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2006 | 19 | 161-186

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More on the construction and programme of the late-Gothic retable of the main altar of the Wawel cathedral


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The present text is an annexe of a kind to the work by J. Gadomski, 'Póznogotyckie retabulum oltarza glównego w katedrze na Wawelu' (The Late-Gothic Retable of the Main Altar of the Wawel Cathedral), Kraków 2001. That work contains a theoretical reconstruction of a retable made ca. 1460. An assumption has been made there that its main part consisted of five parts: a niche filled with a statue of Christ (probably the Man of Sorrows) flanked by two immovable wings with painted images of St. Adalbert and St. Stanislaus (the only extant fragments of the retable) and an attached pair of similar movable wings, with representations of further two patron saints of the Kingdom of Poland, St. Wenceslaus and St. Florian. Such construction made the imago principalis in the central case visible both when the flanking movable wings were closed and when they where open. This type of arrangement was seldom found, but not entirely rare. Forerunners of such constructions are known from the mid-14th c. from the Rhineland: e.g. the main altar of the ex-Cistercian church in Marienstatt and the so-called polyptych of St. Clare from the church of St. Clare in Cologne, which is today in the cathedral there. A triptych in the church of the Cistercian Sisters in Fröndenberg near Dortmund, dated to ca. 1415-1420, would be a direct precedent to the Cracow retable. Topic of the representation found in the central section of the Cracow retable is of crucial importance. On one hand, the figures of martyr saints corresponded to the image of the Man of Sorrows (imitatio Christi); on the other, this topic accentuated connotations with the Eucharist; the central niche could function as a symbolic tabernacle filled with the image of the 'Corpus Christi', which - referring to the liturgy of the Mass - would then belong to the group of altar images analysed by Heike Schlie (Bilder des Korpus Christi..., Berlin 1999).







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  • J. Gadomski, Uniwersytet Jagiellonski, Instytut Historii Sztuki, ul. Grodzka 53, 31-001 Kraków, Poland


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