Hungary and Italy. You can read more about her life in the Catholic Encyclopedia, and you can read her legend as it was incorporated into the Legenda Aurea. Medieval images of her and her legend also abound in these regions. 2007 marked the 800 birthday of Elisabeth, and was marked by a series of exhibitions and events, the largest of them being the Landesausstellung at Wartburg. As I think both her life and the images depicting her are quite well-known, I will not go on about this subject - the purpose of this post was to share some images I took in Marburg, especially in the Elisabethkirche. You can see these below.