"Chalice of Gourdon" by Laura Dunn

Located in the Cabinet des Medailles are the chalice and paten found buried at the monastery in Gourdon which is in modern day France. Though we may never know how they made it to Gourdon definitively, it is worthwhile to look into the historical and social implications surrounding these items to understand their meaning more fully. The chalice specifically brings forth many questions as to the nature of the shift from pagan practices to Christianity following the public conversion of King Clovis in 500 AD. Looking for other pieces that relate to the imagery and design on the chalice places the chalice at Gourdon in a specific social and cultural climate. There are also practices of Merovingian and Carolingian gift-giving and burial traditions that work at looking for more ways for these objects to make it to the monastery in Gourdon. The monastery itself also places these items in a time when these establishments are being questioned for their lavishness and opulence. To Bernard of Clairvaux, the use of precious materials and ornate gifts were counter to what monasteries should embody, but to others it also acted as a way for those making pilgrimages to feel like they were closer to interacting with the actual body of Christ. This tension between idolatry and the treasury objects in the Medieval Ages sets the tone for most objects found in these types of situations. The combination of all these ideas culminate in an effort to better understand the chalice and paten of Gourdon that we will likely never fully place.

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