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Possessing Devotion and Preventing Death: Margherita of Austria and Her Religious Materiality

Sat, March 24, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Hilton Riverside, 3rd Level - Parish Room


At a time when natural disasters, disease or even everyday events such as pregnancy could turn the devotee’s world upside down, religious objects were cherished not only for their sacred value but also for their healing and protective powers. This paper will investigate the portable devotional objects listed in Margherita of Austria’s 1586 post-mortem inventory from her home in Ortona, a small town in the Kingdom of Naples, and thus shed light on her relationship with such objects in the intimacy of her own home. Combining archival and material sources, it will explore what Margherita owned, how she engaged with it and also examine those who had given her such a wide variety of ‘things’. By doing so, this paper will show that, just as official religion was not the exclusive preserve of the élite, nor were superstitious beliefs reserved for uneducated men and women.


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