Portraits of Jerusalem pilgrims

One of the most striking commemorative practices surrounding the Jerusalem pilgrimage are the creation of portraits of Jerusalem pilgrims. These come in different types:

Confraternity portraits

These show the members of a Jerusalem confraternity, in a row behind each other with palm branches in their hands, echoing their pilgrimage and their role in the annual Palm Procession. Of these, six were preserved (five from Utrecht and one from Haarlem), and it is known of the Leiden and Amsterdam confraternities that similar portraits once existed.1 Moreover, a text panel from Leiden has survived that bears the names of Jerusalem pilgrims and may originally have been part of a confraternity portrait.

Other group portraits and single portraits

Single portraits often show the sitter in a similar fashion as in the confraternity portraits, half-lenght and carrying a palm branch in the hand. A relation with the confraternity portraits can therefore often be shown: single portraits are sometimes copies of a confraternity portrait, or the other way around. Some single portraits of Jerusalem pilgrims are also part of group portraits or succession series, or are one of the two panels of double portraits of married couples.

Memorial objects

Memorial objects were created for the commemoration of deceased persons, and could be placed near the location of a grave. They often show a religious scene with the kneeling members of a family on either side, with male members on the viewer's left and the women on the right, or with the women behind the men. Some persons on these memorial objects were depicted carrying attributes of the Jerusalem pilgrimage, like a palm branch or a Jerusalem cross, and can thus be identified as Jerusalem pilgrims.

Stained glass

No portraits of Jerusalem pilgrims on stained glass windows have been preserved, but it is very likely that Jerusalem pilgrims founded glass windows bearing their portraits, for example in the chapel of the confraternity they belonged to. Of one Leiden window we know that it existed, from a mention and drawing in a document by the Utrecht historian and antiquarian Buchelius. Moreover, documentary evidence shows that a comparable window once existed in Paris.2

Other types

Some objects can be categorized under more than one type. This depends heavily on the function of an object, which could differ depending on the situation. Moreover, divergent types can be found, mainly outside the Netherlands. In this website, for example, three objects have been included which show a view of the city of Jerusalem with pilgrims kneeling in front of it. These objects can be viewed as visual equivalents of written travel reports.3

Previous: Commemoration of the Jerusalem pilgrimage

Next: Function: Portraits as memoria?

  1. Bueren, Truus van, Leven na de dood. Gedenken in de late middeleeuwen (Turnhout 1999), pp. 78, 80.
  2. Beaumont-Maillet, Laure, Le Grand Couvent des Cordeliers de Paris. Etude historique et archéologique du XIIIe siècle à nos jours (Paris 1975), p. 290.
  3. Goren, Haim, 'Pilgrimage, tapestries, and cartography: sixteenth-century wall hangings commemorating a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,' Journal of Historical Geography 33 (2007), pp. 489-513.
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