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Through an examination of scraps of clothing collected from the sites of lynching, this chapter theorizes the persistence of the reliquary object into the nineteenth- and twentieth-century South. The chapter focuses on the particularity of clothing as material objects capable of holding sensory and conceptual memories of the human body. This comes as part of a larger discussion of relics and reliquary cultures and builds on discourses on the Black male body from history, African American studies, and visual culture studies.
Focuses on the reliquary: an enclosing, revealing structure, which engages intensely with its contents. The apparently idolatrous worshipping of ‘Gods bodye in the box’ was a persistent complaint among reformers, and the murky box of the reliquary epitomised the falseness of the Roman Catholic faith. The chapter starts with sixteenth-century encounters with relics, beginning with Erasmus, whose attitude is characterised by ambiguities about the spiritual significance of material things. Comparing satirical and polemical responses to relics from both sides of the religious divide, the chapter considers how these boxes operated as contested sites. It then turns to the afterlife of the reliquary once it had been removed from the religious sphere, and locates its survival in the vocabulary of post-Reformation libraries as new kinds of shrine, and in seventeenth-century printed reliquiae, as safer kinds of receptacle. Even after the reliquary appeared to be emptied of its dangerous significance, the very idea of the relic and the possibilities offered by this controversial box endured as ways of thinking about the interweaving of physical and intellectual apprehension demanded by books.
This chapter explores the post-Reformation afterlives of two rock crystal reliquaries. It examines the biographies of these material artefacts ejected from churches and monasteries in tandem with liturgical items manufactured for following the advent of Protestantism. It investigates how these reliquaries navigated the upheavals of the sixteenth century and were repurposed for the clandestine Catholic community. Such containers for sacred relics were converted into table salts for secular domestic use and continued to be cherished as antiquities long after the Dissolution. Some of these objects were later recycled again as vessels for preserving holy relics, bequeathed in memory of the deceased or presented to mark a life event such as birth, baptism or marriage. This further phase of reuse was enhanced by awareness of their previous purpose and proximity to relics. Some were later given by recusants to religious houses overseas in an effort to preserve the patrimony of the Catholic faith. Such sacred objects reflect the way in which symbolic and spiritual meaning was endorsed by the imaginative memory accrued by subsequent generations within Catholic families and institutions.
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