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Function of Text

Title: The Function of Text: Byzantine Reliquaries with Epigrams, 843-1204.
Name(s): Hostetler, Bradley Alan, author
Jones, Lynn, professor directing dissertation
Romanchuk, Robert, university representative
Gerson, Paula Lieber, committee member
Leitch, Stephanie, committee member
Florida State University, degree granting institution
College of Fine Arts, degree granting college
Department of Art History, degree granting department
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2015
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource (366 pages)
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: This dissertation re-contextualizes the types, uses, and meanings of reliquaries in the Middle Byzantine period (843–1204). Relics are the remains of—or the materials associated with—Christ, the Mother of God, apostles, martyrs, and saints. For the faithful, they were the physical presence of the divine, imbued with miraculous power and grace. Reliquaries are the containers that enshrined, protected, and displayed this sacred matter. They are/were made of lavish materials—gold, silver, gems, and pearls—which conferred honor upon, and testified to the spiritual value of, the contents. Numerous Middle Byzantine reliquaries survive or are known through textual descriptions, but there has not been a study that examines these objects as a group. This dissertation fills this gap, charting out a paradigm for understanding the forms and functions of these objects. I take as my focus those reliquaries inscribed with metrical inscriptions, or epigrams. These texts provide a great deal of information about reliquaries, and they served a variety of functions—as ex-voto prayers, as expressions of identity, as performative texts, and as descriptions of the objects that they accompany. I demonstrate that epigrams are also visual, functioning as but one part of the reliquaries' complex visual programs in which word, image, and sacred matter converge, complement, and interact with each other. I examine the mechanisms of these interactions, revealing the messages they conveyed on behalf of the patrons and the ways in which reliquaries and epigrams functioned in the artistic and literary culture of Byzantium. Chapter 1, "Introduction," defines the critical terms of this dissertation, presents an overview of the scholarship, and outlines my methodological contributions. Chapters 2 and 3 introduce the reader to the forms and functions of reliquaries in the Middle Byzantine period, and are thus the foundation for the dissertation. Chapter 2 outlines the different types of reliquaries that were inscribed with epigrams. It presents aspects of their design and form, including imagery and the placement of the epigrams. Chapter 3 provides a brief historical survey of the various contexts in which reliquaries were used, from personal possessions to public veneration practices. Chapters 4–6 focus on epigrams. Chapter 4 examines the ways in which epigrams—both in content and placement—function to make relics visually and haptically accessible to the faithful. Chapter 5 explores the relationship between reliquary and metaphor. What are the ways in which the ekphrastic character of epigrams describes, interprets, and presents reliquaries for and to their owners? Chapter 6 situates reliquaries in the context of religious gift-giving by addressing the various ways in which a patron articulates his/her identity, connection with a holy figure, and what he/she hopes to receive in return. Chapter 7 presents my conclusions concerning the forms of reliquaries, relic accessibility, viewer interpretations, and patron motivations. The Appendices catalogue the 74 Middle Byzantine reliquaries inscribed with epigrams. The case studies I present in these chapters demonstrate that Middle Byzantine reliquaries with epigrams are/were a complex system of texts, images, relics, and materials that interact with each other. I demonstrate that epigrams—in addition to being textual—have visual and spatial dimensions, wrapping the exterior, interior, front, back, and sides of reliquaries. They are dynamic texts that pulled the viewers in and taught them how to see, interpret, and handle the reliquaries, and how to access relics.
Identifier: FSU_2016SP_Hostetler_fsu_0071E_13139 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Art History in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester 2015.
Date of Defense: April 6, 2015.
Keywords: epigrams, epigraphy, inscriptions, patronage, relics, reliquaries
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Lynn Jones, Professor Directing Dissertation; Robert Romanchuk, University Representative; Paula Gerson, Committee Member; Stephanie Leitch, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Art -- History
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

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Hostetler, B. A. (2015). The Function of Text: Byzantine Reliquaries with Epigrams, 843-1204. Retrieved from