Victoria & Albert in London

Religious Sculpture in Europe

1300-1600

Religious images could be found everywhere in medieval Europe, in cathedrals, parish churches and monasteries, and also at home. With their three-dimensional, life-like appearance, they evoked the presence of Christ, the Virgin and the saints. Worshippers prayed to them every day.

Some sculptures formed part of large altarpieces, with standing saints and scenes from the Gospels. Others were placed individually as a focus for prayer and devotion. Smaller images, kept in the home, also acted as talismanic protectors of the household.

Stained glass often had a complementary role. It offered a wider canvas for the biblical stories, with extended narratives, bright colours and carefully observed contemporary detail.

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