The Schip - Votive and Church Ship Model

The Schip - Votive and Church Ship Model , 1688

Saint Nicholas Church

Associated:Saint Nicholas Church

Associated:Aberdeen Shipmaster Society

wood, cord and metal

Ship models have a long tradition in religious rites and imagery.

For millennia ships were important as the only method of transportation, trade and communication between distant lands and so ships themselves became invested with spirituality and symbolism.

The oldest known surviving ship models are those made five thousand years ago by the ancient Egyptians. These detailed wooden models, complete with crew, were sealed into tombs in order to transport the souls of the dead on their last great voyage to the next life.

In Europe the tradition of votive models in churches, such as the one on display here, is recorded as early as the fifteenth century. A votive model would have been a common sight in churches around ports and in fishing communities.

Captains would sometimes commission models for churches as a token of gratitude for the successful completion of voyages.

Votive models would also serve as a reminder to congregations of their dependence on the sea for their livelihoods and to give thanks for a profitable catch. Some models were built to be included in rituals and ceremonies to honour a particular saint or festival, such as in Spain where ship models are carried through the streets in processions.

Models would be given to churches in memory of sailors lost at sea and as a reminder to pray for a ship's safe return.

The imagery of a ship traveling across the sea, sometimes peaceful sometimes stormy, is also used as an allegory for life itself.

Suspended from the church ceiling by chains these models are often symbolic and do not necessarily represent actual vessels. They can sometimes be quite crudely constructed because they were to be hung high up in darkened churches where their detail could not easily be seen.

Some features on a votive or church model, such as the guns and masts, would be oversized and out of scale with the rest of the model. This was done deliberately to make them more distinct when seen from below and at a distance.

Overall: Length: 116 cm, Width: 58 cm, Height: 131 cm
Acc. No. ABDMS003134


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