The materiality of devotion in late medieval northern Europe

Images, objects and practices


Henning Laugerud, Salvador Ryan & Laura Katrine Skinnebach, editors

Paperback €26.95
Catalogue Price: €29.95
ISBN: 978-1-84682-503-3
January 2016. 218pp; large format, colour ills.

‘A quality production, pleasantly heavy in the hands and beautiful to behold …. It [has a] clean traditional layout, thick glossy paper, and a center section of 34 high-resolution color figures. Fortunately, equal attention has been paid to the research, writing and immaculate proofreading, as to the outward appearance. This book [pushes] forward many intertwined fields in medieval studies … this volume, while illuminating the Middle Ages in unexpected ways, also sheds light on how the modern seems to mediate our senses differently – and how we need to be aware of that to better understand the past and ourselves’, Laura Saetveit Miles, Kunst og Kultur (2016).

‘One of the very lovely things about this volume is the way in which the authors interact with each other’s work, both commenting on and building upon ideas across the articles. This is not just a collection of articles around a particular theme, but a volume which tries to integrate information and ideas across the individual pieces’, Mary Jane Chase, British Catholic History (2017).

‘[This book] offers access to the latest northern European scholarship on the historical use of devotional objects. The range of objects studied is comprehensive, including mystical visions as well as paintings, reliquaries, a variety of meditation rituals and tools, and the claims of such phenomena as bleeding hosts and oil-exuding corpses. The inclusion of thirty-four colour plates as well as many black-and-white images greatly enhances the volume’s usability … While this volume will especially appeal to specialists in material history, liturgy and spirituality, it also can serve those in other theological specializations as an introduction to how devout late medieval people practiced rich bodily engagement with mediated theological doctrines’, Mary Frohlich, Theological Studies (June 2017).

‘The substance of the book offers considerable interest over a wide spectrum of scholarly concerns … It thus offers a smörgåsbord of stimulating new perspectives across an interdisciplinary range of approaches … well illustrated’, Jim Bugslag, The Medieval Review (June 2017).

‘This book, which is a deeply learned one, is provided as well with pages of gorgeous illustrations which give an astonishing insight into just what was painted, done, made and practised in the Middle Ages … This is a most interesting book, opening up the ways in which an earlier age approached the non-material through the material. The papers are filled with interesting ideas beyond the scope of a short review to discuss, but this is a book which will open the eyes of many to lost beauties of Christian art’, Peter Costello, Irish Catholic (February 2016).

‘The translations of the texts not originally written in English seem sound and the book is thoroughly edited and contains few typographical errors … [the images] are beautiful and of good quality. The index at the end is helpful and comprehensive … the book is warmly recommended to all readers who wish a broad-ranging and well-informed guide to the materiality of medieval devotion’, Ragnhild M. Bø, Nordic Review of Iconography (2015).

‘This extraordinary book comprises an anthology of the material aspects of medieval religion in Northern Europe, exploring how each of the five human sense interacts with texts, holy imagery and many other instruments of devotion … this anthology brings together the ideals of medieval mystical writing and the increasingly tangible and material practice of piety … this volume comprises a wealth of insightful ideas capable of challenging the ways we interact with religious articles. Stylistically, the book is beautifully, passionately written and is also accessible throughout. Although it is specifically aimed at students and historians conducting research in religious symbolism, it will equally appeal to anyone with an interest in the materiality of medieval devotion. Furthermore, fellow historians who wish to further their study in this particular field will find the reference section enormously helpful and comprehensive’, Antonio Battagliotti, Open History (2016).

The Materiality of Devotion is a welcome collection that focuses on the climate of devotion at a time when late-medieval discourse was broadening to include the visionary experience of women, their experience in lay society and as anchorites, and male interest in new modes of affective piety, even new religious orders such as the Brethren of the Common Life … Multidisciplinary, the volume includes perspectives from philosophy, art criticism, psychology, and history. It is also remarkably comprehensive in its scholarship. It is rare to find such wealth of reading in English, French, Dutch/Belgian, and German authors dealing with contemporary theory and contextual research with equal enthusiasm … the illustrations are well selected and of excellent quality; and the decisions on the color plates support the thrust of the argument', Virginia C. Raguin, Church History (June 2017).