Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Art History

First Advisor

Dr. Janna Israel

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael Schreffler

Third Advisor

Dr. Eric Garberson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Fredrika Jacobs

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Bernardo Piciche'


My dissertation inserts the incorruptible body into the discussion of image devotion and relic veneration that followed the Council of Trent’s (1545-1563) decrees concerning the use of images, which affirmed Thomas Aquinas’s position that worship is passed from representation to archetype. This is addressed in terms of the image and the relic within the same sacred space, primarily in the context of the chapels of S. Caterina de’ Vigri (1413-1463; canonized 1712) in Bologna and S. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi (1566-1607; canonized 1669) in Florence, where there were not only man-made representations of the saint, but also the whole and entire body of the saint herself. Bringing together an array of visual and textual materials including such objects as the presentation of the preserved body, hagiographies, altarpieces, votive images, and popular prints, I analyze the powerful physical presence (praesentia) of the incorruptible body in relation to the saint’s somatic miracles, the visual commemoration of those miracles at the shrine, and the ultimate transportation of this means of access to the divine when portable images moved away from the body.

I analyze how and to what extent the presence of the saint was asserted through the intact corpse and through images of the relic body. By focusing on both the presentation of the incorruptible corpse itself and the visual and written representation of the female relic body in a variety of media, this study will analyze the reception of the powerful physical presence of the holy incorruptible body and its representations. I argue that praesentia is signified not only through the display of the relic body, but also through a synthesized emphasis on the incorruptible corpse as prototype, relic, and image.


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