When Christ changed bread and wine into his body and blood at the Last Supper, he instituted the Eucharist and established the central act of Christian worship. For medieval Christians, the Eucharist (the sacrament of Communion) was not only at the heart of the Mass—but its presence and symbolism also wielded enormous influence over cultural and civic life. Featuring more than sixty-five exquisitely illuminated manuscripts, Illuminating Faith offers glimpses into medieval culture, and explores the ways in which artists of the period depicted the celebration of the sacrament and its powerful hold on society.
The exhibition presents some of the Morgan's finest works, including the Hours of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, one of the greatest of all Books of Hours; the exquisite Preparation for Mass of Pope Leo X, which remained at the Vatican until it was looted by Napoleon's troops in 1798; a private prayer book commissioned by Anne de Bretagne, queen of France, for her son the dauphin, Charles-Orland; and a number of rarely-exhibited Missals. Also on display will be objects used in medieval Eucharistic rituals, such as a chalice, ciborium, pax, altar card, and monstrances.