“Treasures of Heaven” Exhibition @ British Museum

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中世キリスト教の重要美術品を集めた大英博物館の新しい展覧会「Treasures of Heaven: saints, relics and devotion in medieval Europe」(6月23日〜10月9日)が先週始まった。大英博物館のコレクションに加え、バチカン、ヨーロッパの教会の宝庫、アメリカやヨーロッパの美術館など40以上の団体から集められた、キリストや聖人、殉教者の遺物を納めた聖骨箱など、150以上もの貴重な美術品が展示されている(展示品写真)。大英博物館によると、イギリスでまとまった数の宗教美術品が一堂に見られるのは、イコンの破壊が広く行われた16世紀の宗教改革の時以来だそう。

展示されている主な遺品は、Crown of Thorns(キリストのかぶせられた荊冠)の一部だとされる3本の刺、十字架の一部、聖ブラシウスの足(写真)、聖母マリアの母乳、聖ヨハネの髪の毛、最も古いものの一つであるキリストの自印聖像など。それらが納められている、銀や金細工の施された聖骨箱の素晴らしいこと。後期ローマ帝国時代に始まり約1000年に渡る中世に作られたこれらの美術品は、それ以降の時代の精巧さに比べて少し荒削りだったりするけれど、深い信仰心と職人たちの情熱が伝わってくる。ドーム(クーポラ)を模した少し薄暗い展示室も雰囲気満点。静謐な心持ちになれる。

British Museum‘s new exhibition, just started last week, is “Treasures of Heaven: saints, relics and devotion in medieval Europe” (June 23 to October 9), featuring over 150 sacred treasures of the medieval age. In addition to the British Museum’s own pre-eminent collection, the important relics of Christ and the saints and other artifacts were drawn from more than 40 institutions including the Vatican, European church treasuries, museums from the USA and Europe (photographs of treasures). British Museum website says that religious treasures have not been seen in significant numbers in the UK since the Reformation in the 16th century, when iconoclasm was widely observed throughout England.

Relics featured in the exhibition include three thorns thought to be from the Crown of Thorns, fragments of the True Cross, the foot of St Blaise (photo), the breast milk of the Virgin Mary, the hair of St John the Evangelist, and the Mandylion of Edessa (one of the earliest known likenesses of Jesus). How graceful and exquisite the ornate reliquaries containing those relics are! Those religious treasures, produced during Middle Ages which started from the late Roman period and lasted 1000 years, are not necessarily as elaborate or fancy as those of the later periods, but you can feel strong faith and passion of the craftsmen of the age. The dome-shaped dark exhibition room, is solemn and serene, and make everyone feel calm and peaceful.

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