Looking for a way to take the Christmas story with you wherever you go? The 15th century German world had a solution: mobile personal chapels.
Take the “Chapelle Cardon” in the Musée du Louvre: this small mobile chapel would have been used for private devotion when it was made in the early 1400s. It includes a wooden statuette of the Virgin and Child surrounded by moving wings painted with narrative scenes, including the Christmas story (delicate images of the announcement to the shepherds and the Nativity).
This type of object is known as a Tabernakelaltar (tabernacle-altarpiece), with the moving wings forming a sort of jewelry box around the statuette of the Virgin and Child. Its decor is inspired by the religious architecture of the day. It is a minor miracle that it exists today in such good condition: these mobile chapels were very delicate and often were damaged in transport.
Why is it called the Cardon Chapel? It is named for Charles-Léon Cardon (1850-1920), a Belgian painter and collector. His descendants donated this wooden chapel to the Louvre in 1921.
Musée du Louvre (Richelieu wing, second floor)
Address: Palais du Louvre 75001 Paris ∣ Métro: Palais-Royal Musée du Louvre (line 1 or 7) ∣ Opening hours: Wednesday to Monday from 9am to 6pm, open until 9:45pm on Wednesday and Friday