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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  August 2009

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION August 2009

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Subject:

Re: Ex votos

From:

John Shinners <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 8 Aug 2009 10:36:54 -0400

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Thanks, Jim.

Following your lead about Radford's "The Wax Images Found in Exeter Cathedral," I just found this pertinent article (Google Books, of course, which gave me a large peak) by Megan Holmes, "Ex Votos: Materiality, Memory, and Cult" in *The Idol in the Age of Art: Objects, Devotions, and trhe Early Modern World*, Michael C. Cole, Rebecca C. Zorach (eds) (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009)159-182.  

She mentions both the wax moulds and the full-scale figures popular in the Renaissance you cite.  She also makes the interesting point that wax effigies probably had meaning beyond their inexpensive cost and ability to be mass produced.  Wax carried associations with identity since it was the material used for seals, and it also was the material often used as a metaphor for the way form impressed itself on matter.  She doesn't mention this in the available chunks of the article I was able to see, but wax also obviously has powerful liturgical associations.  It was also the medium of another popular ex voto, the string measured to the length of the ill person (or, in some cases part--as in Thomas More's story I mentioned earlier about the chapel hung about with petitioners' "private gear") and then used as the wick for a candle or taper offered to the intervening saint.  These long, thin candles were sometimes rolled up (called "trindles," at least in England).  There is an image of them in Matthew Paris's 13th-C drawing of the tomb of Edward the Confessor.  But that probably takes us off into a different direction.

Just to reinforce the antiquity of ex votos in an anecdotal way, in the Archaeological Museum in Thessaloniki, there is a striking marble plague from the 2nd C. CE dedicated to Dionysus.  It depicts two big ears (with a nice little grape vine border) offered to the god to handle some hearing problem.  In his *Golden Ass* Apuleius also mentions a shrine to Hera where "precious gifts and garments embroidered with gold letters were hanging from the branches of the trees and from the doorposts; these recorded the name of the goddess to whom they were offered and thanks for the blessings she bestowed."

Best,
John

------------------------------------------
John Shinners
Professor of Humanistic Studies
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
Phone: 574-284-4494 or 574-284-4534
Fax: 284-4855
www.saintmarys.edu/~hust

"Learn everything.  Afterwards you will see that nothing is superfluous."     -- Hugh of St. Victor (d. 1141)


----- Original Message -----
From: jbugslag <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Fri, 7 Aug 2009 12:15:43 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: [M-R] Ex votos

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

John,
These are tough questions, but it seems probable that wax ex votos were mass-produced
from moulds at pilgrimage sites, and more precious ones would be made by local goldsmiths
for the upper end of the market, either "on spec" or individually commissioned.  Some wax ex
votos have survived, notably some in Exeter and some from Hergiswald, now in Berne, on
which see U.M. Radford, "The Wax Images Found in Exeter Cathedral," Antiquaries Journal, XXIX
(1949), 164-68, pl. XIX-XXI, and Iconoclasme: Vie et mort de l'image medievale, exh. cat. (Berne
and Strasbourg, 2001), p. 249.  More ambitious wax ex votos were life-sized kneeling figures of the
donor: until they were cleared out in the early modern period, the Church of the SS Annunziata in
Florence was choc-a-bloc with such images of Florentine notables; one recent study of this is Roberta
Panzanelli, Ephemeral Bodies: Wax Sculpture and one the Human Figure (Los Angeles, 2008).  One
of the best general studies of ex votos is still Lenz Kriss-Rettenbeck, Ex voto. Zeichen, Bild und
Abbild im christlichen Votivbrauchtum (Zurich and Freiburg i.B., 1972).  Another common type of ex
voto was an embossed silver plaque showing a body part, baby, animal, etc.  This type of ex voto has a
long history that extends in Greece far earlier than Christianity and is still in use there; this type of ex
voto was also common in western Europe during the early modern period and later.  And from about
the late 15th century, ex voto paintings began to appear, in which the "miraculous intervention" was
actually depicted -- this sort of ex voto is still firmly entrenched in Latin America and elsewhere.  I
have yet to learn exactly when the neat marble ex voto plaques so evident in many French churches
began to be used, but they do not appear to have been common before the 19th century.
Cheers,
Jim

On 6 Aug 2009 at 23:14, John Shinners wrote:

> medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and
> culture
>
> Visiting the shrine of the 20th-C Orthodox St. Nektariou in Greece
> last summer, I was taken by its medieval flavor, especially since the
> portrait of him in his chapel was festooned with ex votos of all sorts
> of anatomical bits (esp. eyes and legs).  This got me wondering just
> where one purchases an ex voto.  I was going to pose this question to
> the group but first turned to Google a moment ago where my first hit
> took me to "milagromercado.com" featuring a nice selection of ex
> votos:
>
> http://www.suenosimports.com/catalog/index.php?cPath=24
>
> But does anyone have any ideas about whether there was any mass
> manufacturing of ex votos in the Middle Ages (insofar as anything was
> mass manufactured back then)? Where would one get an ex voto--ask a
> local artisan to craft one?  I've seen mention of them made of wax, as
> we've mentioned, of precious and base metals (i.e, lead), of wood.  Do
> they survive in any number?  Would they be produced in mass quantities
> like pilgrim badges?
>
> Best,
> John
>
> ------------------------------------------
> John Shinners
> Professor of Humanistic Studies
> Saint Mary's College
> Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
> Phone: 574-284-4494 or 574-284-4534
> Fax: 284-4855
> www.saintmarys.edu/~hust
>
> "Learn everything.  Afterwards you will see that nothing is
> superfluous."     -- Hugh of St. Victor (d. 1141)
>
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Marjorie Greene <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Thu, 6 Aug 2009 22:26:10 -0400 (EDT)
> Subject: Re: [M-R] 1157 inventory from Cefalu, Sicily
>
> medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and
> culture
>
> Paul, No one would dream of accusing you of killing joy... Whenever
> votive offerings come up as a thread subject, I remind the list of
> Saint Roch Cemetery in New Orleans. No exciting body parts, just dust,
> roaches and the occasional ghost, called an "orb" in Voodoo-speak:
> http://morbidanatomy.blogspot.com/2009/05/st-roch-cemetery-and-chapel-
> new-orelans.html
>
> Marjorie Greene
> http://medrelart.shutterfly.com/
>
> --- On Thu, 8/6/09, Paul Chandler <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
>
>
> From: Paul Chandler <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: [M-R] 1157 inventory from Cefalu, Sicily
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Date: Thursday, August 6, 2009, 8:59 PM
>
>
> medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and
> culture In the "Medical Imagery in Ex-Votos" gallery
> <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/exvotos/gallery.html> I especially
> like the one of a girl in a brightly painted jeep, with her hair
> steaming in the wind and her dog beside her, with the following text:
>
>
> My sentimental life was a chaos. I was very sad and depressed, then my
> uncle gave me his old jeep and I give thanks to the Virgin of
> Guadalupe that he did that because now with the sun in my face and the
> wind in my hair, my depression disappeared and the speed makes me feel
> free and happy.
>
> -- Paul Chandler
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