Fools, Devils, and Alchemy: Secular Images in the Monastery

Fools, Devils, and Alchemy: Secular Images in the Monastery

Gruia, Ana Maria

STUDIA PATZINAKA, 6, 2008, pp. 129-145


A rich stove tile material has been discovered during the years among the ruins of the Carthusian monastery in Klaštorisko (Northern Hungary).  The monastery, dedicated to St. John the Baptist and established in 1307, is located in a remote place in today’s Slovak Paradise National Park in the Spiš region, Letanovce department. Due to itslocation, in accordance to the typical Carthusian place selection, on a hill fortified against the Mongol raids of the thirteenth century, the monastery was called Lapis Refugii in the Latin sources.  Klaštorisko was reconstructed between 1478 and 1530 and this is when the decorated stoves were installed in each monk’s cell and in some of the common spaces. The tile collection from Klaštorisko is unique through itsdimensions, variety, and the good archaeological context (the site was not re-used after the destruction of the monastery).

Remains of more than 200 tiles and the bases of atleast fourteen stoves have been discovered on the site. Several types of images can befound on these stove tiles: religious representations, especially related to the Virgin, but also symbols of the evangelists, the Agnus Dei , other saints and Old Testament scenes, heraldic representations, angels supporting coats of arms, knights, vegetal and animal decoration, but also a series of „strange“ images. The latter include tiles depicting combinations of signs and symbols, a wild man with a crab, a man workingwith retorts and containers in front of a character in orant position. One of these less frequent and unusual tile representations will be the focus of the present article. Itdepicts a fool and a burgher facing each other, both pounding in the same mortar,under an architectonic decorative border

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