How did religious art objects from 1450–1600 enable people to deal with sickness and disease and encourage them to prepare for the afterlife? Does access to different art objects depend on social status?

Religious art objects from 1450–1600 enabled people to deal with sickness and disease by comforting them. When Mary, Queen of Scots was beheaded for trying to kill Queen Elizabeth I, she endured her execution with the help of her gold rosary. Of course, not everyone had the privilege of facing the afterlife with a resplendent religious object by their side.

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If someone was religious, then religious art objects would likely provide comfort for them when confronting sickness and preparing for the afterlife. During the period from 1450–1600, like during other periods, many sought solace and hope in varying religious items when confronted with disease or likely death.

Of course, the socioeconomic class of the person determined what kind of religious objects they could own (if they could own any at all). An agricultural worker during this time wouldn’t have as nice of a bible or crucifix as someone from the upper class or a member of royalty.

Speaking of royalty, Mary, Queen of Scots had some significant religious art objects. Mary, Queen of Scots was queen of Scotland from 1542–67. Her and the queen of England, Elizabeth I, did not get along. Elizabeth brought back Protestantism in England, which upset Mary greatly, since she was a fierce champion of Catholicism. For supposedly taking part in a plot to kill Elizabeth, Mary spent nineteen years in prison before she was finally beheaded.

When Mary went to her death, she had her rosary. This was no ordinary rosary. The beads were made of gold and the attached crucifix was also made of gold. Most people did not have the comfort of an ornate golden rosary when they were about to die.

For some religions, art provided no comfort and was thought to be an abomination. John Calvin, the sixteenth-century Protestant reformer and founder of Calvinism, thought it was wrong to depict God in art.

It also might be interesting to consider how certain popes could prepare for the afterlife. For instance, Pope Julius II, head of the Catholic Church from 1503–1513, commissioned Michelangelo to build him a grand, three-story tomb. Most people did not have the ability to journey to the afterlife in such an extraordinary edifice.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 13, 2021
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