Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Christ as the Man of Sorrows in Slovene Art

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
6.03.02  Humanities  Anthropology  Social and cultural anthropology 

Code Science Field
H310  Humanities  Art history 
Man of Sorrows, Late Middle Age's Art, Baroque, Iconography, Historical Anthropology
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (6)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  11871  PhD Tanja Mastnak  Humanities  Researcher  2007  95 
2.  03168  PhD Jurij Mikuž  Art history  Head  2007 - 2010  550 
3.  14974  PhD Mojca Ramšak  Ethnology  Researcher  2008 - 2009  839 
4.  14323  PhD Svetlana Slapšak  Humanities  Researcher  2010  806 
5.  32646  Tiva Vlaj    Technical associate  2010 
6.  18009  Tamara Zurunić    Technical associate  2007 - 2009 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
The motif of Christ as the Man of Sorrows may be found in a number of Slovene Gothic frescos (in, amongst other places, Bled – both the town and island church, Visoko, Sv. Miklavž nad Podvinom near Polzela, Ptuj, Martijanci, Plešivica, Št. Janž nad Dravčami, Bodešče and Crngrob) and in pieces from the Baroque era. These depictions began after the 13th century, subsequent to such writings as Cur Deus Homo? by Anselm of Canterbury, and the discussions of Bernard of Clairvaux which emphasised the concept of God–human, often at the expense of Christ's divine nature. Christ became considerably more human, while the cross of victory over the devil and death became the instrument of his sacrifice for mankind. Individual episodes of the Way of the Cross were transformed into emblems of martyrdom. As Christ's triumph over death culminated in crucifixion, everything used to torture and kill him turned – in a typical religious paradox – into the instruments of his victory. God created a human Son in order to redeem mankind through human torments; therefore God also demands mostly suffering from his people. The visionaries reported Christ telling them that he still suffered after his death and resurrection, and that people cause him pain because they do not love him enough. Suffering became more important than incarnation and resurrection, and only his own suffering leads the believer to unite with God. Consequently, writings ¬– from poems to popular stories – by authors such as Pseudo-Bonaventure, Tomas a Kempis and Rudolf of Saxonia expand upon the Gospels and analyse the Passion of Christ in the smallest of details. The existing findings regarding the motif of Christ as the Man of Sorrows in Slovene art can be developed into a wider understanding of the topic by way of introduction of contemporary iconographic approaches which do not rely solely on written sources, but on all pertinent information, from the time the motif's first appearance and thence throughout its further development. In Slovene art the depiction of Christ as the Man of Sorrows took root and remained after the Council of Trent. Its development, modification and gradual demise have thus far remained un-studied in this nation’s art history. And it is this gap that the proposed project intends to fill.
Significance for science
The research of the iconography of the image Christ as the Man of Sorrows proves how the motif reaches into every pore of human life, from religion, psyche and morals, to their tangible manifestations, such as the pilgrimage, penance and the like. The late medieval painting, above all the issues of sacred images, provoke in the spectator the sense of sin, guilt, need of penitence, and self punishment. Biblical and exegetic writings from that period undoubtedly help us to understand its contents and context, but not through a focus on what they openly show but rather on how the narration reveals, conceals and distorts. The rhetoric demonstrates that the discourse of the time was not linear nor did it have a single meaning; it was rather multi-layered and faceted, as well as permeated with life and individual as well as collective cosmogony. The article stimulated Belgian scholar Dr. Didier Martens from Université libre de Bruxelles, Faculté de philosophie et letters to publish the article entitled Die Gregorsmesse der Nikoaluskirche zu Vimperk (Vinski vrh bei Polzela) im internationalen Beziehungsgeflecht: zur Rezeption eines Stiches des Israhel van Meckenem, Acta hist. artis Slov., 2009, 14, pp. 41-40, ilustr, where he proves the scene not to be painter’s own invention in the true sense of the word. It was made after the work by Israhel van Meckenem, which won international popularity in its time, particularly in easel painting. His paper systematically investigates the reception of this model work adapted to various visual media. It supports the main starting point of our research work on the subject of Christ as the Man of Sorrows. It is very important for the development of the methodology and epistemology of Slovene art history. It shows that the religious behavior of people varied; it remained flexible and responded to contemporary social, political, economic, psychological and other situations. As a result, images of the kind are superstitious, meditative and lay, all at one and the same time. Indeed, the very foundations of faith and its theological premise were being impeded by superstition, the religious doubt of Savonarola, humanists and the advent of a variety of sects. Many medieval works of art represent or contain a cosmos, a regulated system, which remains open to explanations and the intervention of various sciences. It is a meeting point of secular and religious expression, a flexible matrix, open to meanings and formulations that allow the widest possible understanding of doctrine and popular piety. Within the context of this very imagery, one must seek sources that help us understand the image of Christ as the Man of Sorrows, which were created in great numbers in the European as well in Slovenian art during the Late Middle Ages (14th until 16th century) and continued in smaller scale – despite the attacks of the iconoclast and Reform – through the Baroque all the way into the 19th century. Our research classified the image from Podvin in European iconographic heritage.
Significance for the country
Recently discovered fresco paintings in the church of Sv. Miklavž (St Nicholas) at Vimperk above Podvin near Polzela from early 16th century depicting the Mass of St Gregory with Man of Sorrows is a very important act in the preservation of this nation’s cultural heritage. As we indicated already during our researches, the scene is unique in Slovenia, and among the more exceptional ones in European art. The work itself is, unfortunately, very damaged, and its actual exposure and reconstruction pose numerous problems for restorers. In conjunction with the project commissioner, guidelines will be established for undertaking this particular restoration as well as similar such as renovation work at heritage sites across Slovenia. The proposed research project logically touches upon related iconographic solutions which are closely connected with the motif of Christ as the Man of Sorrows. The scene in the church of Sv. Miklavž shows Pope Gregory, to whom Christ appeared as the Man of Sorrows, together with instruments of his martyrdom. The motif of Christ as the Man of Sorrows may be found in a number of Slovene Gothic frescos (in, amongst other places, Bled, Visoko, Sv. Ptuj, Martijanci, Plešivica, Pristava pri Polhovem Gradcu, Št. Janž nad Dravčami, Bodešče, Sv. Primož, and Crngrob) and in pieces from the Baroque era. Images of Christ as the Man of Sorrows were not regarded mainly as works of art but rather as the instruments for the practice of meditation. They were abbreviations, in the same way as Christ on the Cross is an abbreviation for the entire Crucifixion scene. Individual instruments of martyrdom and busts of the main actors appear as emblems, as reminders to remember, reflect and contemplate. All objects are reduced to pregnant signs that draw attention to something higher and immediately trigger a story, the essence and symbols of which they represent. They are the medieval Summa, the summary of objects and people, which remind us of the most fatal events of the Passion through which a believer feels pain.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2008, 2009, final report, complete report on dLib.si
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2008, 2009, final report, complete report on dLib.si
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