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  LIEGE : The Baptismal font of Renier d'Huy

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The baptismal font is to be found in the 'Eglise Saint Bartélemy' (Saint Bartholomew) of Liège. It was, however, made for another church which does not exist any longer, namely the 'Eglise Notre-Dame-aux- Fonts' (Our Lady of the baptismal font). This Notre-Dame church was actually a side-church of St. Lambert's Cathedral (also demolished), and was the only church where people of Liège could be baptized. Somewhere between 1107 and 1118 the Arch-deacon Hellin, priest of the Notre Dame church, ordered a new baptismal font (probably to attract more baptisms than another rivaling church). The font was made by Renier, goldsmith of the city of Huy during the first half of the 12th century. The church of  Notre-Dame-aux-Fonts was demolished by the French revolutionists during the occupation of Liège in 1793. The font was hidden (the original lid of the font, however, disappeared). In 1804, during the reign of Napoleon, the font was placed in the Eglise Saint Barthélemy.

This is the most splendid example of a Western tradition of baptismal font-sculpting. Renier's baptismal font combines the Mosan tradition with Byzantine and Roman elements. It could even be said that it predates the Italian Renaissance, because of the beautiful details that make the personae on the font so life-like. To produce the baptismal font the technique of wax-melting has been used. The font has first been made in wax which was than covered with clay. Hot stones were placed around it to melt the wax. The hollow space was then filled with liquid yellow copper that, after cooling down, solidified.

 The central theme of the font is of course 'Baptism'. Five different baptismal scenes decorate the recipient:  1. The baptism of Christ, 2. The preaching of Saint John the Baptist, 3. The baptism of the Neophytes, 4. The baptism of Cornelius (a Roman Centurion), 5. The baptism of Crato (the Greek philosopher). Each of the scenes is identified with inscriptions. The font is placed on four stones and is carried by 10 oxen (originally 12 oxen) that symbolize the twelve apostles. The unevenly sculptured soil unifies the scenes, whereas stylized trees separate them from each other.

The Eglise St. Barthélemy is open every day (except Mondays) from 10 am till 12am, and from 2 pm till 5 pm. On Sundays and public holidays : from 1 pm till 5 pm.


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