11 August 2010

The Blood of Christ in the Later Middle Ages...

by Caroline Walker Bynum: Church History, Vol. 71, No. 4 (Dec. 2002): pp. 685-714

"But even in the Mass of St. Gregory, blood escaped. It flowed in the Mass, and outside it as well. And it leapt away from the host as well as leading to it. For example, this wing from the St. Anne altar of the Wiesenkirche is Soest, 1473, combines the elements of the Gregorymass I have carefully sorted out--vision, eucharistic celebration, and purgatory--and yet does more. What we see here before an astonished Gregory is the blood leaping not only from chalice to pope but also from chalice to graveyard where the poor souls who receive it appear to rise from the dead under its saving power. The impact of this Gregorymass is completely different from that of the almost contemporary painting attributed to Dedeke. It is not clear whether mass is being said. The pope wears his tiara; the paten is empty; there is no host on the altar linen. Blood takes on a life and direction, an energy, of its own. Although iconographically the Gregorymass was by definition connected to altar and celebrant...this version seems to pull the blood directly from Christ to the penitent souls at least as insistently as the very different Dedeke version lifts souls toward heaven through the host consecrated by the celebrant. In the Dedeke mass, the roundness of the elevated host echoes the roundness of the naked bodies (both shoulders and buttocks) that rise and gesture toward a Christ's body that is subsumed in the host. Movement is inward and upward. In the image from Soest, the patterned floor (an exercise in perspective) carries our eyes not to pope or chalice but to the side wound itself; yet the sharp lines of blood then pull away not only from wound but even from chalice and toward the little angular figures in the churchyard. Our eyes go toward Christ, and then away, toward the souls who need salvation. The movement is inward, then outward; the picture splinters to our right. Blood saves, but it spills out in order to do so."(712-3)

No comments:

Post a Comment