Friday 25 March 2016

Good Friday 25th March 2016 - Full Circle

Crucifixion and Annunciation (BL Add. 44949, f. 5)

Because I don't follow the Church Liturgical Calendar, I hadn't picked up that today is both Good Friday, when Jesus died, and the Feast of the Annunciation, when he was conceived. The dates won't meet up again until 2057, but if Easter is turned from a movable to a fixed feast,sometime in April they will never meet again. Unless they move the Annunciation? But that would make Jesus into a premature baby.

Calendar, marking the Annunciation and Crucifixion on 25 March (BL Royal 1 D X, f.10)

It says it all here (which is where I have taken all my pictures from);
It is a long post, but I found it fascinating. You could read it while you listen to the St Matthew Passion.

I now need to visit the V and A to see this for real: An alabaster sculpture of the Annunciation, with the Lily Crucifix coming between the young Virgin and the Angel.  

Panel - The Annunciation with Trinity

I imagine it is very small. Oh. Ah. I see that it is in storage.

Last year I went to the British Museum to see this; the Holy Thorn Reliquary

The Reliquary is designed to display a holy relic, a single Thorn from the Crown of Thorns, which is the raison d'etre of this joyau and is placed vertically in the very centre under a rock-crystal 'window'. The inconspicuous Holy Thorn is mounted on a large square cabochon sapphire which, because of its size and brilliant colour, attracts the eye to the Holy Thorn - an object of such slender form and dull colouring that it almost disappears from sight. Immediately below the cabochon sapphire and the gem-set frame of the rock-crystal 'window' is an inscribed scroll which proclaims the origin of the Holy Relic: "Ista est una spinea corone Domini nostri ihesu cristi" ("This is a Thorn from the Crown of Our Lord Jesus Christ"). The inscription is finely engraved in black letter script; the letters have been filled with black enamel, and the three horizontal lines (above, below and between the two lines of the inscription) are filled with white enamel on the undulating surface of the scroll.  The Holy Thorn is set at the centre of a three-dimensional representation of the Last Judgement scene - or, as some scholars have proposed, the scene of the Second Coming. Because the precise iconographic distinctions between these two scenes at this date (c. 1405-10) in French art cannot be determined, the question remains unresolved. Certainly, the principal elements of the Last Judgement scene are included in this joyau: the Resurrection of the Dead, the two kneeling figures of Mary and John interceding on behalf of the Resurrected, the emphatic display of the Five Wounds of Christ, the accompanying Instruments of the Passion (carried by the two angels on either side of the Christ in Judgement figure) - all these iconographic elements seem to establish the basic essentials of the Last Judgement scene.  The goldsmith has ambitiously attempted (with gold, enamel, pearls and gemstones) to convey the scene both on Earth and in Heaven on that Last Day of Judgement:  (a) The Resurrection of the Dead: depicted in an earthly setting comprising a gold castellated fortress with four square turrets, each occupied by a half-length angel sounding a gold trumpet; these four gold angels are enamelled in white, two of them having light blue-enamelled fleurs-de-lis added on top of the white and two of them having the light blue enamel decoration added in dots, to form a floral pattern. This is a very early - almost primitive -form of painted enamel technique. A further addition of coloured enamel occurs on the drapery at the front of the necks of three of the angels, but their hair has, in each case, been left tooled in the gold without any enamel. Similarly, the gold fortress is left in a plain but burnished state with arrow-slits and square-headed windows cut out of the gold surface, whilst some windows are given gold shutters pushed open from the bottom. The central portal is flanked by two square turrets, between which is the door, approached by a grand flight of five steps projecting in a three-sided form. The door is closed but rendered in meticulous detail with its two massive horizontal hinge clasps and a square lock; an examination of the reverse shows that the door was made separately and let into the gold walls which had been cut to this unusual scalloped flat-headed shape. Above the door a small triangular turret projects forward.  On either side of the grand portal the walls of the fortress spread out diagonally back to a second pair of square corner turrets; these two side walls (each carried on a broad round-headed arch) are set with two long rectangular panels, each engraved and decorated in blue and red translucent enamel with the arms of Jean,

which I discovered from listening to the wonderful, wonderful "History of the World in 100 Objects". That's the link to the BBC i-player recording.

Even if the reliquary doesn't actually contain a True Thorn, the idea that it might, that there might be something there that touched Jesus, that touched the real Jesus, is mind blowing. Awesome. The Crown of Thorns acquitred by Louis IX is now housed in Notre Dame Cathedral, in a container provided by Napoleon. I can't exactly remember, but I think that it is taken and shown to pilgrims once a year. Who knows? Is it real? Does it matter? It is the possibility, the idea, that excites me.

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