Qantara Qantara

The Chalice of Santo Domingo de Silos

  • Title/name : The Chalice of Santo Domingo de Silos
  • Production place : Spain
  • Discovery place : The collegiate church of Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain
  • Date / period : Around 1040 – 1073
  • Materials and techniques : Gilded silver, decoration: engraved, repoussé designs and filigree work
  • Dimensions : H. 30 cm, Diameter of the base: 10 cm
  • Conservation town : Silos
  • Conservation place : The Benedictine Abbey of Santo Domingo
  • Inventory number : N/A
  • Inscription :

    In Latin around the base “† IN NOMINE DOMINI OB HONOREM S[AN]C[T]I SABASTIANI DOMINICO ABBAS FECIT”.

In the Middle Ages, while in al-Andalus art was strongly influenced by the Islamic East and North Africa, the Catholic kingdoms to the North of the Iberian Peninsula enjoyed distinct artistic trends even if they were somewhat inspired by the work of the European Christian kingdoms and al-Andalus.

Among the treasures, which belonged to the churches, monasteries, abbeys and convents of the northern Christian kingdoms, we can find liturgical objects created by both Christians and Mozarabs as well as those obviously originating from Andalusia. Such is the case with numerous caskets and reliquaries used in the monasteries but made in the workshops of Andalusia.

As the inscription on the base of the chalice states, it was ordered by Saint Dominic himself in honour of Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of the monastery. It was probably made in the goldsmith’s workshops of the abbey and dates from between 1040 – 1073, the period, during which Domingo Manso was abbot.

This chalice, which is one of the largest remaining on the Peninsula, was destined for the distribution of holy wine to the congregation. One of the most striking details of its decoration are the Islamic inspired horseshoe arches, which encircle the cup. According to Antonio Garcia Flores’ description[1], it is “made up of a semi-spherical cup and base joined by a stem, which is decorated with a large, spherical knot. It is practically entirely covered by decoration in filigree, which comprises of horseshoe arches mounted on columns around the base and the cup, framed above and below by friezes. Around the knot, the decoration is simply composed of a succession of horizontal bands”. The filigree work also includes geometric forms, floral motifs and even imitation epigraphic script: “this is found in chains within the upper and lower bands of the cup, in simple parabolas in the lower frieze of the base and interlaced around the knot. Schematic leaf designs can be observed in the openings of the arches around the base as well as around the double bars with rolled extremities similar to column capitals or forming spirals imitating Kufic characters on the cup and the base”.  Calligraphy, which was an important motif in Islamic decoration, certainly influenced the western artists of the Middle Ages. Master Alpais’ ciborium[2] is another well-known example of a Christian liturgical object using pseudo-kufic script in a purely decorative fashion.

NOTE

[1] Maravillas de la España medieval. Tesoro sagrado y monarquía, (exhib. cat. Leon,. Real Colegiata de San Isidoro, 2000 ), Léon: Junta de Castilla, 2000, p. 334-335.

[2] Ciboire de Maitre Alpais, Limoges, France, around 1200, gilded copper, enamel, and glass studs, Paris, Louvre Museum.

BIBLIOGRAPHY RELATED TO THE ITEM

Maravillas de la España medieval. Tesoro sagrado y monarquía, exh. cat., Léon, 2000, Junta de Castilla, p. 334-335.

REFERENCE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cabrol, F., Leclercq, H., Dictionnaire d’Archéologie Chrétienne et de Liturgie, vol. II, Paris, 1925, Letouzey et Ané.

Historia del arte de Castilla y León, Arte Gótico, Valladolid, 1994, Ámbito.



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