Ancient macabre memento mori altar from the 19th century
A museum-worthy collector’s item
Prayer / Ritual altar
Origin: Museo delle Stranezze
Archive: 00762016 museodellestranezze.com
An ancient macabre altar, an object found perfectly intact and dating back to the second half of the 19th century. The altar was found years ago in a prayer cell of an old disused convent of Franciscan friars. Each of its elements has a symbolic meaning and it was certainly used for prayers and religious functions. The skull should be in hard papier-mâché or mixed material; the wooden crucifix seems to have been made in the eighteenth century, but it was probably placed on the small altar later. A candle holder and a book resting on the wooden base are the background of the floral composition that covers the whole macabre scene. The book is the only piece resting on and not fixed to the structure. The cover is in ivory; it is a book in German with prayers and religious songs, the edges are in velvet and the binding is also very precious. Inside there are images of Saints. This beautiful macabre altar bears the date 1880 engraved on the base; it is an incredible cult object with all the charm of the ancient times. Historical, sacred and religious memory.
Exhibited in 2016 at the Museo delle Stranezze, with exhibition document and archive number
Size: H 73 cm - L 42 cm - D 20 cm
Considering the value of the object and its fragility, it will be shipped with insured shipping
Memento mori (origins and meaning)
Life does not always remind man that, by his very earthly and short-lived nature, he must die. Every civilisation has taken care of this particular theme, proposing different solutions and compromises between the fear of death and the serenity that it leaves depending on the place, the religion and the historical period in which it developed.
The sensitivity of ancient Romans to the theme of death, and so to life itself, was very strong and is expressed in the famous Latin phrase “Memento mori”, with a stimulating and subtly disturbing meaning: “Remember that you must die”. The phrase was born from a particular tradition typical of ancient Rome: when a general came back to the capital after a great victory over his enemies, he paraded through the streets on a gilded cart and received the honours from the crowd (that was called “triumph”); so he risked being overwhelmed by pride and by the delusion of omnipotence, easy emotions in men who carried out great exploits. To prevent this from happening, a slave, one of the most humble servants, was commissioned to remind the author of the exploit of his human and mortal (and thus limited and transient) nature, and he pronounced this simple phrase in the general’s ear, as reported by Tertullian. The Romans, who took many customs and traditions from the Greeks in turn, understood the values of life and limits, recalling their meaning with these words. But in addition, they were also able to reduce the emotions of the greatest personalities of that time (emperors, consuls or generals), reminding them that every victory was fleeting and transient compared to death. The underlying reason, in addition to this correct consideration, was also that the very idea that life must not exceed in bad attitudes such as pride, meanness or all those sins that would then be listed in Christianity, but it must be lived fully, enjoying the smallest satisfactions, because tomorrow you might not be on this earth anymore. A sort of certainty (death) in the uncertainty (life) that should have appeased the souls of the bravest, because at that time they believed that a man who didn’t respect his neighbour was a man who didn’t respect his homeland and so, eventually, a potential enemy. The Romans knew well how the human soul is weak and easy to abuse others.
- Antiguo altar de oración macabro / Altar original de Memento Mori / del Museo de Extrañeza
- Periodo estimado
- Segunda mitad del siglo XIX
- País de origen
- Mal - muy usado y con grietas, daños considerables o con partes importantes que faltan