Session Title

Relics and Reliquaries: Forms, Functions, Meanings (A Roundtable)

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Beth Williamson

Organizer Affiliation

Univ. of Bristol

Presider Name

Beth Williamson

Paper Title 1

Discussant

Presenter 1 Name

Karen Eileen Overbey

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Tufts Univ./Material Collective

Paper Title 2

Discussant

Presenter 2 Name

Joseph Salvatore Ackley

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Barnard College

Paper Title 3

Discussant

Presenter 3 Name

Eliza Garrison

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Middlebury College

Paper Title 4

Discussant

Presenter 4 Name

Anne E. Lester

Presenter 4 Affiliation

Univ. of Colorado-Boulder

Paper Title 5

Discussant

Presenter 5 Name

William J. Purkis

Presenter 5 Affiliation

Univ. of Birmingham

Paper Title 6

Discussant

Presenter 6 Name

Scott B. Montgomery

Presenter 6 Affiliation

Univ. of Denver

Start Date

11-5-2017 10:00 AM

Session Location

Sangren 1750

Description

Relics and reliquaries have been the renewed subject of scholarly interest in recent years, with the publication of important monographs (including Cynthia Hahn's _Strange Beauty_ (2012) and Karen Overbey's _Sacral Geographies_ (2012), and the major exhibition _Treasures of Heaven_ (Baltimore/Cleveland/London, 2010-11). This interest in relics and reliquaries is not new, of course. Just to take the past fifteen years, for instance, there was a major exhibition in Utrecht in 2000 (_The Way to Heaven_, and publications of various kinds appearing steadily in years between this and _Treasures of Heaven_ (including Erik Thuno, _Image and Relic: mediating the sacred in early medieval Rome_, 2002; Sally Cornelison/Scott Montgomery, _Images, relics, and devotional practices in medieval and renaissance Italy_, 2006, among others). Lately, however, the interest in relics and reliquaries has been enlivened by developments in the field around materiality, eco-criticism, and a concern with the agency of objects. Excellent recent work in these fields has allowed art historians to pose different questions of relics, beyond examining the practices of relic enshrinement and veneration, to look into materials, and making, and to consider how the materiality of reliquaries, and of relics themselves, affects their agency, and the efficacy ascribed to them. Even so, however, major questions about the ontology of relics and reliquaries still remain unanswered, and for the most part often unasked: what is a reliquary? how should a reliquary be defined? is an object that has relics within it - such as jewellery, or a sword pommel - always, nevertheless, a reliquary? when is an object a reliquary (an object *for* a relic), and when is it an object of another kind that happens to incorporate a relic? how should a relic itself be defined? what is the relationship between images (such as altarpieces, or devotional tabernacles) and the relics that exist in connection with them, or inside them? As with other major categories of object such as altarpieces, it can be the case that universalising statements are made about reliquaries as a whole category, based upon knowledge from one period or place that really only pertains to certain types of reliquary. This round table will bring together scholars specialising in different periods and different regions, and will attempt to address, together, these questions.

Beth Williamson

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May 11th, 10:00 AM

Relics and Reliquaries: Forms, Functions, Meanings (A Roundtable)

Sangren 1750

Relics and reliquaries have been the renewed subject of scholarly interest in recent years, with the publication of important monographs (including Cynthia Hahn's _Strange Beauty_ (2012) and Karen Overbey's _Sacral Geographies_ (2012), and the major exhibition _Treasures of Heaven_ (Baltimore/Cleveland/London, 2010-11). This interest in relics and reliquaries is not new, of course. Just to take the past fifteen years, for instance, there was a major exhibition in Utrecht in 2000 (_The Way to Heaven_, and publications of various kinds appearing steadily in years between this and _Treasures of Heaven_ (including Erik Thuno, _Image and Relic: mediating the sacred in early medieval Rome_, 2002; Sally Cornelison/Scott Montgomery, _Images, relics, and devotional practices in medieval and renaissance Italy_, 2006, among others). Lately, however, the interest in relics and reliquaries has been enlivened by developments in the field around materiality, eco-criticism, and a concern with the agency of objects. Excellent recent work in these fields has allowed art historians to pose different questions of relics, beyond examining the practices of relic enshrinement and veneration, to look into materials, and making, and to consider how the materiality of reliquaries, and of relics themselves, affects their agency, and the efficacy ascribed to them. Even so, however, major questions about the ontology of relics and reliquaries still remain unanswered, and for the most part often unasked: what is a reliquary? how should a reliquary be defined? is an object that has relics within it - such as jewellery, or a sword pommel - always, nevertheless, a reliquary? when is an object a reliquary (an object *for* a relic), and when is it an object of another kind that happens to incorporate a relic? how should a relic itself be defined? what is the relationship between images (such as altarpieces, or devotional tabernacles) and the relics that exist in connection with them, or inside them? As with other major categories of object such as altarpieces, it can be the case that universalising statements are made about reliquaries as a whole category, based upon knowledge from one period or place that really only pertains to certain types of reliquary. This round table will bring together scholars specialising in different periods and different regions, and will attempt to address, together, these questions.

Beth Williamson