Holy objects

BY MOLLY MCGUIRE
Daily Arts Writer
Published October 12, 2008

"After the Fourth Crusade: Byzantine Relics and Reliquaries in France."
Wednesday, Oct. 15, 4 p.m., Rackham Amphitheatre
Free

From the yellowed bones of saints to the Shroud of Turin and the tears of the Virgin Mary, the supposed relics and reliquaries of medieval art have long been surrounded by great commotion. The veneration and purchasing of objects associated with holy figures is not something limited to “The Canterbury Tales”; the prospect of finding connections between the world of faith and the physical, tangible world is something that has always captivated people.

In his lecture “After the Fourth Crusade: Byzantine Relics and Reliquaries in France,” Jannic Durand, Curator of Objets d’Art at the Louvre in Paris, will discuss these earthly remnants of saints and the ornate vessels that contain them.

Durand’s research focuses on Byzantine art, specifically reliquaries, the captivating objects that housed the remains of holy icons. His lecture will trace the remarkable journeys of these sacred relics and caskets, using the notorious Fourth Crusade as his point of departure. As spoils from the sacking of Constantinople, these relics and reliquaries were sent west to Europe, notably to France. He will also examine how these objects are viewed and understood as remnants of a distant history.

“Precious metals and precious gems go into the creation of these fabulous reliquaries because they celebrate the memory of saints,” art history Prof. Elizabeth Sears said. “They are very beautiful objects. Durand will put them into a historical context and I think that should be very interesting for anybody … undergraduates, graduate students, anyone interested in medieval art is welcome.”

This talk is part of the new Forsyth Lecture series, a program sponsored by the International Center of Medieval Art in New York. Devoted to promoting the study and appreciation of medieval art, the Center makes a point of supporting lectures like this one.

This new series has been created in honor of the late cousins George and William Forsyth, for their significant contributions to the field of medieval art. William Forsyth, who was curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, presided over an enormous and important medieval collection. An architectural historian and Byzantine scholar, George Forsyth was once chair of the Department of History of Art at the University and director of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. He worked on many significant sites, such as St. Martin of Angers in France and St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, a Byzantine monastery founded in the 6th century. His widow, distinguished art historian Ilene H. Forsyth, a professor emerita at the University, has been the driving force behind the creation of the lecture series.

"The Forsyth lectures will be given annually by a distinguished specialist in medieval art, who will lecture at three venues in America," Sears said. "This is part of an effort to make certain that medieval art is discussed in institutions all over the country."