Materials like glass, copper, and marble played a central role in connecting people with the divine in the Middle Ages. The works of art in this exhibition, all of which are on loan from the Hyde Collection, were essential tools for communicating stories about Christ, the incarnate Christian God, as well as helping viewers understand central tenets of theology. Enamel pyxides held the Eucharistic bread that was understood to be the body of Christ; marble panels served as a narrative backdrop for rituals and ceremonies; and stained-glass windows filled the space of churches with multi-colored light.
For viewers today—Christian or not—these works remind us of the power of objects to elicit emotions and shape spirituality. Students in Art History 151D, “The Middle Ages on the Move: Artistic Exchange in and beyond Europe” have studied these works and written prompts to which we hope visitors will respond. These questions invite us all to consider the objects not only in their medieval context but also in our current one, when slow looking and contemplation on that which we cannot see or know occurs far too infrequently.