University of Cambridge investigates the significance of Ex Votos examining a collection in Tolentino Le Marche
Objects of devotion
Why did Renaissance shoppers fill their baskets with rosaries, crucifixes, Christ-dolls and devotional paintings? A new study by University of Cambridge historian Dr Mary Laven investigates the significance of Catholic clutter, as she explains.This compelling image is preserved among the remarkable collection of ex votos at Tolentino, in the Marche region of central Italy: nearly 400 painted wooden boards, dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries, usually about a foot long and orientated horizontally, purchased or commissioned by those who had been granted a miracle thanks to the intervention of St Nicholas.
Ex voto means ‘in fulfilment of a vow’ and the idea was that when one prayed to the Virgin Mary or to the saints for a miracle one would promise to leave an offering in return for a favour granted. This is why, in Italy and in other Catholic countries, shrines are sometimes bursting with objects and pictures like this one, each recording the miraculous activities of God’s busiest saints.
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