Gift, Sale, and Theft: Juan de Ribera and the Sacred Economy of Relics in the Early Modern Mediterranean

Gift, Sale, and Theft: Juan de Ribera and the Sacred Economy of Relics in the Early Modern... Abstract In 1599 Valencia celebrated the arrival of an ancient Christian martyr whose remains were the latest addition to the collection of the city’s archbishop, Juan de Ribera (1532-1611). Through an examination of some of Archbishop Ribera’s relic acquisitions, I explore the inner workings of the early modern sacred economy of relics. Ribera’s collection strategies blended distinct modes of exchange and linked him to a clandestine economy of relic theft. These transactions reflected the relic’s own uncertain ontological status as both person and object. This ambivalence became a factor that fostered an atmosphere of anxiety around the early modern relic economy, as did Protestant reformers’ critiques and their upending of the traditional Christian symbolic order. The reaffirmations of the cult of relics by the Tridentine Church stabilized the value of the sacred commodities. The economy of relics illustrates how the sacred constitutes a heretofore underexamined area of inquiry for commodity studies. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Early Modern History Brill

Gift, Sale, and Theft: Juan de Ribera and the Sacred Economy of Relics in the Early Modern Mediterranean

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1385-3783
eISSN
1570-0658
D.O.I.
10.1163/15700658-12342412
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract In 1599 Valencia celebrated the arrival of an ancient Christian martyr whose remains were the latest addition to the collection of the city’s archbishop, Juan de Ribera (1532-1611). Through an examination of some of Archbishop Ribera’s relic acquisitions, I explore the inner workings of the early modern sacred economy of relics. Ribera’s collection strategies blended distinct modes of exchange and linked him to a clandestine economy of relic theft. These transactions reflected the relic’s own uncertain ontological status as both person and object. This ambivalence became a factor that fostered an atmosphere of anxiety around the early modern relic economy, as did Protestant reformers’ critiques and their upending of the traditional Christian symbolic order. The reaffirmations of the cult of relics by the Tridentine Church stabilized the value of the sacred commodities. The economy of relics illustrates how the sacred constitutes a heretofore underexamined area of inquiry for commodity studies.

Journal

Journal of Early Modern HistoryBrill

Published: Mar 21, 2014

Keywords: Juan de Ribera; relics; gift; theft; commodity; Rome; catacombs

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