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Personalized Gifts - What More Can You Ask For?

How can you personalize a gift these days? Engraving the name of the recipient perhaps? Personalized electronic greeting cards? People just don't take the time anymore to really make an impression. Let's look back in time to see the importance of gifts.

Gifts were an important part of the ceremony and diplomacy of medieval Europe. Personalized gifts used to secure the allegiance of a rulers subjects and to solidify ties among princes and high-ranking clergy. Medieval Christians gave money, land, or luxury goods to religious institutions in return for prayers on behalf of the donors soul, and charity was considered a Christian virtue. Illuminated manuscripts were themselves among the most costly of gifts.

Models for giving are found in scripture and the lives of the saints. The most important scriptural model was the presentation of gifts to the infant Jesus by three wise men. A miniature from a German psalter shows the wise men offering their gifts to the child before a shimmering gold background. Another miniature shows a model for charity taken from the life of the English saint Edward the Confessor: a ring he had given to a beggar is miraculously returned to him years later--a reward for his selflessness.

In the Middle Ages, charity took new forms as individuals, like Saint Hedwig of Silesia, displayed compassion for society's underprivileged by personally feeding the sick, giving alms, and helping the imprisoned. Not all gifts were charitable, though, as giving also played an important role in political affairs. Gifts were a critical feature of diplomatic protocol, demonstrating the donors good will.

Scholars also made gifts of their literary works to powerful princes in the hopes of future patronage. Vasco da Lucena, for example, dedicated his French translation of an ancient Roman biography of Alexander the Great to Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy--an act that simultaneously honored the ruler and elevated the status of the donor.

Illuminated manuscripts circulated among religious institutions both as diplomatic gifts and for the mutual benefit of monks and clerics. Books that served as gift objects are among the most sumptuously illuminated of the Middle Ages, and a number of service books and manuscripts of scripture were created to be given as personalized gifts to monasteries and high-ranking clerics.

The illuminated prayer book known as the Gualenghi-dEste Hours, for example, was made on the occasion of the marriage of Andrea Gualengo to Orsina dEste, a member of the ruling family of the north Italian city of Ferrara. Even today, a medieval manuscript can mark an exchange of vows..

Gifts - the art of giving …


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