Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, the Indexes of prohibited books alone included more than seventy prayers in the vernacular, all deeply rooted in the daily practice of everyday piety and widely disseminated in pamphlets and books of hours. These prayers were mainly used to ask for favours: curing sickness, seeking protection from sudden death or controlling the will of a lover and were effective whether they were read out, worn round the neck like reliquaries or amulets, in contact with the diseased part of the body or used with herbs or other elements. For this reason, they were widely disseminated among the uneducated and represent a hybrid category of text-object. Taking into account the nature of the prayers as a whole, the Indexes tried to eradicate objects, practices and forms of piety looked upon as vain or superstitious. The effectiveness of these prohibitions in the countries of the so-called Counter-Reformation was such that many texts and pamphlets were, or were thought to have been, lost for ever. This project proposes to fill the bibliographical gap in this corpus neglected by the studies on early modern censorship, to consider extending the prohibitory categories of the text to include the devotional object, to restore this pan-European heritage of piety by recovering preserved or indirect testimonies of forbidden prayers, and to perform a rigorous analysis of the censorship policies aimed at regulating simple forms of religiosity. The use of a corpus unexplored to this day and the approach to the study of prayers in their historical, symbolic and material dimensions are some of the novelties of this proposal. The action will culminate with the compilation of a digital repository, the Forbidden Prayers Digital Library: a catalogue raisonné and a space of open access to the text and object that will contribute to the recovery of a part of the European religious culture erased by the effects of Inquisitorial censorship.
Call for proposal
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