In their later medieval heyday, choir screens were pivotal centerpieces and focalisers of their sacred environments. Embellished with figural imagery; outfitted with platforms, pulpits, and altars; and rendered visually porous by the presence of large doors and windows, screens at once defined liturgical zones and provided a unifying bridge between them. This presentation offers an analysis of two extant screens: the early thirteenth-century structure in the abbey church of St Maria in Vezzolano, and the late fifteenth-century example in the church of St Stephen in Breisach. Though very different in format and decoration, both screens act as mediators – physical, visual, and conceptual – between the functional spaces and pictorial programmes in the apses (eastern ends) and exterior thresholds (western ends) of their respective churches. This presentation seeks to reveal the dynamic, mutually reinforcing relations among choir screens, the spaces they inhabited, and the liturgical objects that animated those zones.
Travel to the sites discussed here was made possible with grants from the Griswold Fellowship Fund at Yale University. An early version of this presentation was given at a workshop of the Bild/Evidenz research group at the Freie Universität in Berlin in summer 2015, and thanks go above all to Reindert Falkenburg for the kind invitation and many helpful remarks at (and beyond) that event. The author is also grateful to Gregory Bryda for helping her think through issues of materiality and vision with regard to altarpieces, and to Mitchell Merback for the great travel adventure that brought us to Vezzolano in the summer of 2013. Additional thanks go to the editorial staff at British Art Studies for helping this piece take shape, and above all to Jude Breidenbach of Yale Broadcast Studios for his patient and expert fine-tuning of the multimedia presentation.
About the author
Jacqueline E. Jung is Associate Professor in the Department of History of Art at Yale University, where she teaches on medieval sculpture, architecture, and images in various media. Her book The Gothic Screen: Space, Sculpture, and Community in the Cathedrals of France and Germany, ca. 1200-1400 (Cambridge University Press, 2013) won the PROSE Award for Art History and Criticism from the Association of American Publishers and the John Nicholas Brown Prize from the Medieval Academy of America. Her current book project, Eloquent Bodies: Movement, Expression, and the Human Figure in Gothic Sculpture, will be published by Yale University Press.
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- Jacqueline E. Jung
- 10 April 2017
- One Object
- Review status
- Peer Reviewed (Editorial Group)
- CC BY-NC International 4.0
- PDF format
- Cite as
- Jacqueline E. Jung, "The Medieval Choir Screen in Sacred Space:
The Dynamic Interiors of Vezzolano and Breisach", British Art Studies, Issue 5, https://doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-05/jjung