Portable Altar with Priestly Imagery

Fulda, Germany, first third of 11th century
Silver over wood
Musée National de l'Age Médiévale, Paris

The lower register of the altar top presents the sacrifice of Isaac. Above this scene we see on the left edge St. Blaise above Melchizedek, and on the right edge St. Nicholas above Aaron. In the center of the upper register is the Traditio Legis, Christ giving keys to St. Peter and a book to St. Paul.

Together, all this imagery establishes the typological background as well as the divine authority behind the eucharistic celebration for which the altar is intended. Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac is a type of God's giving his own only son in the sacrifice that the Mass remembers.  Aaron and Melchizedech are types of the priesthood that will come under the new covenant, represented by the bishops St. Nicholas and St. Blaise, who partake of the authority that Christ gave to the apostles, represented here by the Traditio Legis, the giving of the Law and the Keys to St. Paul and St. Peter respectively. The two saints in the upper corners represent the bishops to whom this authority devolves in the passage of time.

View detail photographs of Abraham and Isaac, St. Blaise and Melchizedech, St. Nicholas, Aaron, and the Traditio Legis.

Read more about images of Abraham, Melchizedek, Aaron, St. Blaise, and St. Nicholas.
Read more about images of the Traditio Legis.

Photographed at the museum by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.