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Wednesday 12 April 2023 16.30 - 18.30
I-4 REL01 Christian Martyrs in the 19th and 20th Century: on Devotion, Politics & Consumerism
B33
Network: Religion Chairs: -
Organizers: Leonardo Rossi, Kristof Smeyers, Tine Van Osselaer Discussants: -
Moderators: -
Mary Heimann : Cold War Martyrology in 1950s Central Europe
This paper will look at Cold War martyrology through the lens of several high-profile cases of both Communist and anti-Communist martyrs in newly Communist 1950s Central Europe. Rather than focus in isolation on such Catholic causes célèbres as the Cardinal Mindzenty show trial in Hungary, or the trial of the ... (Show more)
This paper will look at Cold War martyrology through the lens of several high-profile cases of both Communist and anti-Communist martyrs in newly Communist 1950s Central Europe. Rather than focus in isolation on such Catholic causes célèbres as the Cardinal Mindzenty show trial in Hungary, or the trial of the so-called ‘Vatican Agents’ in Bratislava, the paper will also consider the trial of wartime fascist leader and Catholic priest József Tiso and the broader context of retributive and symbolic trials in which his trial and execution were situated. The paper will further explore the landscape in which Communist causes were sometimes accompanied by the use of traditional Christian practices to sacralize the political, such with the use of a holy water stoup to hold grains of earth from the Socialist Motherland, or the cult surrounding the first ‘worker-president’ Klement Gottwald of Czechoslovakia, whose proletarian origins were fetishized and whose embalmed corpse was put on public display after his death in 1953 and not finally removed until 1961. In a context, akin to a holy war, in which Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant traditions were being repurposed for Communist ends, the historical martyr Jan Hus, who had already been claimed as a Protestant nationalist martyr, was similarly reclaimed as a proto-Communist. One of the aims of the paper will be to reconsider the salience of Gentili’s concept of ‘political religion’ in light of material aspects of cults of martyrdom, as expressed by Communists and Christians alike, during the first, formative decade of the Cold War. (Show less)

Natalia Núñez Bargueño : The Politics of Sainthood in Contemporary Spain (20th-21st Centuries)
In 2007, pope Benedict XVI conducted the largest beatification ceremony in the history of the Catholic Church in front of a crowd of nearly sixty thousand people. The total number of beatifications was 498. It was the greatest number of martyrs simultaneously beatified in the 2000 years of Catholic Church ... (Show more)
In 2007, pope Benedict XVI conducted the largest beatification ceremony in the history of the Catholic Church in front of a crowd of nearly sixty thousand people. The total number of beatifications was 498. It was the greatest number of martyrs simultaneously beatified in the 2000 years of Catholic Church history. All these martyrs had something in common: they died in the 1930s in Spain. They were not the first, and they probably will not be the last ones to go through this process: as of February 2022, 2,069 Spanish martyrs have been beatified (11 of them, canonized); in addition, the beatification process for roughly 2,000 additional martyrs is well underway. How does one explain this outpouring of Spanish Sainthood in a country that in the past four decades has become increasingly secularized with astonishing speed? Most of the martyrs were men (bishops, diocesan priests and seminarists, monks and friars), how does one interpret this gender disparity (i.e. this greater assault to male religious bodies)? Further, in early 20th century Spain Catholicism had become a definitional cleavage in the political struggle between the right and left, consequently could we argue that these instances of anticlerical violence were purely religious? or could they also be considered as a form of political persecution? Were the clergy being persecuted simply because of their ecclesiastical status, or was there something more complex at stake? (de la Cueva, 1998). This presentation aims to give a tentative answer to all these questions. It will be divided into three parts. After critically approaching the three major instances of anti-clerical violence in early 20th century Spain (1909, 1934, and 1936), in the second part, I will explain the persistence, evolution and transnationalization of the idea of martyrdom in the period that spans from the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War to the early Cold War (1939-1958). I will finish by considering the resurgence of the case of martyrs in democratic Spain, and in the post-Cold War Catholic World (from the late 1980s onwards). (Show less)

