Chamber of the Trinity

Q: Please discuss the origins and meaning of the phrase "Chamber of the Trinity" in reference to Mary. Were images made to represent this idea?

A: The phrase "Chamber of the Trinity" (i.e. thalamus trinitatis) is applied to Mary in works previously ascribed to Isidore of Seville. Certain images of the so-called "Shrine Madonnas" (i.e. vierge ouvrante) seem to have been created to illustrate this theme. Only about forty-fifty "shrine madonnas" still remain from the late medieval period. Images have been found in France, Switzerland, Spain, Germany and Poland. These statues show Mary in a sitting position. The Shrine Madonna opens up to show a religious scene inside. Scenes from the Passion of Jesus or the life of Mary were common. However, interior scenes related to the Trinity were used in the latest Shrine Madonnas. These shrine madonna statues were called "the throne of God" (la chaise de dieu), and seem related to the phrase "chamber of the trinity." These representations disappear after the Council of Trent (ca. 1570), probably to avoid confusion over linking incarnational and trinitarian imagery. A sample of the "Throne of God" image appears at right.

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