“Reading” of the altar iconography of the Ēdole Lutheran church as an example of formal and theological hybridity
Keywords: iconography, sacral art, hybridity, Ēdole (Edwahlen) Lutheran Church, von Behr family, sculpture
Language: In Latvian

With reference to Ulick Peter Burke’s analytical theories put forth in his book Cultural Hybridity, this article examines the original theological and iconographic conception of the altar in Ēdole (Edwahlen) Lutheran Church (Latvia), with a special focus on unconventional elements, including the location of biblical characters and assemblage of the images. The sculptural form of both the New Testament evangelists and Christ, as well as the characters of the Old Testament — Moses, the Archangel Michael — are complemented by characteristic attributes. The “reading” of their symbolic meanings, however, creates a singular story, loaded with subjective connotations. Analysis of the specific meanings of these elements reveals that the holistic altar programme is characterised by integration of complex theological notions and symbolic meanings in the sculptural forms, thus creating a peculiar hybrid of Christian content and artistic form. The concept of such an extraordinary altar could not have arisen merely as a sum of refined means of allegorical expression, only to assert the erudition of an artistic advisor expert in Christian theology. Assessing the message of the altar sculptures from the point of view of visual and verbal content, it unfolds as a conceptually literary work of art with a certain inner drama. Reading the sculptures’ iconography against the biographical chronology of the church’s patrons, the von Behr family, the interaction of these two parallel plot lines becomes apparent. By contextualizing the metaphorical meaning of the tragic fact in von Behr family history — that the son murders his father over their different confessional views — within the altar’s otherwise anomalous hybrid programme, the sculptures’ religious and didactic intent are clarified.