The Circulation of Blood, Clay and Ideas: The Distribution of Milanese Relics in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries



Year of publication 2014
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Convivium
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Field Art, architecture, cultural heritage
Keywords Cult of Relics; Ambrose of Milan; Catacombs of San Severo in Naples; Concilium Sanctorum in Aosta; Baptistery of Albenga
Description The present paper focuses on the origins and the practice of relic distribution in the West, a strategy strongly promoted and exercised by the bishop Ambrose of Milan (374-397) and his successors during the 5th century. The directions in which Milanese relics were distributed are outlined in the first section of this paper. In the following discussion, the paper argues that relic circulation was not only a factor that forged a strong link between ecclesiastical communities, but that it went hand in hand with the circulation of ideas. Moreover, the paper proposes that the transmission of iconographical and architectural models, along with certain decisions made in city planning, must be understood within the complex phenomenon of relic circulation. These assertions are based upon three case studies of churches in which the presence of Milanese relics has been supposed or attested: the Catacombs of San Severo in Naples, the Concilium Sanctorum church in Aosta, and the Baptistery of Albenga. This focused approach enables us to map significant connections that are otherwise difficult to trace.
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