Mobile Matters of Religion: Devotional Objects in the Early Modern Era

Mobile Matters of Religion: Devotional Objects in the Early Modern Era

Dr. Anne Mariss (Historical Institute, University of Regensburg); Prof. Dr. Klaus Unterburger (Faculty of Theology, University of Regensburg)
University of Regensburg, Vielberth-Gebäude, H25
Vom - Bis
21.04.2022 - 23.04.2022
Anne Mariss, Institut für Geschichte, Universität Regensburg

Over the past few years, interdisciplinary research has increasingly discussed the meaning and function of sacral and devotional objects in the early modern world. Recent studies on devotional objects are influenced by crosscultural perspectives in religious history, considering the mobility of objects of belief as crucial for changes in early modern cultures of devotion.

Mobile Matters of Religion: Devotional Objects in the Early Modern Era

The central aim of the international and interdisciplinary workshop is to examine changes in the early modern world by looking at the material culture of religion, and to think about new approaches to religious history. The papers focus on the mobility of religious objects in several respects. The geographical mobility of religious objects within Europe, but also worldwide is one of the topics that will be highlighted. In this context, both the global and continental movement of objects are of relevance. While the export of small devotional objects and images across the oceans was pivotal for the establishment of Catholicism in the new worlds, exotic materials were processed into devotional objects and objects from other religious cultures found their way to Europe. Objects were not only relocated in new cultural contexts, but also imbued with new meanings and associations. Thus, the movement of objects was crucial for the change of the early modern religious cultures at a global level, but also in regional and local settings. In the course of the Reformation, objects were central for formation of confessional identities and played a significant role in the practice of everyday belief. The physical relocation as well as the local continuity of objects could lead to transformation as objects were not ‘indifferent’ to religious and historical changes, but triggered human responses. Medieval objects which remained in Protestant churches, for instance, continued to have meaning for religious communities; objects which were transferred to early modern collections occupied liminal spaces between different religions and confessions and moved between the creation of otherness, the display of idolatry and curiosity.

Another focus will lie on the gendering of material culture, the agency which was associated with devotional objects and how their supernatural powers could affect the mind and the body of their (female) owners. The factor of time is also relevant for the mobility of objects and the question how temporality and materiality were connected. The workshop benefits from a collaboration with the Diözesanmuseum Regensburg. A so-called “time capsule” from a Roman Ashlar, which was found during excavations, will give the opportunity to observe and discuss small devotional objects in situ.

Participation is free of charge.

The current Corona protection guidelines of the University of Regensburg apply to participation in the event.

The workshop will be broadcasted via zoom. Registration for participation in presence or via zoom until 14 April 2022 by e-mail to: anne.mariss[at]


Mobile Matters of Religion: Devotional Objects in the Early Modern Era, 21 – 23 April 2022, University of Regensburg

Thursday, 21 April
14.00 KLAUS UNTERBURGER (Regensburg)

14.15 ANNE MARISS (Regensburg)
Opening Remarks

Panel I: Times & Spaces of Devotional Objects (chair ANNE MARISS)

14.45 MATTHEW CHAMPION (Melbourne)
A Devotion to Time: Towards a Mobile and Material History of the Premodern Sandglass

15.45 Walk / bus ride to the Old town

16.30 DANIEL RIMSL (Regensburg)
Presentation of the ‘Timecapsule’ found in a Roman Ashlar (1679) at the Diocesan Museum of Regensburg

19.00 Dinner

Friday, 22 April

Panel II: Material Sanctity & Female Devotion (chair DANIEL RIMSL)

9.00 IRENE GALANDRA (Cambridge)
Possessing Devotion and Preventing Death: Margherita of Austria and her religious materiality

10.00 MINOU SCHRAVEN (Amsterdam/Leiden)
Materiality, Agency and Anxiety: The Blessed Beads of the Failed saint and mystic Juana de la Cruz (d. 1534)

11.00 Short Coffee Break

11.15 MIRELLA MARINI (Brest)
The Transformative Power of the Relic of Saint Coleta at the 17th century Brussels Court

12.15 Lunch

Panel III: Changing Beliefs – Devotional Objects on the Move (chair KLAUS UNTERBURGER)

Early Modern Prague at the Crossroads of Catholicism

15.00 CORINNA GRAMATKE (Düsseldorf)
"La portátil Europa". Devotional Objects from Europe for the Jesuit Province of Paracuaria (1608–1667)

16.00 Coffee Break

16.30 DANIEL HERSHENZON (Connecticut)
Captive Objects: Catholic Artifacts Across the Early Modern Mediterranean

19.00 Dinner

Saturday, 23 April

Panel IV: Collecting & Viewing Religious Objects (chair MARKUS DIEPOLD)

9.00 RÓISÍN WATSON (Oxford)
Viewing Catholic objects through the ‘glasses of the Holy Ghost’: The case of the Lutheran church in Kirchheim unter Teck

Collected (Un-)Belief. Res Sacrae in Cabinets of Curiosity in South and Central Germany

11.00 Coffee Break

11.30 EVA DOLEZEL (Berlin)
Cracking the Frame. A Portable Shrine of Vishnu in the Kunstkammer of the Franckesche Stiftungen in Halle

12.30 ANNE MARISS (Regensburg)
Afterword & time for further discussions


Dr. Anne Mariss, anne.mariss[at]

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