Missal box

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Late 15th century
Oak mounted with iron
15 cm
16.5 cm
24 cm

E. Berger, Prunk Kasetten, Meisterwerke aus der Hanns Schell Collection, Arnoldsche Art Publishers, p. 197.
P. Lorenzelli and A. Veca, Tra/e. Teche, pissidi, cofani e forzieri dall'Alto Medioevo al Barocco, exh. cat. Galleria Lorenzelli, Bergamo 1984, p. 254 - 258.

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This late 15th century missal box is covered with forged iron, in a typical diamond-shaped latticework. Underneath the openwork iron is a layer of red linen. The box has a trapezoidal roof, an overhanging lock and two rings on either side. The highly elaborate lock and lock plate are in the shape of a tree of life, with a cut-out heart at the top.

This reinforced chest was used to store the missal: an often richly decorated and valuable book containing the liturgical prayers for the Mass. The way in which the iron-reinforced missal boxes were designed to express a certain inviolability emphasises the importance of the missals. The architectural form is said to be derived from the description of the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant, a rectangular portable chest with two rings on either side, supporting carrying sticks. The missal boxes occur in this form in France and Spain, they are also called 'coffret a mailles or a la maniere d'Espagne', and an Eastern influence is noticeable in the decoration.   


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