Dove-shaped ewer

“An object full of meaning: the ewer of the Diocesan Museum”

  • melted, chiseled, engraved, golden and silver-plated bronze
  • middle of the 13th century
  • goldsmith shop in Hildesheim, lower Saxony, Germany

 

The ewer is a container employed during liturgies to contain holy water used in the ritual of the “Laver”, in which the priest washes his hands in order to purify them.

It is shaped like a dove, standing still with its wings closed. It stands on its feet and on the far end of its tail. It has two openings, like an ampoule: one on its back, for water to be filled up, and the other on its beak, to pour out the water during the ritual; the handle is a vine shoot, which starts from the beak and ends on the back.

The artwork was created with a casting technique, starting with a wax model; later on decorations were realized, with a refined work of chisel and burin, highly noticeable on the plumage, shoots, and vine leaves. Traces of the original gold and silver plating are still visible on the the wings and the tail feathers.

The shape of this artifact is full of symbolic and religious meanings: it connects the animal element, the dove representing peace and purity, to the natural element of the vine, which symbolizes prosperity, fertility and blessings, and at the same time Christ’s sacrifice, for wine is associated to his blood.

Nowadays, the ewer is the symbol and logo of the Museum of the Diocese of Fidenza; Jacques Le Goff, a great historian and honorary citizen of Fidenza, chose the ewer as the symbol of his exhibit “European Middle Ages of Jacques Le Goff”, 28/09/2003-06/01/2004, to highlight an ideal of Europe designed and hoped for under the symbol of peace.

IN-DEPTH BOX

Jacques Le Goff (Toulon, France, 1st January 1924 – Paris, 1st April 2014): He was a French historian, one of the greatest scholars who studied the Middle Ages in Western society. He examined its crucial themes, identifying connections between the history of culture and economical, sociological, and anthropological dynamics.

 

Lost wax casting: Sculpting technique already used during the Bronze Age.

  • Indirect method: it consists in the making of a wax model used to create a clay mould into which melted bronze is poured.
  • Direct method: similar to the first method; the wax model is realized on top of a clay model, so the mould turns out empty inside.

 

Burin: Thin scalpel with a steel tip used for particular incisions.

 

Chisel: Small scalpel employed in the production of metals and hard stones, it’s used for decorations and to define shapes.

 

Laver: Cleansing ritual with the purpose of a spiritual purification; in the Catholic Church there are three kinds of “laver”: before the celebration, during the offertory and after the holy Communion.