Neus Serra has a degree in Art History from the University of the Balearic Islands and a Master’s in Cultural Heritage Management and Conservation of Movable Heritage by the University of the Balearic Islands and Université de Perpignan Via Domitia. She is currently pursuing her doctoral thesis on XIVth ceramics. Her research is based on the premise that ceramics can be considered a transdocumental object which has to be studied in a multidimensional way, linking historical, artistic and archaeological speeches to recreate its actual impact on society that consumed.
Medieval pottery as a multifunctional object
This communication aims to provide data about different practices and attitudes towards pottery in middle ages. Tableware, during XIVth and XVth century, was used for much more than just presenting, serving and consuming food. It was an usual custom to hang some pieces from the walls as a decorative element or even to fix them on the facades of some churches, as the countless bacini in Italy document. This decorative side could have been the reason why some of these objects lived longer than others. Indeed, many archive sources document the resale of pottery in auctions carried out on the properties of a deceased.
In some cases, these ceramics could acquire a high symbolic, religious or even protective value in the domestic environment. That would be the case of pieces decorated with prayers or pieces reserved for special uses. The highest expression of the sacred dimension these objects could achieve is the relic/bowl of San Francisco de Asís, a piece from the XIVth century preserved in the treasure of the Cologne Cathedral. As for the causes of refusal and waste, beyond those resulting from the damage that daily use entailed, the archaeological record has brought to light some complete sets that were abandoned practically in a single moment. Since their functionality was intact, we have to suppose external reasons to get rid of them. Rituals and prophylactic measures in order to prevent the spread of disease have been pointed to explain “premature” abandonment. In other cases they found a second life as construction material, filling some medieval churches vaults.