Asa Simon Mittman deposited “Rocks of Jerusalem: Bringing the Holy Land Home” in the group Medieval Art on Humanities Commons 3 years, 6 months ago
Our focus is a remarkable object – or, rather, a collection of objects, in turn housed within another object, which bears on it representations of yet other things: a reliquary box, once held in the treasury of the Sancta Sanctorum in the Lateran Palace, containing bits of stone, wood, and cloth, labeled with locations from the “Holy Land”. The box, now in the Museo Sacro in the Vatican, has been credited to sixth-century Syria or Palestine. Its sliding lid (obverse) bears a painting of the cross intersected by what appear to be a lance and a reed with a sponge, forming a schematic Christogram, inscribed within a mandorla and placed on the Golgotha hill; Christ’s initials are inscribed in the upper corners, and alpha and omega are painted on either side of the hillock. On the reverse side, which faces the relics enshrined in the box, is a series of images narrating scenes from the life of Christ: the Nativity, baptism, crucifixion, Holy Women at the Tomb, and ascension. These five scenes portray an encapsulation of Christ’s earthly experience with great economy. Altogether, the contents of the box, the monogram, and the paintings function as a threefold conjuring of Christ: in image, name, and material remains made sacred by contact with Christ. Building on Brown’s observations, we consider this box and its contents through the lenses of thing theory and theories of memory. We pay particular attention to the tensions between the individual objects and the ways their arrangement and proximity create a collective; their invocation of distant locales; and their agentic potential.