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Sedes Sapientiae

sculptures mary god sometimes

Sedes sapientiae (“Throne” or “Seat” of “*Wisdom”) refers specifically to solemn and majestic images of the *Madonna and Child, particularly the smallish, free-standing, wood sculptures or cult statues frequently produced in western Europe from the tenth century onward and especially during the Romanesque period. Often covered with thin sheets of gold or silver, decorated with gemstones, or painted, the sculptures show an enthroned Virgin *Mary (sometimes wearing a veil or crown) stiffly supporting a rigid and unchildlike infant Jesus seated in the center of her lap. He may be shown holding a book and making a gesture of *benediction. The figures usually stare outward, exhibiting no interaction with each other apart from physical proximity. Mary is represented as the Regina coeli (the queen of *heaven), the * Theotokos (bearer of *God), and *Christ as God incarnate. Early Christian theologians often referred to Mary as the “throne of God,” and medieval authors linked this image to the throne of the wise Old Testament King *Solomon; hence, Mary became the “Throne of Wisdom.” The free-standing sculptures were placed on altars, carried in processions, and sometimes used as containers for *relics. Although the term generally refers to wood sculptures, the iconography is found in other media (painting and relief sculpture).

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