The Life and Miracles of Saint Godelieve Polyptych, last quarter of 15th century.
The story of this eleventh-century Netherlandish saint is recounted in seven scenes over five panels (left to right): Godelieve with her family; Godelieve feeding the poor; the feast for the count of Boulogne; Godelieve's marriage to Bertolf, who plots with his mother against her; and Godelieve's strangulation and miracles. On the exterior are Saints Josse, Nicholas of Bari, Quirinus, and John the Baptist.
This fully intact altarpiece was perhaps commissioned by the Guild of the Load Bearers in Bruges for their chapel in the "Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk" (Church of Our Lady). It is attributed to the "Master of the Saint Godelieve Legend" (Netherlandish, active fourth quarter 15th century). When closed, four saintsâ€“â€“Josse, Nicholas, Quirinus, and John the Baptistâ€“â€“and two kneeling donors are visible. When open for the celebration of Mass, worshipers saw displayed for their edification the life and miracles of Saint Godelieve, patroness of Flanders.
Godelieve was born in the late 1040s or early 1050s and died in or around 1070.She is a uniquely the only married female martyr recognized as a saint by a medieval pope. Her life provides a candid account of a disastrous marriage at a time when the joining of individuals and families was central to social, economic, and political organization. Godelieve emerges as a victim of medieval marriage and an example of medieval religious devotion as practiced by a laywoman.
1450/Metropolitan Museum, USA