Embodied Faith: Whole-Body Catacomb Saints in the Duchy of Bavaria, 1578-1803

Noria Kate Litaker, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This dissertation examines the transfer and visual presentation of nearly 400 “holy bodies,” known as catacomb saints, exported from Rome to the duchy of Bavaria between 1578 and 1803. It investigates and analyzes the acquisition, geographical and temporal distribution, physical construction, transfer festivities and display of catacomb saints within churches in early modern Bavaria. It is based on two years of archival and field research for in Bavaria (Bavarian State Library, Bavarian State Archives, various diocesan and parish archives) and Rome (Archivio Storico del Vicariato di Roma).^ This study of whole-body catacomb saints expands the historical and art historical study of both relics and reliquaries into the early modern era and demonstrates that the display of catacomb saint relics as seemingly intact whole bodies was a radical break from medieval relic presentation which emphasized bodily fragmentation. While, scholars have studied relics and reliquaries extensively in the medieval period, they have rarely considered their function and visual presentation in a radically altered, post-Reformation landscape. Furthermore, the close study of these bodies demonstrates that individual monasteries, pilgrims and merchants across the duchy not only took the initiative to acquire catacomb saints, but to present them in a wholly new manner as complete bodies. This challenges the dominant narrative of the Bavarian Catholic Reformation as a top-down process in which a uniformly Catholic identity was imposed on the population using the mechanisms of a centralized State. More broadly, it demonstrates the agency and importance of local actors during the early modern period both in shaping and materially expressing their faith. ^

Subject Area

Religious history|European history|Art history

Recommended Citation

Litaker, Noria Kate, "Embodied Faith: Whole-Body Catacomb Saints in the Duchy of Bavaria, 1578-1803" (2017). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI10255242.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI10255242

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