Catherine of Siena and the use of images in the creation of a saint, 1347-1461

Moerer, Emily Ann, Department of Art, University of Virginia
Barolsky, Paul, Department of Art
Fiorani, Francesca, Department of Art, University of Virginia
Summers, John, Department of Art, University of Virginia

Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-80) was one of the most famous visionaries of the Late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance. As a Dominican tertiary, she was part of the greater movement of lay piety that transformed devotional practices beginning in the thirteenth century. One of the practices that the laity helped to foster was image veneration, and the dissertation begins with an exploration of Saint Catherine's use of visual images in her own spirituality. Evidence for the devotional role of images for Saint Catherine is derived from an analysis of her own writings, the contemporary biographies of her, and by situating her within the greater spiritual context of lay piety in fourteenth-century Siena. Saint Catherine achieved some of her most profound visionary experiences while contemplating visual images, such as her miraculous receipt of the Stigmata of Christ, and therefore images were vital to her sanctity. However, Saint Catherine was not officially canonized until more than eighty years after her death, and during this time visual images again played a key role in creating her sanctity. The remaining chapters of the dissertation examine three distinct groups of visual images that all functioned to construct Catherine of Siena's saintly identity. The first is a series of ink drawings from a manuscript of Catherine's life that helped, through visual analogy with established saints, to justify her disputed stigmatization and ultimately argued for her sainthood. The second is a group of images painted in the civic spaces of Siena that are interpreted as an orchestrated program of civic art designed to celebrate Catherine as a new patron saint of the city. The third is the series of panels by Giovanni di Paolo that depict the life of Saint Catherine and present her as a visionary saint at the moment of her canonization. From the first chapter to the last, this study provides an analysis of the function of visual images in the life and cult of Saint Catherine of Siena, and it argues that the visionary function of images was crucial to Catherine's spirituality and afterwards to the development of her cult.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
saintly identity, Saint Cathering, writings, visual images

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-02-18 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:33:21.

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