MISERICORDS: HIDDEN MIRRORS OF MEDIEVAL LIFE
“MISERICORDS” is a term meaning “Mercy Seat.” It was a small seat placed at buttocks height on the underside of a hinged larger seat, that when opened, the small “Mercy Seat” served as a bench for the monks and clergy who appeared to be standing. They were really resting on the small protruding “Mercy Seat”. Under each Misericord were carvings that served as braces to support the small Mercy Seat. These carvings were organized using the Four Mirrors of Vincent of Beauvais as a framework for the study of Misericords.
B. THE MIRROR OF NATURE
C. THE MIRROR OF INSTRUCTION
D. THE MIRROR OF MORALITY
E. THE MIRROR OF HISTORY
The five videotapes, one half-hour each, present a unique study of the iconography of the medieval misericords that still exist on the choir stalls in twelve countries in Western Europe. These remarkable wooden carvings, placed where they could not be seen, reveal aspects of everyday life not found on the grand carvings of saints on church facades and altarpieces.
The content of these videotapes presented by Elaine C. Block and Maurice M. Martinez were made from the photography of ten thousand misericords, hundreds of manuscript illuminations, altarpieces and sixteenth-century engravings. These provide unusual insights into the lifestyles and beliefs of medieval Europe. The ethical concepts and practices of the time, as well as such topics as the roles of women, iconography, and literature, are examined in the context of these collected images.
These five videotapes were shown in the Film and Video Programs at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, in October, 1993.
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