Material and Immaterial Presence

Engagements with Saints before and after the Reformation in Denmark-Norway

  • Ragnhild Martine Bø University of Oslo


The article explores different manifestations of saints’ presence in people’s lives before and after the Reformation. Rather than approaching their engagements with saints as a traditionally upheld dichotomy between a medieval presence and an early modern absence, the engagements are analysed through discussions of indifference, as preferring one material register over another, and of propinquity, as accentuating degrees of nearness. The first part of the article presents some examples of how such indifferences and accentuating degrees may manifest themselves in material presences of saints, such as in the preservation, relocation and/or disempowerment of late medieval sculptures and images. The second part looks at how devotional practices including tactile piety and bodily movements described in late medieval books of hours transforms into vernacular story-telling narratives and ballads featuring parts of saints’ vitae from the early modern era. This transformation evidences a vocalized (immaterial) counterpart to the re-use of medieval sculptures and paintings (material) of saints in altarpieces in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: Saints were not absent after the Reformation, but their presence was felt differently

Bø, R. (2018). Material and Immaterial Presence. Mirator, 19(1), 84-107. Noudettu osoitteesta