Baroque Material Culture and the Enlightenment in the Eighteenth-century Iberian World

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Givens Johnson, Rachael, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Owensby, Brian, Department of History, University of Virginia

Sacred materiality lay at the heart of Baroque Catholicism in Spain and Spanish America. Priest and layman alike paraded, kissed, and clothed statues and images of saints; beatas sanctified crucifixes and rosaries through ecstatic experiences with the divine and distributed them as cures or indulgences; worshippers snatched the clothes and hair of living saints as relics; worshippers’ bodies impersonated holy figures in vivid dramaturges. During the course of the eighteenth century, however, many clerical and secular reformers attempted to inculcate the more private, cerebral, interior piety of enlightened Catholicism. However, there were many— indigenous, African, and Spanish, priest and layman alike—who resisted such changes, and Baroque forms of devotion persisted well into the eighteenth and even nineteenth centuries, even in the face of the antagonistic forces of the European Enlightenment, Bourbon secularization, and, occasionally, the Inquisition.

This thesis argues that material culture of eighteenth-century Baroque religion survived its encounter with the Enlightenment in part because it provided a site of universal legibility for people of different class and ethnic groups to worship as a collective in sacred time and space and in the shared sense of divine immanence and permeable metaphysical boundaries. Examining the persistence of Baroque religious forms sheds light on important sociocultural dynamics during a time of transition in the Iberian world.

MA (Master of Arts)
Spanish, indigenous, Baroque, Catholicism, African, Spain, Colonial Latin America, eighteenth century, Enlightenment
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