A not unusual modern response to reliquaries is disgust – after all they often contain bones. To understand their presence, even their glorification, it must be admitted that the bones are not the ordinary subject of horror, rather as the bones of the blessed, “dem bones gonna rise again”! In a Christian understanding they will be instrumental in linking heaven and earth. Relics (with the help of their reliquaries) lead away from death and horror through intercession and access to salvation. Indeed, only in a later, almost modern development did the bones – and the “economy” of death – become a subject of fascination in themselves.
Cynthia Hahn is a Professor of Art History and the Director of Graduate Studies in Art History at Hunter College (City University of New York). She earned her Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University and her MA from the University of Chicago. A specialist in early and late medieval art history, she has previously held teaching positions at Florida State University where she was Gulnar K. Bosch professor of Art History, the University of Chicago, the University of Delaware, and the University of Michigan. She participated in the planning of the major exhibition “Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in the Middle Ages”. Her recent publications include Portrayed on the Heart: Narrative Effect in Pictorial Lives of the Saints from the Tenth through the Thirteenth Century (2001) and Strange Beauty: Issues in the Making and Meaning of Reliquaries, 400–circa 1204 (2012), as well as numerous journal articles and contributions to edited collections.
Series Funders and Co-Sponsors: UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere (Rothman Endowment), UF Smathers Libraries, UF Office of Research, School of Art + Art History's Harn Eminent Scholar Lecture Series, UF International Center, UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, UF Department of History, UF Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, UF Center for Latin American Studies, UF Department of Religion, Alachua County Library District, UF College of Veterinary Medicine, UF Digital Worlds Institute, UF Honors Program.
For an overview of Death: Confronting the Great Divide, click here.
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