Jonathan Williams, Keeper of Prehistory and Europe
The Museum’s latest exhibition exploring spiritual journeys closes in the next couple of weeks. Treasures of Heaven is all about what it was like to be human in medieval Europe, and an inherent part of medieval European life was religion. Whether you were a woman or a man, young or old, rich or poor, Christianity was part of everyday life and the exhibition explores the role of worship and the objects associated with it – and how these objects were thought to provide a bridge between heaven and Earth.
The way that Christianity permeated all elements of medieval European life is one of the big things that make medieval Europeans different from us, and that’s why we need to know about it. For better or worse, medieval people lavished their money and time, their art and their passion on their religion above all else, and made some extraordinarily beautiful and moving things along the way, many of which feature in the show.
It’s been an amazing opportunity to gain a new insight not just into the craftsmanship and sophistication of the middle ages but, more importantly, into the minds and hearts of people in a particular moment in time.
You can say something similar about the Museum’s next big show, Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam, about the great annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, which will also give all of us a way into understanding a phenomenon that is central to the lives and imaginations of millions of people around the world, and millions of Britons too. The exhibition will explore the history of this famous pilgrimage through rarely-seen objects from across the world and will shed light on how the pilgrimage continues to be experienced today.
To explore human history is to explore human beliefs and experiences. This is what the British Museum is for – to enable us to see the world from different perspectives.
Treasures of Heaven: saints, relics and devotion in medieval Europe is open until 9 October 2011.
Book tickets now.
Sponsored by John Studzinski
In partnership with King Abdulaziz Public Library, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
HSBC Amanah has supported the exhibition’s international reach outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.