Emaciated saints, relics and images in the late Middle Ages: visual dynamics and the prospect of salvation
Vyhublí světci, relikvie a obrazy v pozdním středověku: vizuální dynamiky a naděje na spásu
Source document: Convivium. 2021, vol. 8, iss. 1, pp. -185
ISSN2336-3452 (print)2336-808X (online)
License: Not specified license
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In the late Middle Ages, according to several theological and philosophical theories connected especially to the spirituality of mendicant orders, the soul is the body's substantial form, and it gives living humans their individuality. When death destroys the form, the person dissolves into anonymous material flux; this dissolution occurs when the soul – the substantial form – leaves the body. This does not happen, however, with bodily relics, because they preserve their material aspect. The deep understanding of these philosophical and theological texts (such as the writings of Thomas Aquinas or Robert Grosseteste) offered versatile, semantically rich material that could have determined the visual choices of artists who depicted saints as emaciated, dead-seeming figures. The combined analysis and interpretation of these written and visual sources offer insights into the fact that the contemplation of images of emaciated saints, even more than the view of their bodily relics, could establish, in the minds of the faithful, catalytic semantic connections with salvation and eternal life.