Geloven in Glans/Burnished Belief

16 June 2006

The Groninger Museum presents an exhibition of Catholic and Protestant church silver from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The exhibition Geloven in Glans. Kerkzilver in Groningen (Burnished Belief. Church silver in Groningen) will be on show on the west oval room of the Museum from 16 June to 24 October 2006.

At the celebration of Christ’s Last Supper, both Catholic and Protestant churches make use of splendid silver utensils. A remarkable amount of the Groningen Catholic church silver dates from the 17th century and was produced in Flanders. The priests were often educated in Flanders, which was a largely Catholic area, and brought the church utensils with them. In this way, splendidly decorated objects by the Antwerp silversmith Antonius le Pies arrived in Groningen. Many items, such as an altar cross, candlesticks and a missal, which are on display in the exhibition, stood for a lengthy period on an altar. Objects that were specially used for Mass, such as jugs for wine and water, as well as the vasa sacra (sacred vases), are also presented in this exhibition. The chalice, ciborium and monstrance are holy containers in which the host is generally kept. In the rituals of the Catholic Church, the bread (the host) and the wine are literally taken to be the body and blood of Christ. During exceptional ecclesiastical occasions, the host is also presented and honoured in a monstrance. An exceptional example was produced for the church of Campen in Ostfriesland (Germany) in 1523. Shortly after this monstrance had been consecrated, the village converted to Protestantism. A faithful Catholic took the monstrance with him to the city of Groningen, which remained Catholic until 1594, where it was retained in the Catholic community. From the last quarter of the 17th century onward, small conventicles for the Catholic minority were tolerated in Groningen. The old silver was donated to the churches by faithful Catholics.

In the Protestant Church, the bread and wine consumed during the celebration of Christ’s Last Supper are symbolic of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The silver used in the Protestant Church is often simpler than that used in the Catholic Church. The exhibition in the Groninger Museum presents beautifully engraved wine cups from the Martini Church and the A-Kerk, produced by Groninger silversmiths in the 17th and 18th centuries. The churches are depicted on the cups. In the 19th century, bread bowls, offertory boxes, and candlesticks were added to these utensils.

The church silver in the Groninger Museum consists primarily of objects on long-term loan from the various Groningen churches.

Note for the editor
Exhibition co-ordinator: Egge Knol
Exhibition designer: Mark Wilson
For additional information, please contact: jselbach@groningermuseum, +31 (0)50 3666555.