The Power of Memory: The Tenth Horst Gerson Lecture, held on November 18, 1999


Henk van Os


The Tenth Gerson Lecture held in memory of Horst Gerson (1907-1978) in the aula of the University of Groningen on November 18, 1999.

Nowhere did the power of memory play a more compelling role than in the veneration of holy relics by the Christians of the Middle Ages. This practice was not inspired only by the exemplary lives of prodigious individuals from the past. No, the heroes of faith had far more to offer than mere example. They conferred well-being, health, protection and the ultimate promise of victory over death. The author experiences the veneration of Christian relics as an expression of something more universal, as the power of memory. Therefore he feels the need to actually see these powers in action somewhere else. It was this need which took him in search of real ancestors worship at Geelvink bay in former New Guinea. In the lecture new research will be presented and also hitherto unknown and rather spectacular reliquaries will be published.

Henk van Os is University Professor of Art and Society at the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of many studies on early Italian art. As general director of the Rijksmuseum he organised the exhibition Art of Devotion in 1994 and wrote a book on the subject, that is considered the best general introduction to late medieval art for private devotion. He is preparing a major exhibition on medieval reliqaries for the year 2000 in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam and the Museum Catharijeconvent in Utrecht. This publication is supported by het VSB Fonds.



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July 26, 2018


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