Sacral Geographies: Saints, Shrines and Territory in Medieval Ireland
XX+258 p., 126 b/w ill. + 27 colour ill., 210 x 275 mm, 2012
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More than merely containers for holy bodies and objects, reliquaries powerfully mediated the experience of holy objects for their medieval audiences, creating socially charged spaces. Sacral Geographies: Saints, Shrines and Territory in Medieval Ireland demonstrates how the sacred space of reliquaries intersected with the territorial spaces of secular kingship, with the hierarchical spaces of monastic enclosures, and with the devotional spaces of cultic communities. The patrons of reliquaries, usually prominent secular rulers or Church leaders, employed performance, ritual and narrative (both visual and textual) to reinforce the efficacy of relics and, consequently, to authorize political relationships. The space of the ‘holy body’ therefore functioned as a foundation for the social geographies of early Ireland.
Sacral Geographies explores the role of reliquaries such as the Domnach Airgid book shrine, the Shrine of St Brigid’s Shoe, and St Manchan’s Shrine in the construction of spatial identity in early Ireland. While chapters on tomb-shaped shrines and crozier-relics appraise connections between Continental and Irish forms, and the effect of localized political agendas on material traditions, this book locates Irish spatial practices in an insular context, positing an Irish 'topographical consciousness.'
"Karen Overbey's monograph is undoubtedly a welcome addition to the weighty collection of (predominantly antiquarian) archaeo- / art-historical studies focusing on medieval Irish relics and reliquaries, a healthy proportion of which is judiciously consolidated and summarised throughout the book." (Sarah Erskine, in: Reviews in History, URL: http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1371 )
This publication is also distributed by: ISD, Marston