Wednesday, May 11, 2011

NLM Quiz: Can You Guess What This Is? (No. 2) [The Answer]

Can you guess what this ecclesiastical item is, and what exactly it was used for? As with our previous quiz, please give your answer in the comments, and give whatever detail you can about what you think its use was and its context. Hint: there is a reason why there are several of them, and they all came from the same place.

(As with our last quiz. To make this more interesting, please make your answer in the comments before reading the other comments)

The Answer:

Well done, friends! Everyone who said “storage for sacred objects” (linens, vestments etc.), which is the plurality answer, is in the ball park, although nobody hit a home run. The chest is one of a group of five made in the 13th or 14th century for the church of Notre Dame de Valère in Sion, (Sitten in German), Switzerland. Each chest was made to contain all of the liturgical furnishings of the altar for which it was made: linens, vessels, possibly also specific relics, crucifix, candlesticks etc., as well as the vestments. This would also probably include a Missale speciale, a missal which contained only the specific votive Masses which were said at that altar, in accordance with the common custom of the era. The one shown above was for the Lady-altar, as it was called by the English, the altar at which a votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary would be said every day. Here is another one of the five, inscribed with the words “archa e(st) de S. Sebastiano – the chest belongs to Saint Sebastian", i.e., was used to keep the furnishings for his altar.

My apologies to our devotees of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, and the Seven Brothers – the angle of the photograph seems to have given you the impression that there are seven chests, rather than five. Congratulations to Andrew Lomas for the most creative of the few wildly incorrect guesses, and to Spam (really?) for the best non-serious answer. Look for more such quizzes on NLM in the future!

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