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  TOURNAI: Our Lady's Shrine (N. Verdun)
 
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Our Lady's Shrine in the Cathedral of Tournai (1200-1205)This beautiful early 13th century Relic Shrine belongs to the artistic masterpieces that can be seen in Belgium. It is part of the art treasure of Our Lady's Cathedral in the Walloon city of Tournai. The other important art objects in the cathedral are the Relic shrine of Saint Eleutherius made in 1247, a Byzantine relic cross from the 6th or 7th century, and ivory Madonna from around 1300, gobelins and other religious artifacts.

Our Lady is the patron saint of the Tournai cathedral. The veneration of Our Lady became important after the year 1090. In that year Bishop Radboud had the relics of Our Lady carried around the city in a procession to stop a deadly plague epidemic. Shortly after the procession, the epidemic ended and Tournai was saved. Ever since then this event was commemorated with an annual procession.

Detail of the shrine: the Visitation.About a hundred years later, around  the end of the 12th century, bishop Stefanus ordered a new shrine for the relics of Our Lady. An inscription (which is probably not original) on the bottom of the shrine mentions Nicholas of Verdun as creator of the shrine. It was probably made by Nicholas between 1200 and 1205. It is an astonishing breakthrough towards a more gothic-oriented art style, with more expression in the faces and postures of the personae on the shrine.

The shrine has a saddle roof with frames. In the niches several scenes from the life of the Holy Mother and the public life of her son Jesus are shown; for example : the Visitation, the flight to Egypt, the visit of Mary to her cousin Elisabeth, the birth of Christ, the adoration of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, the flagellation of Jesus, etc.. The spaces above the arcades are decorated with angels and prophets. The relic shrine does no longer contain the original relics. They probably disappeared around  1566, during the time of the Iconoclasm in the Netherlands. Furthermore, the relic was saved from plundering French soldiers in the aftermath of the French revolution. Some parts and decorations of the shrine have been added during the restoration phase in 1890.


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