The paintings in this gallery were made at a time when the Catholic Church played a dominant role in the lives of Europeans. The largest works are altarpieces, which were originally placed above the alter table in a church or chapel. They served as the focal point of the Mass and taught religious stories to illiterate. Smaller altarpieces, often portable, were used for private devotion. Many of the individual paintings in this room were once part of altarpieces that were dismantled and sold in pieces to collectors.