Chalices, monstrances, thuribles, altar vessels, candlesticks, chasubles: these objects, made of a multitude of materials and techniques, all have one thing in common; they play a significant role in religious rites and occupy an important place in the history of religious art. In collaboration with researchers from UCLouvain and KU Leuven, the Institute conducted an iconological and anthropological study of the liturgical heritage in the Southern Netherlands (1400-1700), the so-called ornamenta sacra.
The focus on the Southern Netherlands is a voluntary choice: the region was a crossroads of cultures and religious faiths. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) and the politico-religious upheavals (including the Iconoclasm in 1566) left their mark on the liturgy. The study provides a comprehensive overview of the evolution of the relationship between art and liturgy.
Decorum as a starting point
Since ornamenta sacra are liturgical items, they are strongly linked to rituals. These objects are not only practical due to their function but also because of their material, symbolic and artistic value. In this project, we approach these objects from the perspective of decorum, in other words, how their appearance serves their function.
Meaning and experience
This approach invites a rethinking of the interactions between motions and emotions. What synesthetic experiences do ornamenta sacra provide? Part of the study focuses on the different sensory functions of this experience: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting.
Added documentary value through research
Today, many of these items, once part of the same liturgical ensemble, are often dismantled and dispersed throughout different collections. Here we have mapped out the links between these items (in terms of origin, typology and chronology).
As part of this project, researchers have developed new online resources. They are available to all those interested in our liturgical heritage.
- the Orna Sacra website
- the OrnaWiki with a multilingual thesaurus, linked to the BALaT liturgical items
- the Proceedings of the International Conference 2019 (Peeters Publishing, 2022).