Reenacting Piety: Present Devotion, Past Emotion

Auteur / Author: 
Donna SADLER (Agnes Scott College, États-Unis)
Jeudi 25 Août 2011 - 15:15


This paper will consider the concept of performative piety from its earliest manifestation in the commemoration of Christ’s Passion by pilgrims who traced his steps from the church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Anastasis Rotunda, to the proliferation of body part reliquaries in the later medieval period, to the engagement of monumental sculpture in the interior of cathedrals and cloisters. From the screams and moans of the pilgrims heard emanating from the courtyard of the Holy Sepulchre, to the use of a head and arm reliquaries as bejeweled extensions of the priest, to the apostles who gathered with Louis IX’s men about to embark on crusade, we will see the increasingly active role of sculpture to prompt a devotional response from the worshippers. The gradual migration of sculpture to the interior of cathedrals such as the Pilier des anges at Strasbourg and the verso of Reims Cathedral, marks a visual strategy to ground the meaning of the iconography increasingly in the individual’s peripatetic experience. By linking the viewer more intimately to the religious drama, the sacred past invades the present and commemoration becomes a personal, pious journey. The Well of Moses by Claus Sluter in the cloister of the Chartreuse de Champmol embodies the culmination of this trend of participatory piety. As one circles the prophets, the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice comes into focus. Performative piety links the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, the Old and New Testaments, and most importantly the past and the present. Monuments, then, have the capacity to collapse time so that each worshipper may experience Christ’s death and resurrection.