Shake it till you make it: could votives have been used as rattles?

Kristel Henquet is a research masters student in archaeology and ancient history at Free University Amsterdam/University of Amsterdam & Leiden University. She specialises in votive practices and religious landscapes in Southern Italy and in this post she shares some of the research she has recently conducted at the Royal Dutch Institute in Rome. When I…

Saint Bartholomew of the Groom: The Church as a Votive

Margherita Clavarino is a PhD candidate in the History of Art at the Warburg Institute, where she is researching miraculous prints in early modern Italy. She has an interest in both printed ex-votos and votive offerings related to miraculous printed imagery.  The Church of Saint Bartholomew of the Groom, in the namesake seaside town of…

A new exhibition of votives from Mexico

This week saw the opening of a new exhibition at the Casa del Manzoni in Milan, home of the Fondazione Per Grazie Ricevute. The exhibition is entitled “Buena Suerte – Milagros de México” «Folklore e tradizione negli ex~voto messicani contemporanei», and it presents a colourful series of around 300 votive retablos from Mexico, most of which are…

When is a womb not a womb?

Helen King is Professor Emerita in Classical Studies at the Open University. She has a particular interest in midwifery and gynaecology and has published widely on ancient medicine and its reception, as well as gender and the history of the body. Is it time to revisit the identification of votive body parts? Specifically, votive wombs;…

Letters to Juliet

35 Millimeters of Love and Faith

Alyssa Velazquez is currently a Masters student at Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture. Her publications include “Tupperware: An Open Container During A Decade of Containment” in Women’s History Magazine and Men and Manolos: Love and Relationships in the Heels of a Hopeless Romantic. In this article for The Votives Project,…

Votive visions of the body

At the risk of over-sharing, I’ve had a few health issues over the last year (I’m fine!) that have made me think in new ways about how we understand what ancient anatomical votives might tell us about how people understood their bodies and their relationship with divine healers. In the ancient world it seems to…

Ex votos in Pompeii – an interview with Monsignor Pietro Caggiano

This week I interviewed Monsignor Pietro Caggiano of the Pontifical Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary in Pompeii – home to a significant collection of ex votos which has accumulated since the Sanctuary’s foundation at the end of the nineteenth century. Monsignor Caggiano has written about the theology of ex votos, and he is currently curating an exhibition of ancient…

Banner carried by fujenti

The Festival of the Madonna dell’Arco

Earlier this week I visited the Catholic sanctuary of the Madonna dell’Arco in Campania on the day of its annual festival, which takes place every Easter Monday (or ‘Lunedi in Albis’). The festival centres around the battenti or fujenti – guilds of devoted pilgrims who walk or run to the church from towns and villages across…

Devotion and Cultural Patrimony

How can we understand the relationship between religious devotion and cultural patrimony? How does the performance and documenting of sacred rituals intersect with the construction of collective memory? These questions are explored in a new volume entitled Linguaggi della devozione. Forme espressive del patrimonio sacro [‘Languages of Devotion: Expressive Forms of Sacred Patrimony’ ] edited…

Love Locks: Votive deposits or destructive vandalism?

Ceri Houlbrook is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Manchester Love-locks are exactly what the title suggests: padlocks purchased and employed worldwide as statements of romantic commitment. Typically a couple (often tourists), having inscribed their names/initials on a padlock, will attach it to the railings of a bridge or other structure, and will…

Votives on display (Part 2)

In ‘Votives on display (Part 1)’ I wrote quite generally about how votives might have been displayed in ancient sacred spaces. In this second part I want to try out some ideas about how particular types of ancient Italian anatomical votives might have been displayed and suggest that thinking about this might offer some new…

Votives on display (Part 1)

Last weekend I was at the 2015 Classical Association Conference in Bristol and, after my paper on the sensory experience of dedicating infant votives, I was asked a question about where these votive objects were placed and how were they ‘displayed’. If they were placed on an altar or something similar, I was asked, could…

Votives and conflict: postscript

A few weeks ago I wrote a post inspired by an article published in 1918, in which the classicist Eugene S. McCartney described some of the votive objects and dedicatory activities that he had encountered at holy sites during the First World War. The sites he visited included the cathedral of St. Andre, Bordeaux (France)…

Our Daily Bread

Yesterday (11 March 2015) saw the opening of a new exhibition of ex-votos curated by the Fondazione Per Grazie Ricevute at the Palazzo Giureconsulti in Milan, entitled Give us today our daily bread: The Earth, the Harvest and Food from Antiquity to the Present.   The exhibition centres on the age-old themes of food, the earth and…

Votives and conflict

Last year, on the anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, Jess Hughes wrote about votive paintings dedicated by Italian soldiers and their families. Recently, when searching for something entirely different, I stumbled across an article published in 1918 by Eugene S. McCartney. It presents an account of his personal encounters, in 1916…

The First World War in Votives

Today (4th August 2014) is the centenary of the First World War, so it seems an appropriate moment to draw attention to an online collection of Italian ex voto paintings dedicated during WWI, primarily by soldiers and their families. The collection doesn’t include any images from 1914, so to illustrate this post I’ve chosen two tavolette which present episodes from later years…

Graffiti as ex-voto?

Most of the votives that we have featured so far on this blog are objects in the conventional sense – three-dimensional ‘things’ that can be held, carried into a sanctuary, and get moved around once they are in there. And it’s probably true that most people – if asked to ‘think of a votive offering’…

Handing over the votive chicken

Votive chickens

Every year on the Sunday after Easter, the town of Pagani – situated between Naples and Salerno – celebrates the feast-day of the Madonna delle Galline, or ‘Madonna of the Chickens’. The festival has become quite well known throughout Italy in recent years on account of the traditional tammorre music that gets played there. The…

An exhibition of ex votos in Milan

If you go to Milan, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Casa del Manzoni, which since December has been the home of the Fondazione Per Grazie Ricevute. The Fondazione is a non-profit institution which was set up in July 2013 as a means of preserving and publicising an important private collection of Catholic votive…