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Lecture 15

ARTH 301 Lecture Notes - Lecture 15: Christian Pilgrimage, Conques, Apulia

Art History and Visual Culture
Course Code
ARTH 301
T'ai Smith

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ARTH 300
Oct 24
Contesting the sacred in ritual pilgrimage
The Cult of Sainte Foy at Conques c. 1000
Professor Carol Knicely (Medieval Art)
Ideology: worldview upheld by a group
Objects work for different groups in different ways
The village of Conques with its Romanesque church and the Reliquary of
Sainte Foy (c. 1000 and later)
Isolated region
Conques Monastery in France
Rituals such as pilgrimage cults, along with art provided for them, are
contested experiences
- Constructed for certain effects they may be perceived differently by diverse
audiences working with different desires and discourses
- Moreover, cult objects can function differently even for those who manipulate
them (as the monastery) under different circumstances.
Same object can generate different kind of meaning, that depends on viewers
perception of it
Important for today
Art historians are paying more attention to viewers reactions in the
construction of meaning
Art historians more and more are recognizing multiplicity of meanings
However, I insist that it is not enough to say there is ambiguity and
multiplicity. It is important to see how those play out in the social context
often in contestation and what is at stake
Contesting, The Sacred. The Antropology of Christian Pilgrimage. By John Eade and
Michael J. Sallnow
Realms of competing discourses, power and resistance of power.
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Historical specificity rather than universalized generalizations.
Deconstruction the center (past: Renaissance in Italy was seen as the best, and all
art of outside -like India- was criticized)
By the 11th c. Conques was center of pilgrimages
Ritual with material aspect
Tympanum of the Last Judgement at Conques, early 12th century
Christ in center raising his hand to those going to Heaven and down hand to those
going to hell (demon: tortures).
Individual stories and broader concepts of sins. Hanged, a Knight falls his horse (lost
of pride).
Detail of the tympanum on the side of the Elect:
Sainte Foy bows to the Hand of God to pray for her devotees. Note her chair and the
manacles and chains given as ex-votos. Here we have a neat combination of miracle
and salvation discourse
Saint Foy was famous for liberating prisoners, who donated their chains
Spiritual journey to earn proximity to the sacred God
Often a group experience culturally.
Victor Turners (anthropologist) says part of pilgrimage is to experience sense of
community. One is changed after.
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For Eliade, every pilgrimage shrine is an archetype of a sacred centre,
marked off from the profane space surrounding it, where heaven and earth
intersect. P. 6
…. Typically a site either associated with the manifestation of the divine to
human beings or with the human propensity to approach the divine. P. 6
Pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place (dictionary)
But the general phenomenon can be found in many contexts including
popular culture
Popular culture: example of something that works as pilgrimage:
TV program people travel around the U.S trying restaurants
Walk to many churches in a city
Film and movies locations attract fans
International music festivals (Coachella) that lasts days
ComiCon people from all over the world come together (actors, directors)
Surely the first (ouse established for the benefit of all mankind is the one at
Mecca, abounding in blessings…
Jerusalem, Taj Mahal, Mecca
Graceland: tombstone of Elvis Presley. Contact with the beyond life
Previous approaches to Pilgrimage
Correspondence or Functionalist Theories
Influenced by Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912):
Pilgrimage helps weld together diverse local communities and social strata
into more extensive collectives: regional or national identities; creates
religious orthodoxy, etc.
Victor Turners paradigm the opposite
Pilgrimage is a liminal (on the margins, away from the norm) phenomenon
where people temporarily leave the structure of society and its hierarchies
and status to reach a sense of communitas-reaching a kind of transcultural
Both theories suffer because they create a model that imposes homogeneity,
either supporting or subverting the established order. Empirical study of
actual pilgrimage cults has proved otherwise
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