CLEVELAND (Oct. 15, 2010) — On Sunday, Oct. 17, the Cleveland Museum of Art will premiere a groundbreaking exhibition examining the role of relics and reliquaries in the development of Christianity and the visual arts. Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe is the first major exhibition in the United States to consider the history of relics and reliquaries and will feature 135 works of art from Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages and early modern Europe. The exhibition continues through Jan. 17, 2011, before traveling to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and the British Museum in London.
About Treasures of Heaven
Many of the relics and reliquaries in the exhibition have never before been seen outside of their home countries. Included in Treasures of Heaven are metalwork, paintings, sculptures and illuminated manuscripts drawn not only from celebrated public and private collections in the U.S. and Europe, but also from important church treasuries.
In addition to the three organizing museums, institutions such as the Vatican, the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., are lending works.
The physical remains of holy men and women and other objects associated with them play a central role in a number of religions and cultures and were especially important to the development of Christianity. To convey the sanctity of these relics to the faithful, medieval artists created precious containers, or reliquaries, for churches, shrines and personal use. Often covered in gold and silver or encrusted with precious and semi-precious stones, these objects commanded attention. Their outward appearance reminded worshippers of the extraordinary nature of the matter they contained.
Powerful in inspiring religious devotion among believers, relics also captured the imagination of medieval arts patrons. By the height of the Middle Ages, artists had developed highly imaginative containers for sacred remains, combining innovative techniques with beautiful design.
The Glory of the Painted Page: Manuscript Illuminations from the Permanent Collection
To complement Treasures of Heaven, the museum will present a free exhibition of manuscript illuminations from its permanent collection. The Glory of the Painted Page shows from Nov. 6, 2010, to Feb. 27, 2011, in the museum's prints and drawings galleries.
The history of the book forms one of the chief categories of material culture of medieval and Renaissance Europe. For many, these handwritten, richly embellished works of art represent the quintessential form of medieval artistic expression. The illuminated manuscript is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable of all such collectibles from this era.
The history of manuscript illumination corresponds almost exactly with the time we know as the Middle Ages. An illuminated manuscript is a book that was written and decorated by hand sometime between the fall of Rome, in the late fifth century, and the perfection of printing technology towards the end of the 15th century. Its texts were written on vellum (animal skin), not paper, and were enlivened by the application of colorful inks, pigments and gold. In antiquity, literature was thought of as something spoken or heard. The Middle Ages broke with this tradition by considering a literary text as something to be revealed visually. Often elaborately decorated, illuminated manuscripts flourished in ecclesiastical, monastic, devotional, courtly, legal and academic contexts. This exhibition presents a selection of liturgical, academic and biblical leaves.
Treasures of Heaven Program Highlights
Programming for individuals, families and students of all ages will complement Treasures of Heaven throughout its Cleveland run. Following is a chronological list of key exhibition programs:
Objects of Memory: The Later Medieval Reception of Earlier Medieval Art
Wednesday, Oct. 20, 6:30 p.m.
Erik Inglis, associate professor of art history at Oberlin College, delivers the Case Western Reserve University Department of Art History Julius Fund Lecture in Medieval Art. Devoted to medieval art and architecture, including several works in the Treasures of Heaven exhibition, this lecture looks at how works of art were re-used and re-interpreted later in the Middle Ages. Free.
Sacred Landmarks Series
Saturdays, Oct. 23, and Nov. 6, 1:30 p.m.; and Nov. 13, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Griffith Mann, the museum's chief curator and co-curator of Treasures of Heaven, gives gallery talks on sacred pilgrimage in medieval Europe and the continuing tradition of venerating relics. The series concludes with a trolley tour of Cleveland's sacred landmarks and their reliquaries led by Cleveland architectural expert Tim Barrett. $60, museum members $50 for series; $13, museum members $10 for each gallery talk, and $35, museum members $30 for trolley tour.
Ritual and Pilgrimage in World Religions: A Panel Discussion
Sunday, Oct. 24, 2:30 p.m.
Experts in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and African religions explore the themes of ritual and pilgrimage from a cross-cultural perspective, offering important insights into the practices that connect disparate religious traditions and cultures. Panelists: Sarah Brett-Smith (Rutgers University); Griffith Mann (Cleveland Museum of Art); Vasudha Narayanan (University of Florida); Justin R. Ritzinger (Oberlin College); and Deepak Sarma (Case Western Reserve University). Co-sponsored by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities, Case Western Reserve University. Free.
Medieval Revelry: Family and Community Day
Sunday, Nov. 7, 1 to 4 p.m.
