Objects of Devotion: Religion and its Instruments in Early Modern Europe is an international conference which examines how religious ideas and practice were realized through interaction with objects. We investigate how the presence of sculptures, paintings, books, vestments, and church furniture—their visibility, tactility, and materiality—helped form attitudes toward devotion, sacred history, and salvation. In other words, how did people think with things—both clerics and lay devotee? We will examine the complex role of sacrament houses, altarpieces, pulpits, in molding ideas about the central tenets of Christianity. How, for example, did statues of Christ and the saints make both present and problematic these issues—particularly when they involved performances: carried about the town, taken down from the cross and laid in the sepulcher, or lanced to emit spurts of blood? Tombs helped form ideas about the body, its mortality, and the hope of resurrection. 

Historians of the late medieval and early modern period have created an antithesis between spiritual (inward) and physical (outward) devotion, branding the latter as superficial, ritualistic and mechanistic. More generally, from the first Protestant historians to Max Weber and his followers, the Reformation has come to be represented as the classic watershed between material, magical devotion and spiritual, rational belief. In a similar vein, art historians have opposed the notion of the medieval cult image, material and functional, to the early modern work of art, subject to aesthesis (Carolyn Walker Bynum, Hans Belting). Yet, does it make sense to distinguish between late medieval and early modern religious culture, given the fact that the definitions and boundaries of these periods are notoriously problematic and considerably overlap? We will examine the degree to which these differing traditions dictated separate approaches to objects and their role in forming beliefs and practices.


9:30am – 9:50am
Introduction by Ethan Matt Kavaler (University of Toronto)

9:50am – 11:20am: Session I
Chair: Ralph Dekoninck

  • Achim Timmermann (University of Michigan), ‘Dem heylighen Cruce to Werle’: The Staging of Civic Relics in Late Medieval Westphalia
  • Luc Duerloo (University of Antwerp), Manila: The Marian Citadel

11:40am– 1:00pm: Session II
Chair: Ralph Dekoninck

  • Ethan Matt Kavaler (University of Toronto), Pulpits and the Glorification of the Word
  • Anne-Laure-Van Bruaene (University of Ghent), The Arbres d’Or of the Golden Fleece between Religious Rite and Political Order

2:00pm – 3:20pm: Session III
Chair: Barbara Baert

  • Ralph Dekoninck (Université catholique de Louvain), The ‘Ornamentalisation’ of the Ornamenta Sacra in the Early Modern Low Countries
  • Elizabeth Rice Mattison (University of Toronto), Between Altar and Collection: Miniature Devotional Sculpture in the Low Countries

3:40pm – 5:00pm: Session IV
Chair: Barbara Baert

  • Herman Roodenburg (Free University of Amsterdam), Devotional Objects, the Mind’s Eye, and Affective Piety
  • Isabelle Frank (City University of Hong Kong), The Compianti of the Passion of Christ: Emotional Affect, Affective Piety, and the Flagellants

9:00am – 11:00am: Session V
Chair: Achim Timmermann
Johannes Röll (Bibliotheca Hertziana), The ‘Cristo de Burgos’ and the Duplication of Belief: Broken Objects of Devotion

  • Una Roman D’Elia (Queens’s University), Misbehaving with Devotional Sculpture in the Italian Renaissance
  • Paul Vandenbroeck (University of Leuven), Renaissance sculptures take to the streets in Andalusia

11:20am – 12:40pm: Session VI
Chair: Achim Timmermann

  • Barbara Baert (University of Leuven), Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. The Paperolles in Enclosed Gardens of the 16th Century
  • Philip Sohm (University of Toronto), Artistic Transubstantiations of St. Luke’s Pigments and Palettes

1:20pm – 2:40pm: Session VII
Chair: Anne-Laure Van Bruaene

  • Koenraad Jonckheere (University of Ghent), The Image and the Object: Johannes A Porta on Devotion
  • Marie Hartmann (Free University of Berlin), Domini est salus: Aspects of Devotion in Text and Illumination of Amulet Ms. Princeton 235

3:00pm – 4:20pm: Session VIII
Chair: Anne-Laure Van Bruaene

  • Andrew Spicer (Oxford Brookes University), Ringing in the Old Faith: Restoring church bells in the southern Netherlands, c. 1585-1621
  • Ruben Suykerbuyk (University of Ghent), Altarpieces and the Debate on Idolatry in the Low Countries (c 1520-1585)

4:30pm – 5:00pm: Closing Remarks and Discussion
Anne-Laure Van Bruaene (University of Ghent)