CURIOSITIES FROM BRUGES AND COLOGNE.


For a number of years certain items found in the old museums, churches and cathedrals of Europe have caught my eye and really fascinated me from a from a historical, artistic and religious treasure aspect. Some are ordinary mundane things such as early urine bottles which accelerated the development of clear glass as to the pale green which was the norm. Other things such as reliquaries which many churches hold today in their treasuries. I am not sure that the people still believe in the provenance of these but I believe these are still held as a treasure of ancient craftsmanship.

I show a few Items here to demonstrate things which I believe are priceless each in different ways. Besides paintings, there are items of wood, silver, gold and jewels. All, however are jewels and treasures in their own right.

BRUGES.

Some paintings are also extremely valuable from both an artistic viewpoint but also a historical one as well. I give one example of this, a painting in the ambulatory at The Church of Our Lady in Bruges.

Anselmus de Boodt. The Church of Our Lady in Bruges. Photograph: Peter Fairweather.
 
Johanna de Boodt. The Church of Our Lady in Bruges. Photograph: Peter Fairweather.

Above is shown the paintings by Pieter Pourbus (1524-1584) on the doors of the Triptych which shows the family of Anselmus de Boodt, who died in 1587. He is shown on the left with his seven sons, opposite this is a panel of his wife Johanna de Boodt who died in 1562, with the three daughters. One of the girls I am sure has been portrayed as being suffering from Downs Syndrome, the only time I have ever seen this condition displayed anywhere. Four sons and one daughter are marked on their head, just above the forehead, with a red cross which denotes that this child died before their father. The crosses would be added as each one deceased. This painting is not only an excellent portraiture item but also a historical record.

Detail, Saint Donatian, from "Madonna with Canon Van de Paele 1436". Groeninge Museum, Bruges. Picture from the Book "The Museums Of Bruges" by  Valentin Vermeersch. Credit Communal.The picture shown here is, to me, a fantastic piece of portraiture from the 15th Century. Canon Joris van der Paele is shown as the donor in the picture of "Madonna with Canon Van de Paele 1436," by Jan van Eyck (1390 - 1441).

Jan van Eyck is said to be "the founder of optical realism so characteristic of late mediaeval panel painting" and the panel from which I have extracted two fantastic illustrations, is one of his two masterpieces which are displayed in the Groeninge museum in Bruges.

The first extract from the painting is the picture of Saint Donatian and the attraction of this is the detail of the leaded glass in the window and the detail and realism of the Saint’s vestments and cross.

Detail, portrait of the donor: Joris van der Paele, from "Madonna with Canon Van de Paele 1436". Groeninge Museum, Bruges. Picture from the Book "The Museums Of Bruges" by  Valentin Vermeersch. Credit Communal.The second extract is of Canon van de Paele. The ‘Dress Armour’ of the figure next to him is brilliantly portrayed whilst Canon van de Paele himself is also so lifelike, from the small wart on the side of his beautifully portrayed elderly face right down to his wrinkles in the wrist of the hand which supports his prayer book. The most obvious and very early depiction is of the Canon’s spectacles which look reasonably modern despite being over 500 years old.

Something else which also attracted me when researching in Bruges was two sets of two paintings each on paper from the end panels of a pair of grave vaults. These were just stuck onto the ends of the grave before the coffin or body was laid to rest. Here we have one pair which are from the chapel of St John’s Hospital also in Bruges and were removed during excavations. The first is an Angel holding a Cross and three Nails plus The Virgin and Child. Dated 1400 - 1425.

Angel with Cross and Nails, drawing on paper from the excavation of the chapel of St. John's Hospital, Archaeological Museum, Bruges. Picture from the Book "The Museums Of Bruges" by  Valentin Vermeersch. Credit Communal. Virgin and Child, drawing on paper from the excavation of the chapel of St. John's Hospital, Archaeological Museum, Bruges. Picture from the Book "The Museums Of Bruges" by  Valentin Vermeersch. Credit Communal.
Angel with cross and nails. Virgin with child.

The second pair of paintings on paper (also described as fresco’s) are shown still in position in the tomb space of Provost Nikolaas van de Steene, {1339} in the choir of Our Lady’s Church. They show both Calvary and the Virgin Enthroned with the Infant Christ.

Calvary, fresco from the tomb of provost Nikolaas van de Steene, 1339. Choir of Our Lady's Church, Bruges. Picture from the Book "The Museums Of Bruges" by  Valentin Vermeersch. Credit Communal. Virgin Enthroned with the Infant Christ, fresco from the tomb of provost Nikolaas van de Steene, 1339. Choir of Our Lady's Church, Bruges. Picture from the Book "The Museums Of Bruges" by  Valentin Vermeersch. Credit Communal.
Calvary. Virgin enthroned with the infant Christ.

Ursula Shrine, by Hans Memling (before 1489), wood, gilded and painted. Memling Museum, Bruges. Picture from the Book "The Museums Of Bruges" by  Valentin Vermeersch. Credit Communal.The final item from Bruges is the Saint Ursula Shrine by Hans Memling (1435/1440-94) dated around 1480 and of wood which is gilded and painted. Although the cabinet work is recognised as being "Masterly" the meticulous miniatures are its crowning glory. The Virgin with two hospital sisters on one end and St Ursula with her companions on the other. whilst down the sides are six scenes from the legend of St Ursula. This is in the Memling Museum.

