A Distinctive Seventeenth Century Altar

The altar and reredos that we are featuring today has elements dated to the 17th and 18th centuries respectively and is situated in a Franciscan convent in the north of Italy.  The mainly monochromatic design of the altar and its gradines is what particularly caught my attention -- being both bold and simple at one and the same time. Before we get into those details more specifically, here is a broader view of the altar and sanctuary:

As we look in on the front of the altar itself, we see three panels, depicting the Eucharist and two women saints separated by decorative columns. At the base of the altar is a beautifully coloured design which visually connects the altar to the reredos.

Some details:

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Cherubs carrying the Eucharist in an ostensorium

St. Catherine of Siena

Detail of the predella

The tabernacle on the altar is also particularly beautiful, transitioning the decorative scheme from the monochromatic to something much more colourful.

The tabernacle

The gradines located to either side of the tabernacle are decorated by various cherubs:

Now let us turn our attention to some of the other components, beginning with the colourful hanging canopy over top the altar:

And the reredos where one will also note the Franciscan heraldry:

As a final note, this decorative scheme charmingly includes details of various birds, flora and fauna:

These elements are always important to highlight in my estimation as, since the twentieth century onward, our attention has frequently become fixated on explicitly religious symbols. However, it is worth recalling that in previous times, creation itself was viewed as entirely worthy as a form ecclesiastical ornament. 

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