DISCUSSION SERIES ‘TALKING ABOUT THINGS’ #2 – RELIGIOUS MATERIALITY: OBJECTS OF FAITH AND DEVOTION
On Friday 9 October at 11:00, sala del Torrino, Villa Salviati
The study of religion and religious communities can be analysed through two avenues: the analysis of faith which is an intrinsic sentiment, and the study of devotion which offers an external and more tangible perspective. The two are not always easily distinguishable. The ‘spatial turn’ and ‘material turn’ have both contributed to historians of religion giving a greater weight to religious materiality – the study of religious spaces and objects – in a bid to delve deeper into the socio-cultural impact of religion in history. For this new meeting of the Visual and Material History Working Group, and second session of the ‘Talking about Things’ seminar series, we will explore this question with two of our own HEC researchers who will consider objects and spaces of devotion in pre-modern Christianity.
“Treasures of the Church: An 18th century Illustrated Inventory of St John’s Conventual Church in Valletta”, Matthias Ebejer (HEC)
Inventory keeping is usually associated with shops, and in historical documents inventory lists are often found in the execution of a will or the sale of a house with its contents. However, in some cases, the Catholic Church commissioned inventories too, recording lists of sacred items: relics, vestments and liturgical vessels. Whilst the motivations for doing so could be numerous, the prevalent reason seems to be the impediment of theft. If pre-modern ecclesiastical inventories are less common than other types of inventories, having a masterfully illustrated example is a rarity indeed. The value of this document is further augmented by the fact that the majority of the items shown did not survive the turbulent events that shook Malta at the end of the eighteenth century. This presentation will not only focus on the artistic qualities of the individual pieces, but likewise attempt to look at these objects as a collective, as agents of sanctification of space, as well as powerful indicators of the community’s religious identity and spirituality.
“Images and devotion in Premodern times”, Thor-Oona Pignarre (HEC)
How are we to understand the many religious images from the late Middle Ages that are now exhibited in museums? At the dawn of the Renaissance, images were part of a new devotional culture that saw no contradiction between the use of material aids and spiritual aims. Furthermore, visuality lay at the core of the spiritual experience and could take the various and complementary forms of the mental and the material image. Overall, if the status of images was largely determined by their use in relation to texts and other objects in the context of prayer, we would like to examine the idea that images as such constituted guides for meditation.