Leonardo Rossi : “Do you have any doubts? Well, keep it to yourself.” Ecclesiastical Debate, Historical Revisionism, and Popular Devotions to the Early Christian Martyrs in the 19th and 20th Century
The contributions of the Bollandist father Victor De Buck to the Acta Sanctorum caused an earthquake within the ecclesiastical hierarchies starting from the mid-nineteenth century. In line with Bollandist historiographical rigour, De Buck cast doubts not only on the authenticity of the martyrs’ bodies but also on the historical existence ... (Show more)
The contributions of the Bollandist father Victor De Buck to the Acta Sanctorum caused an earthquake within the ecclesiastical hierarchies starting from the mid-nineteenth century. In line with Bollandist historiographical rigour, De Buck cast doubts not only on the authenticity of the martyrs’ bodies but also on the historical existence of some of them. His religious and historiographical perplexities caused the reaction of the local clergy and the Vatican (with the intervention of Pope Pius IX), fueling a long debate made up of historical evidence (such as blood vessels and Roman tombstones), archival documents, archaeological discoveries aimed at legitimizing – or refuting – the cults of holy martyrs. Even in the Seventies of the last century, numerous parish priests and clergymen claimed the authenticity of local martyrs even after the expulsion of some cults by the Congregation of Rites (e.g., St Filomena).
In this paper, I will analyze the ecclesiastical debate and historical revisionism around the bodies of martyrs and, above all, focus on a marginal element in the intellectual controversy: the popular devotion. The practices and opinions of the faithful are almost absent in the treaties of the clergy, used only occasionally or in an exploitative way to support their cause. How did the believers react to these contested cults? What practices did they pay towards their reliquary sculptures? What was the role of popular devotion in the continuation or cessation of a cult? These are some of the questions I intend to answer in my paper. (Show less)

Kristof Smeyers : Missionaries after Death: how the Martyrs of Shanxi and Patong came Home
This paper traces the post-mortem trajectories of Belgian men and women religious who were killed in China at two key turning points in twentieth-century history: the Boxer Uprising of 1899-1901 and the difficult establishment of Communist rule after 1921. It argues that the Catholic missions did not end with their ... (Show more)
This paper traces the post-mortem trajectories of Belgian men and women religious who were killed in China at two key turning points in twentieth-century history: the Boxer Uprising of 1899-1901 and the difficult establishment of Communist rule after 1921. It argues that the Catholic missions did not end with their horrific deaths. Rather, the ensuing stories of their violent deaths and their status as Catholic martyrs ‘at home’ turned them into powerful instruments and, in some cases, symbols to rekindle faith in their home regions.
Those trajectories – of the stories, but also of the bodies, and even of the communities and means involved in the subsequent campaigns for canonization – can therefore tell us much about the significance of contemporaneous martyrs in early twentieth-century local Catholic cultures, as well as about how their martyrological status was constructed by, and resonated in, local communities. The legacies of martyrs such as St Amandina of Schakkebroek and the Franciscan brothers Adons were given prominent, material places in those communities that exist till this day. These post-mortem trajectories also shed new light on the role the missionary martyrs of Shanxi and Patong played in shaping and changing popular and political perceptions of Catholicism in China on the one hand, and of China in Belgium on the other. (Show less)

Tine Van Osselaer : Catacomb Romanticism. On the Intersection between Devotion and Consumerism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century.
The era between the mid-nineteenth until the mid-twentieth century witnessed the so-called Katakombenromantik, the fascination with the early Christian martyrs, their persecutions and lives in the catacombs. The Roman catacombs became important pilgrimage destinations again (as they had been in the early Middle Ages) thanks to the papal patronage ... (Show more)
The era between the mid-nineteenth until the mid-twentieth century witnessed the so-called Katakombenromantik, the fascination with the early Christian martyrs, their persecutions and lives in the catacombs. The Roman catacombs became important pilgrimage destinations again (as they had been in the early Middle Ages) thanks to the papal patronage and the new excavations and discoveries. The archeological interest also had an apologetic dimension, and we see this mixture of scientific interest and ulterior motives in the imitations of the Roman catacombs that were created at different sites in Europe. (Siebenmorgen 2013, p.439; Post, 2015, p.33; Brückner, 1994, pp.293-297)
In this presentation, I focus on these catacomb imitations, such as the life-size reconstruction put on display by the Papal States at the World’s Fair in 1867 and the catacomb complex that was built in Valkenburg in the Netherlands in 1910. These have been described as theme parks avant la lettre or similar to Disneyland in staging techniques (Wörner, 2000, p.9). Scholars who have worked on these imitations have primarily focused on their history and the intentions of their makers. Less attention has gone to the responses of the Catholic audience. In my presentation, I will draw upon the expanding work on religious museums and theme parks to explore how catacombs and their replications were designed to involve, even immerse, the visitor (Asselin, 2013, p.17; Bielo, 2017, p.132). I will examine to what extent these catacombs (including those in secular settings such as the World’s Fair) were intended and experienced as inspiring Catholic sites. (Show less)



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