The Sacra Conversazione in Czech Fourteenth-Century Art
This article examines the Sacra Conversazione motif in Czech fourteenth-century art. It looks at the evolution of research on this motif and the several interpretations of it that have emerged. The author’s key reference on the fourteenth century is Nostra Conversatio in Caelis Est: Observations on the Sacra Conversazione in the Trecento, by Rona Goffen, who interpreted the term ‘conversazione’ based on fourteenth-century sources as meaning a ‚community‘ and using apt examples from the Lower Basilica of St Francis in Assisi demonstrates how fitting this interpretation is. Reflecting the comments of Hayden B. J. Maginnis on Goffen’s study, the author here includes under this term versions of the image that also depict the donator, which can be further distinguished according to whether the image seeks intercession for the salvation of the donator’s soul or the representation of a ruler. The article also looks at specific examples of depictions of the Sacra Conversazione motif in the Czech lands during the reign of Charles IV, who, like other royal dynasties around the fourteenth century sought to establish his dynastic connections with the saints, so-called beata stirps, who from their place at the heavenly throne sent down their blessings on his reign. The article devotes special attention to the first stage of decorative work on St Catherine’s Chapel at Karlštejn Castle, where the Sacra Conversazione motif was applied throughout its space and which is therefore one of the most important examples of the motif’s use in the Czech lands.