The museum studio art staff and members of the Society for Creative Anachronism provide an afternoon of manuscript and pilgrims' badge demonstrations, helmet-making workshops, the Armor Art Cart with touchable objects, dance performances and sword fighting. Free.
State Symphony Capella of Russia
Wednesday, Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m. at Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus
As a musical complement to the exhibition, this 50-member mixed choir under the direction of Valeri Polyansky makes its Cleveland debut with a program of Eastern Orthodox repertoire from the Middle Ages, plus choral works by Schnittke, Tavener, Rachmaninov and more. $39 or $35; museum members, $38 or $34.
From Constantinople to Rome and Back Again: The Transfer of Byzantine Relics in the Medieval and Modern World
Friday, Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m.
George Demacopoulos, associate professor of theology at Fordham University, delivers the first James H. Dempsey Jr. Guest Lecture. His talk addresses the renowned occasion in November 2004 when Pope John Paul II sat beside Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome as the relics of Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom were solemnly returned to the Orthodox Church. This lecture explores the history of these relics and the politics of the possession of sacred treasure. This lecture series has been established by Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, LLP, in honor of Mr. Dempsey's distinguished service as a partner of the firm and a long-time museum trustee. Free.
Interreligious Dialogue through Visual Imagery: Jews, Muslims and Christians in Iberia
Wednesday, Nov. 17, 6:30 p.m.
S. Brent Plate, visiting associate professor in religious studies at Hamilton College, explores historic relations between Jews, Muslims and Christians on the Iberian peninsula (present-day Spain and Portugal). Co-sponsored by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities, Case Western Reserve University. Free.
How Did They Make That? Metalworking Demonstrations in the Galleries
Sunday, Dec. 5, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Join Matthew Hollern, Cleveland Institute of Art's professor of jewelry and metals, for an interactive demonstration of metalworking techniques seen in the exhibition. Also experience hands-on workshops for children and families that replicate the techniques used to adorn objects within the show. Free.
Wednesday, Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m.
In celebration of the exhibition and the museum's newly reopened medieval galleries, the Oberlin Conservatory's 40-voice choir will sing in the museum's rotunda. Steven Plank directs this student ensemble specializing in medieval, Renaissance and early baroque music. Free, no tickets required.
A Splendid Gathering of Saints: Curatorial Perspectives on Treasures of Heaven
Saturday, Dec. 11, 2:30 p.m.
Holger A. Klein, associate professor of art history and archaeology and director of graduate studies at Columbia University, speaks about co-curating the Treasures of Heaven exhibition. Free.
Relics, Sanctity and Kingship in the 13th Century: Louis IX and the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris
Wednesday, Jan. 12, 6:30 p.m.
Gerry Guest, associate professor and chair of the department of art history and humanities at John Carroll University, discusses one of the best-known buildings of the medieval period, the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Built by King Louis IX in the 1240s, the chapel housed relics of Christ's Passion, purchased by the king at an enormous cost. An examination of the building as a whole — its architecture, decoration, liturgical furnishings and use — reveals the key role relics played in medieval notions of holiness and authority. Free.
Tickets for Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and college students and $6 for children ages 3 to 17. The exhibition is free to museum members. Tickets are available through the museum's box office at 216-421-7350 or 888-CMA-0033 or online at www.ClevelandArt.org.
Following its Cleveland run, the exhibition will be presented in Baltimore from Feb. 13 to May 15, 2011, and in London from June 23 to Oct. 9, 2011. It was developed by Griffith Mann, chief curator of the Cleveland Museum of Art; Holger Klein, associate professor of art history and archaeology at Columbia University; and Martina Bagnoli, Robert and Nancy Hall associate curator of medieval art at the Walters Art Museum.
Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe was organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum and the British Museum. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. Support for the exhibition has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Education program support is provided in part by Giant Eagle and by Mr. and Mrs. Edward C. Smith and Tom and Sandy Sullivan.
About the Cleveland Museum of Art
The Cleveland Museum of Art is renowned for the quality and breadth of its collection, which includes more than 40,000 objects and spans 6,000 years of achievement in the arts. Currently undergoing a multi-phase renovation and expansion project, it is a significant international forum for exhibitions, scholarship, performing arts and art education. Admission to the museum's collection is free.
The Cleveland Museum of Art has a membership of more than 21,500 households and is supported by a broad range of individuals, foundations and businesses in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. The museum is generously funded by Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. Additional support comes from the Ohio Arts Council, which helps fund the museum with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. For more information about the museum, its holdings, programs and events, call 888-CMA-0033 or visit www.ClevelandArt.org