The virtual liturgy: An examination of medieval and early modern ritual objects as media technology
Scherff, Katharine Denise
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The history of altar decorations is rich with diverse approaches and varied methodologies. This study of the visual liturgy grapples with many of the previous theoretical frameworks to reveal the evolution and function of these ritual objects. An interdisciplinary approach, this project combines art historical methodologies with media and technology theory to examine ritual objects. Previous analysis has not considered the in-between nature of these objects as deliberate and virtual conduits to the divine. The liturgy, the altarpiece, the altar environment, relics and their reliquaries are media. In a series of case studies, several objects tell a different story about culture and society in medieval Europe.In essence they reveal that media and media technologies generate and modulate the individual and collective structure of feeling of sacredness among assemblages of humans and nonhumans. The assemblages under analysis are the ones brought into being and activated by medieval liturgical rituals in Europe. The nonhumans involved include altarpieces and other objects of worship.