Omkring seksti alterskap produsert i Antwerpen, Brussel, Mechelen og/eller i det nordlige Nederland befinner seg i dag i Skandinavia. I tillegg til å gi oss kunnskap om verkstedpraksis og handelsmønster, er disse også gode kilder - for ikke å si gode bilder - på samtidens religiøs praksis. Prosjektet "Image, Imitation, Indulgence" har avdekket hvordan lokale framstillinger og lokal forståelse av St Maria Magdalena, St Gertrude av Nivelles og St Clara av Assisi endret seg i takt med endringer på kontinentet gjennom import av nederlandske alterskap; og funnet nye sammenhenger mellom de utenlandske verkstedenes arbeidsmetoder og oppdragsgivernes ønsker med utgangspunkt i Antwerpen-alterskapet i Ringsaker kirke. Prosjektet har også undersøkt den apokryft forankrede scenen hvor den gjenoppståtte Kristus viser seg for Jomfru Maria. Dette motivet er sjeldent å se i det europeiske materialet, men bemerkelsesverdig ofte inkludert i alterskap som ble eksportert nordover. Dette kan skyldes den fremtredende plassen møtet mellom mor og sønn har i den hellige Birgittas Åpenbaringer og lokal kjennskap til denne teksten.
By exploring how devotional literature and devotional artefacts originally written and produced in the Netherlands affected devotional practices in Denmark-Norway between ca.1400-1600, this project has focused on a hitherto unrecognized European dimension of contemporary religious culture. The project instigated a novel research agenda, addressing the altarpieces as "travelling concepts". By seeing the objects as transmitters of doctrinal tenets visually, the project came closer to constructing the laity's religious experiences aligned with the following changes in religious paradigms 1) imitation in the wake of the devotio moderna in the 14th century; 2) indulgence in the wake of the concept of the immeasurable abundance of the saints? merits in the 15th century; and 3) what Martin Luther referred to as memory-images after the Reformation in the 16th century.
The proposed project offers a contextualization of objects hitherto only studied in order to catalogue imported altarpieces according to style and stylistic development or by way of their physical appearance. Therefore, embedding them in liturgical rituals and devotional practices, does not only contextualize the object themselves, but also widen our understanding of how they acted as transmitters of religious culture from a centre of religious reform (the Netherlands) to areas in the European periphery (Denmark-Norway). In particular, the altarpieces will be examined as possible transmitters of ideas influenced by the devotio moderna, founded in 1374 as a movement calling for apostolic renewal through the rediscovery of genuine pious practices such as humility, obedience and simplicity of life. Followers of the movement favoured a more intimate and affective devotion and the trade in indulgence letters increased dramatically. The main hypothesis is that through their displayed imagery, carved altarpieces imported to churches further north were both active and incidental catalysts for the development of liturgical rites and devotional practices acted out in their vicinity. In order to get a more thorough understanding of these practices, the project combines an innovative approach with a diachronic perspective. The former is conceived by accessing the conglomerate of image (altarpiece), imitation (devotion) and indulgence (the care-taking of one's afterlife) as a single unit, drawing on the concept of hierotopy (sacred + place, space). The diachronic perspective is achieved by an examination of traces of devotio moderna also in Lutheran and Calvinist theology and the re-use of medieval sculpture in the early Protestant church room, arguing that the presence of certain saints and visual dogma in the altarpieces were a pretext for preserving or re-using them in the church room notwithstanding reformatory iconic strifes.