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'Translatio.’ The art of (re)moving relics and reforming holiness in Europe’s borderlands.


Between 1600 and 1800 more than 35,000 cases are documented of the exchange of skeletons and other sacred relics of saints between Catholic communities along the Italian peninsula and Lutheran and Catholic groups in Catholicism’s northernmost Nordic-Baltic borderlands, according to the religious ritual of ‘translatio’ (‘translation’)—the ceremonial relocation of relics of saints and holy persons. The art, architecture and material memory culture of translatio has continued to shape European borderlands identities into the present. This project aims to rewrite the ritualized relic into the history of modern Europe, reassessing the underestimated yet crucial role of relics and the artistic-material culture of religious ritual as generators of interreligious reconciliation and identity formation across Europe’s seemingly most insurmountable divides from the early modern period (c. 1500-1700) through the present day. Although recent shifts in scholarship have moved away from disciplinary boundaries to reframe more inclusive European histories, oppositional theoretical models dominate historical analysis, resulting in isolationist or antagonist historical narratives that fail to account for the interconnectedness of European historical experience. My project TRANSLATIO aims to: 1) rewrite a trans-European revisionist history of the art, architecture and material culture of the ritualized relic over the longue durée that sets diverse religious cultures in conversation rather than opposition and plots the Nordic-Baltic sphere against a broader European transregional context and 2) develop an adaptable multi- or poly-comparative model for non-oppositional translational historical analysis that will pave the way to open new perspectives for how scientific studies might reframe complex much-needed interconnected histories of Europe. As a showcase of my poly-comparative translational methodology, I will write a research monograph and create an open-access website.

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Frederiksholms Kanal 12
1220 Kobenhavn
Activity type
Research Organisations
EU contribution
€ 207 312