Author: Rózsa Juhos
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Possible Functions of Medieval Holy Sepulchres. In Western Christianity, the tomb of Christ and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem not only served as an influential architectural precedent throughout the Middle Ages, but also became a defining element of the Good Friday and Easter liturgies. Liturgical sources inform us that in some parts of the Latin Church, beginning in the second half of the tenth century, it was customary on Good Friday to place the Cross and/or the consecrated Host from Holy Thursday into the sepulchrum, the symbolic tomb of Christ. The Crucifix and the Sacrament would be removed from the sepulchre at dawn on Easter Sunday, and the empty tomb became the semantic centre of the Easter ceremony, as evidence of the Resurrection. Sculptural representations of the Holy Sepulchre from as early as the thirteenth century have survived, and it is possible to deduce that they were used to fulfil the function of the sepulchrum during the ceremonies of Holy Week. Liturgical texts do not usually make reference to figural Holy Sepulchres, so they cannot be used as direct sources for this purpose, although they do help us to understand liturgical sepulchres and to determine the role they performed in the liturgical space. The sepulchre was, on the one hand, a tool used in liturgical practice, and the ceremony itself defined the object, its status and its interpretation. A deeper examination of the activities carried out during the Triduum Sacrum, meanwhile, may enable us to determine the active role of the Holy Sepulchre, as an image, as part of the ceremony and for the duration of the ceremony. The use of sepulchres was not limited to liturgical or ritual practice, for certain examples remained visible at other times of the year, and may have provided an opportunity for the images to be used for individual devotion. The unrelated written and material sources may, in the final analysis, lend us the chance to identify the conceptual functions of the liturgical-ritual Holy Sepulchre and the Holy Sepulchre as an image.


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Acta Historiae Artium
Language English
Size A4
Year of
2021 Volume 62
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Founder Magyar Tudományos Akadémia
H-1051 Budapest, Hungary, Széchenyi István tér 9.
Publisher Akadémiai Kiadó
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Chief Executive Officer, Akadémiai Kiadó
ISSN 0001-5830 (Print)
ISSN 1588-2608 (Online)