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The Pilgrim’s Progress: Relics, Saints, and Miracle-Seekers

This course explores the diffusion of relics in the Middle Ages, the people who travelled to venerate them, and the networks that joined them together. It begins with an in-depth analysis of the cult of saints from the early Christian period through the Reformation: methods of burial, the “meaning” and power of relics, body division, relic theft (furta sacra), primary vs. secondary relics, and methods of veneration. Next, the class explores the vast literature on the experience of pilgrimage and the architecture of the great medieval churches that were designed to facilitate it. Using 3D technology, students will map the location of relic centers throughout Europe, focusing on the major cult sites (Canterbury, Rome, Santiago de Compostela) as well as those of lesser-known saints who have faded into obscurity. Students will map the most popular pilgrimage routes, determining how travelers arrived at their destinations and which churches and holy sites they would have seen along the way. Finally, they will use 3D modeling to recreate the appearance of a major pilgrimage church as it might have looked in the Middle Ages (including shrine, shrine base, altar, ambulatory, crypt, and iconography of wall painting and sculpture). An important consideration will be how these practices changed during the Carolingian, Romanesque, and Gothic periods.

Course Code(s): ARTHIST 290-04, MEDREN 390-01, VMS 290-02

Curriculum Code(s): None

Day(s) & Times(s):