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Author: Barbara Baert
During the Middle Ages, the head of St John the Baptist was widely venerated. According to the biblical text, John was beheaded at the order of Herod’s stepdaughter, who is traditionally given the name Salome. His head was later found in Jerusalem. Legends concerning the discovery of this relic form the basis of an iconographic type in which the head of St John the Baptist is represented as an “object.” The phenomenon of the Johannesschüssel is the subject of this essay. Little is known about how exactly these objects functioned. How are we to understand this fascination with horror, death and decapitation? What phantasms does the artifact channel?
The present study offers the unique key to the Johannesschüssel as artifact, phenomenon, phantasm and medium.
Author: Barbara Baert
In the fourth century the idea arose that the Cross on which Christ was crucified had been found by Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine. Thus began a legend that would grow and flourish throughout the Middle Ages and cause the diffusion of countless splinters of holy wood. And where there is wood, there was once a tree. Could it be that the Cross was made from that most noble species, the Tree of Life? So, gathering characters along the way, the legend evolved into a tale that stretches from the Creation to the End of Time.
A Heritage of Holy Wood is the first reconstruction of the iconographic and literary tradition of the Legend of the True Cross. Its broad scope encompasses relic cults, pilgrimages, travellers’ tales and the Tree of Life and involves Church Fathers, crusader kings, Teutonic Knights and mendicant orders, all of which influenced the legend’s depiction from its earliest representation in manuscripts, reliquaries and altarpieces, to the great monumental cycles of the high Middle Ages. If the holy wood was the medium of medieval memory, A Heritage of Holy Wood reveals the growth rings of fifteen centuries of imagery.
Author: Barbara Baert
Interruptions and Transitions: Essays on the Senses in Medieval and Early Modern Visual Culture is an anthology of the most recent works by Barbara Baert, discussing the connection between the experiences of the senses in the medieval and early modern visual culture, the hermeneutics of imagery, and the limits and possibilities of contemporary Art Sciences.
The six chapters include Pentecost, Noli me tangere, the woman with an issue of blood, the Johannesschüssel, the dancing Salome, and the role of the wind.
The reader is shown a medieval and early modern visual culture as a history of artistic solutions, as the fascinating approach between biblical texts, plastic imagination, and the art-scientific métier. This makes him a privileged guest in a unique in-between space where humans and their artistic expression can meet existentially.
Author: Barbara Baert


Since early-Christian time an iconography has developed around the Haemorrhoïssa which is related to the conventions of Christ's miracles of healing. In the transition from word into image, an intense energy is released with regards to touching, the gaze and space. These iconographical characteristics become sensors of a far broader range of topics, for in the Middle Ages the Haemorrhoïssa was also the bearer of patterns of sensitivity for uterine taboos which were connected to magic, textile and types of stones.

In: Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte
In: Religion and the Senses in Early Modern Europe
In: Mary Magdalene, Iconographic Studies from the Middle Ages to the Baroque
In: Preaching after Easter: Mid-Pentecost, Ascension, and Pentecost in Late Antiquity
In: Interruptions and Transitions: Essays on the Senses in Medieval and Early Modern Visual Culture