Title: Sacred architecture and the voice of bells in the medieval landscape : with the case study of Mont-Saint-Michel
Sakrální architektura a hlas zvonů ve středověké krajině : cesta k Mont-Saint-Michel
Source document: Convivium. 2019, vol. 6, iss. 1, pp. -67
ISSN2336-3452 (print)2336-808X (online)
License: Not specified license
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Shifting attention away from the direct experience of the divinity's anthropomorphic representation deemed essential to the concept of "iconic presence", this article focuses instead on medieval worshipers' distant encounter with sacred places. It considers silhouettes on the horizon and the echo of bells, presenting the indirect evidence that these phenomena can evoke the holy presence in ways comparable to those of images or sculptures. The paper first analyzes the medieval believer's landscape understood as a multisensory experience in which beliefs, emotions, myths, memory, reactions, and motion combined to play an essential role. It asserts that, in the Middle Ages, an apotropaic force emanated from a faraway church, conveying the presence of paradise and angelic powers. These powers could take an even more specific form, which the article demonstrates by following the steps of medieval travelers approaching the shrine at Mont-SaintMichel. The tidal island stood, to the medieval imagination, as a sacred, paradisiacal mountain, as the last watch protecting the worshiper from the sea's vast wilderness, and as Saint Michael's haven. While Saint Michael's powers already manifested themselves to the faithful from afar, his presence grew stronger upon reaching the tidal island. This intensification derived from not only the saint's relics held in the church, but also from the horizon of sea and sky spread before the medieval traveler standing on the mountain.