An altarpiece from Brixen
According to local tradition, this altarpiece came from the church of St Andrew in Klausen near Brixen (now Bressanone, Italy). The church was rebuilt and extended between 1482 and 1498, and in 1506 Ruprecht Potsch and Philipp Diemer were commissioned to provide the high altarpiece. The altarpiece would fit into the choir of St Andrew's church but there is no documentary evidence that it came from Klausen. Significantly, St Andrew, the patron saint of the church, is not included in the iconographical scheme.
The piece is dominated by the figure of the seated Virgin Mary on a bench surrounded by five angels, her hands in prayer, with the naked Christ Child in her lap on a cushion. The Virgin Mary was one of the most important religious figures of the medieval Christianity. She was widely and deeply venerated not only as the mother of Christ, but also as an intercessor; a conduit between Man and God, supporting human prayer and petitions.
You can listen to a description of the altarpiece using the audio bar below. If you then click on the main image you can view a large version of the altarpiece while listening to the description.
Ave Maris Stella
Ave Maris Stella (Hail, Star of the Ocean) is a plainchant hymn in Latin in praise of the meek and chaste Virgin, asking her to set humankind free from sin and convey prayers to Christ. The prayer is one of the traditional hymns in the Catholic liturgy and was extremely popular during the medieval period, when the cult of the Virgin Mary was at its height. The hymn was designated as suitable for use in many different services, such as the daily service of Vespers, as well as for feasts such as the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary.The recording you can hear in the audio was made by the Royal College of Music especially for the Medieval & Renaissance Galleries thanks to an award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.