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Education The Faculty Graduate Schools Graduate School Theology and Religious Studies PhD Programme PhD ceremonies Graduations 2003

11-12-'03 | J.E.A. Kroesen

Mediaeval altar retables in Spain and Portugal

An altar retable or altarpiece is a standing image wall with paintings and/or sculpture, raised up high on top of or behind the altar, thus forming a visual whole. In the late Middle Ages, a retable type became popular on the Iberian peninsula that distinguished itself in several ways from the traditions in the rest of Europe. Its unique character gradually started to express itself from 1350, initially mainly in the eastern region of Catalonia but later it also spread to the west, to Castile and Portugal. Many late-mediaeval altar retables are very large and cover the entire chancel wall, from the floor up to the vaults. The highly architectural design and the large number of scenes depicted are also striking. In his PhD research into the background to this exclusively Iberian phenomenon, Justin Kroesen followed three research lines. The first chapter of his thesis concentrates on the design of the Iberian retable in the Middle Ages, from its emergence in the eleventh century down to the end of the Gothic era in the early sixteenth century. The second chapter studies the altarpiece in its spatial context, focusing on the relationship between its appearance and its position in the church interior. The third chapter comprises an analysis of the imagery of the mediaeval retable on the Iberian peninsula. This iconography is discussed in the light of ‘retable use’, not only as a backdrop for the Eucharist, sermons and devotion, but also as a propaganda medium and prestige object. /GG

Justin E.A. Kroesen (Hoogeveen, 1975) studied theology at the University of Groningen. He conducted his PhD research at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Groningen, under the auspices of the Institute for Liturgical Studies. He previously wrote The Sepulchrum Domini Through the Ages. Its Form and Function (Leuven/Paris/Sterling 2000).

Date and time: Thursday 11 December 2003, 2.15 p.m.

PhD student: J.E.A. Kroesen, tel. (050)363 45 87, e-mail:  (work)

PhD thesis: Het middeleeuwse altaarretabel op het Iberisch schiereiland. Vorm, plaats en boodschap [The medieval altar retable on the Iberian peninsula. Form, location and message]. Part 2 in the series Netherlands Studies in Ritual and Liturgy, Groningen/Tilburg 2003- , ISBN 90-367-1949-6, sales price EUR 48.50. Can be ordered from: University of Groningen Institute for Liturgical Studies, Oude Boteringestraat 38, 9712 GK Groningen, the Netherlands

SupervisorS Prof. S.L. de Blaauw and Prof. A.L. Molendijk

Faculty: Theology and Religious Studies

Venue: Aula, Academy Building, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Last modified:30 March 2017 2.57 p.m.
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