Chalice of Peter of Sassoferrato, 1341–42 with later, perhaps 15th-century, cup
Italian; Siena, from the Franciscan Church of Sassoferrato
Silver gilded and translucent enamel; H. 8 7/16 in. (21.7 cm), Diam. of base 5 7/8 in. (14.9 cm)
Inscribed (on the stem above the knop): + FRA/T(R)IS P/ETRI PENIT/ENTI/ARII + DOMI/NI PA/PE ("of Brother Peter Penitentiary of the Lord Pope"); (on the stem below the knop) + LOCI SAS/SIFERATI/NON VEN/DATVR/NEC DI/STRATVR ("of the place of Sassoferrato neither sell nor destroy")
The Cloisters Collection, 1988 (1988.67)
The term liturgy refers to the rites and ceremonies prescribed by the Eastern and Western Church for communal worship. The central focus of the liturgy is the Eucharist, in which Christians take consecrated wine and bread in commemoration of the Last Supper and Christ's death. While liturgical practices were codified gradually over several centuries and varied locally, eucharistic vessels for the bread and wine, the paten, and the chalice remained indispensable (1986.3.1-15; 47.101.26-29). The liturgy in both the Eastern and Western Church necessitated a variety of additional objects such as books, often richly decorated (17.190.134), for prayers, music, and Old and New Testament readings (1992.238); crosses for the altar and to be carried in procession (63.12; 1993.163); censers for the burning of incense; and lighting devices for the sanctuary (2002.483.7).
Because of their sacred function, liturgical objects were often crafted of the most precious materials. In a written account of Justinian's famed sixth-century church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, one author tells of hundreds of vessels and furnishings made of pure gold with pearls and precious stones. Emulating the splendors of Byzantium in his lavish commissions for the royal abbey church of Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Abbot Suger exclaimed in the 1140s:
If golden pouring vessels, golden vials, golden little mortars used to serve to collect the blood of goats or calves, how much more must golden vessels, precious stones, and whatever is most valued be laid out for the reception of the blood of Christ! Surely, neither we nor our possessions suffice for this service.
Department of Medieval Art. "Art for the Christian Liturgy in the Middle Ages". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/litu/hd_litu.htm (October 2001)
Related exhibitions and online features
These related Museum Bulletin or Journal articles may or may not represent the most current scholarship.