The Romanesque Altar and Ciborium of the Abbey of San Clemente al Vomano

While certainly not the oldest example of a ciborium in existence by any stretch, the ciborium found in the abbatial church of San Clemente al Vomano is noteworthy for reason that this mid-twelfth century example is a particularly fine medieval example, remaining in tact despite the stylistic shifts of successive centuries.  This ciborium is a gem of Romanesque art and we even know who made it due to the presence of an inscription on it which tells us it came from the workshop of a father and son team, "Ruggero and Roberto." 

The basic architectural form of the ciborium is typical enough of course -- though by typical we certainly do not mean to imply uninteresting. 

However, the particular interest in this piece surely must be the rich decorative elements that adorn it. It is covered in zoomorphic, anthropomorphic and naturalistic design elements, all done in terracotta -- hence the reason why the top appears to be of a more orangey-red colour than the columns and altar beneath.  Some attribute these designs to showing Byzantine influneces, but it must be said that Celtic type influences might also be found here. 

As far as the altar is concerned, while the ciborium is made from limestone and terracotta, the altar is naturally given the strongest and nobles of stone materials: marble.  One the face of the altar is a decorative panel containing Arabesque like geometric designs surrounding the image of the Lamb of God. 

Romanesque is a style that has already undergone a revival in recent history, but altars and ciboria such as these always put me to mind about its potentialities for new church building today.  It is a style that is at once classic, but it also permits a 'via media' to some of the liturgical controversies of our time. 

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