Gifts and Giving in Architectural Sculpture of the Holy Roman Empire, ca. 1150-1235

Stephanie Luther

Gifts to the Church in the Middle Ages ranged from small offerings of consumable goods to large property conveyances, but all were subject to local custom, legal regulation, and social norms of countergift obligation. In the Holy Roman Empire, images of giving would become a major theme of public sculpture when the medium became monumental in the middle of the twelfth century. At issue are sculptures of donors, the Sacrifice of Cain and Abel, and the Adoration of the Magi, which adorn not only the great portal entrances of cathedrals and abbeys but also the doors of small village churches. Through analyses of iconographic trends, donation records and customs, law codes regulating gifts, and descriptions of generosity, this project examines the social role and function of these sculptures.


This project was part of the Minerva Research Group The Nomos of Images. Manifestation and Iconology of Law.


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