This museum contains six masterpieces of the renowned painter Hans or Jan Memling plus much, much more from Bruges charitable institutions and especially of the Hospital of St John where the collection is located.

The buildings also include the Hospital Chapel and the Cornelius Chapel which both hold the Memling paintings collection. Mediaeval Wards and the Old Monastery with its old Pharmacy and the 19th century Hospital complex.


COLOGNE.

The Casket of the Three Wise Men (1180-1230). Cologne Cathedral. Picture by Jakob Schlafke, taken from the book: "The Cathedral of Cologne" by Jakob Schlafke. Bonechi Verlag Styria.The first item from Cologne is this casket of the Three Wise Men which rests on the High Altar of the Cathedral. The remains of the Three Wise Men were brought to the cathedral by Archbishop Reinald von Dassel in 1164 from Milan where they had been kept in a marble sarcophagus. The citizens of Cologne decided such important relics should be encased in Gold silver and precious stones.

The most famous craftsman was Nikolaus de Verdun who had to travel with his craftsmen to Cologne from Vienna in 1180. The casket took well over forty years to complete and comprised a basilica with a nave and single aisles. It measured 2.20m long by 1.10 wide and 1.53m high. On the upper section of the sides are the Apostles The back shows two scenes, of the Flagellation and the Crucifixion in the lower panels which depicts how the Lord atoned for the sins of the world. The upper panel shows how the faithful gathered round him.

On the front end there is the Adoration of the Three Wise Men and on the upper section Christ Judges the world

Along with many others I find it very hard to believe that the claims made for these being genuine could be true. However, in 1979 research dated the material the bones were wrapped in dated to between the second and fourth century A.D.

As well as the bones of the Three Wise Men the Casket contains the bones of Saint Felix, Saint Naborio and Saint Gregory of Spolito.

Detail: the adoration of the three wise men. The Casket of the Three Wise Men (1180-1230). Cologne Cathedral. Picture by Jakob Schlafke, taken from the book: "The Cathedral of Cologne" by Jakob Schlafke. Bonechi Verlag Styria.   Detail: the adoration of the three wise men. The Casket of the Three Wise Men (1180-1230). Cologne Cathedral. Picture by Jakob Schlafke, taken from the book: "The Cathedral of Cologne" by Jakob Schlafke. Bonechi Verlag Styria.

The Casket rests upon the High Altar in the centre of the Choir. It is 4.52m long and 2.12m wide. The white carved marble figures set against the black marble slabs depict The life of Mary, The Annunciation, The Visit of The Three Wise Men, Christ’s Presentation at The Temple and Christ’s Entry into Heaven. The scenes are surrounded by Apostles, Saints and Prophets.

The Ostensory-Shrine with three links from St. Peter's chain. Cologne Cathedral. Picture by Jakob Schlafke, taken from the book: "The Cathedral of Cologne" by Jakob Schlafke. Bonechi Verlag Styria.The Shrine of the Cross (11th-12th century). Cologne Cathedral. Picture by Jakob Schlafke, taken from the book: "The Cathedral of Cologne" by Jakob Schlafke. Bonechi Verlag Styria.In the treasury are kept many other items of antiquity. One of these is the three links of the chain which bound St Peter in Rome and Jerusalem which were brought from Rome at the time of Archbishop Bruno I (953- 965). These links are kept in a gold Ostensory-shrine from the 15th Century.

Also in the treasury is an 11th century Byzantine Triptych (a present from Emperor Alexis I of Constantinople). This was altered in the 13th century to hold pieces of Christ’s Holy Cross. This is known a The Kolner Kreuzreliquiar or the Shrine of the Cross of Cologne. (Cologne Cross Reliquary).

The choir of Cologne Cathedral had been consecrated in 1322 it was not until 1880 that the rest of it was ready. In 1893 a new Bishops pastoral staff (Crosier) was made in a similar form to the one remaining from 1350. On the new staff (below left) the Bishop is depicted as kneeling before Christ on his Mother’s knee and offering Him an apple. This denotes the Bishop giving up all his worldly goods and the staff becomes the symbol of his office. The Bishop’s patron saint Hermann-Josef was supposed to have done this in the church of Santa Maria in Campidoglio. The staff belonged to the auxiliary bishop Hermann-Josef Schmitz who brought it with him from Essen to Cologne.

Pastoral Staff (1893). Cologne Cathedral. Picture by Jakob Schlafke, taken from the book: "The Cathedral of Cologne" by Jakob Schlafke. Bonechi Verlag Styria.   Pastoral Staff (1350). Cologne Cathedral. Picture by Jakob Schlafke, taken from the book: "The Cathedral of Cologne" by Jakob Schlafke. Bonechi Verlag Styria.

The 1350 staff (above right) depicts Archbishop Wilhelm von Gennep kneeling in front of the Madonna who holds baby Jesus on her knee. There are panels of brightly coloured enamel right round the curve of the head and just as it is in the second there is an angel holding the curved end to the straight beginning section of the staff head.

 


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