A Pilgrim, a Baker, and a Traveler Walk Into an Abbey…

Many types of people came through Saint-Denis to visit the sacred relics held there and sometimes never to leave at all, if not only to leave in a spiritual sense. Saint-Denis soon became a very popular visitation for any traveler passing through Paris. It is interesting that Saint-Denis had become a center famous not only for its relics but also for its art pieces as well. Once again we see the integration of art and religion. This always seems to be somewhat surprising to me as modern art and religion seem to be at different crossroads today that it is sometimes hard to believe that the two were ever related. In any case, Saint-Denis was still popular among art-lovers. The travelers even would even pay to see the revered relics that were kept in the abbey. It was fascinating to learn that some of the relics were as odd as a finger and a tooth. The start of relics seems to have begun a way to see beauty in very humble objects. The respect paid to these types of relics could have been the beginning that would many years later lead to Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain and other famous readymades or found art.

For some, Saint-Denis was but one stop on a pilgrimage to other holy sites. In almost what was the “family vacation” of its time, pilgrimages were very popular and events that people of that time took great pride in. The badges were very interesting to me as they portrayed how much the pilgrimages meant to their Christianity. Modern day churches are seen almost everywhere and it is sometimes hard to realize that not all people had access to holy locations. Even with the access to holy sites, there was a different mindset in paying homage to these holy sites. Today, modern people might see these sites as much a historical site as much as religious while for the pilgrims of that time these sites were still closely tied to the religious events that made them holy. We have seen this phenomenon with the events of 9/11 and the amount of people that made a pilgrimage to visit Ground Zero.

The bakers even served to portray an interesting beginning in art. The Livre vert de Saint-Denis was a code of regulation over the bread making carried out at Saint-Denis. This was an important step indirectly for art as well. This is one of the first instances were a craft such as bread making was regulated by a set of rules. This will resurface in art when we start having art movements that have a defined set of techniques and “rules” accompanying the movement. It is also a step towards institutionalizing art in a way that it can soon be taught on a large scale level. By setting a book of basic rules and regulations, art could then start to be taught to a larger part of the population and will lead to a boom in the amount of artist that will lead to some of the greatest artists of our time.

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