Mind over matter. Debates about relics as sacred objects, c. 350-c. 1150
01.06.2014 to 31.05.2018
General project description 

With the cult of relics, Christians explored the use of the material world to reach their god and achieve salvation. Contrary to what is often maintained, however, the role of relics in Christian religious life was not self-evident and unchallenged. From their earliest history on, the boundaries of interaction between the material and the divine provoked debate and dissent. Could the remains of saints embody the divine or were they references to the divine? Should they be venerated or was this idolatry?

This project is the first attempt to systematically map out these discussions and disagreements in the West from Late Antiquity until c. 1150. It investigates the learned debates on the role of matter in Christian devotion (project 1) and analyses their relation to the practices of the saints’ cults themselves (projects 2 and 3). Instead of focusing solely on normative texts and text editions, as is usually done, this project foregrounds neglected material: inscriptions engraved at cult sites and marginal annotations in manuscripts that expressed new ideas and controversial thoughts. Additionally, the project explores the material objects themselves: relics, the reliquaries in which they were kept and the physical setting of the cult.

Within the broader context of recent interest in the relationship of materiality to religion, this project advances scholarship by increasing our understanding of the role matter played in Christian devotion in the medieval West, the discussions it raised and their historical developments. By combining the study of material culture and traditional historical and philological methods, this project will bring into focus dissent and diversity rather than orthodoxy and unity.

Role Researcher Funding
NWO grant
Project members UU

Gegenereerd op 2017-11-19 08:10:15
Full name
dr. E. Pallottini Contact details
Drift 6

Drift 6
Room -
The Netherlands

Gegenereerd op 2017-11-19 08:10:15
Last updated 27.10.2016