Nadine Mai, MA
PhD student at the University of Hamburg (Germany)
The Jeruzalemkapel of Bruges | Transfer and Instrumentalization of the Holy Sites in the Late Middle Ages

The reception and adoption of Jerusalem underwent a revival in 15th- and 16th-century Europe which is evident in the large number of newly erected Jerusalem chapels and Passion monuments. Mostly these monuments arose through the initiative of donors, not only creating an individual relationship to the holy sites but also enabling a broad population to come into immediate contact with Jerusalem and offering a kind of “pilgrimage” for the faithful of their hometowns. The translation of Jerusalem in art and architecture was used to transform the immediate environment into a sacred space, thereby connecting it to the redemptive power of the original sites of the Passion.
The Jeruzalemkapel of Bruges, the main subject of my dissertational project, represents the Holy City of Jerusalem in a multifaceted way. It creates sacred space through a special coincidence of external appearance and internal spaces as well as material translation and iconography. The chapel was built by the influential Adornes family at the end of the 15th century and is hardly known in art history. I aim to examine the organization of sacred space in this extraordinary example and to compile for the first time the specific characteristics and mechanisms of the reception of Jerusalem in late medieval society. The chapel in Bruges, for example, represents a distinct notion of resurrection by correlating the centrally displayed donor’s tomb with a monumental Calvary, finally culminating in the impressive lighting induced by the tower. In addition to conveying this captivating interplay of sorrow and salvation, the Jerusalem monuments of late medieval Europe are marked by the interconnection of awe-inspiring faith and a distinct striving for prestige. Along with expressing the wish to follow Christ and achieve closeness with him, the translation of the holy sites in the Late Middle Ages always manifests a socio-political statement. Thus, my research also focuses on the representative and devotional impact of these “Jerusalems” on how certain individuals and groups recognized and used them.