Special Issue "Representations and Interpretations of the Passion and Death of Christ: Global Perspectives"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 June 2022) | Viewed by 8300

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Salvador Ryan
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, County Kildare W23 F2H6, Ireland
Interests: late medieval and early modern Christianity; popular religion; lived religion; materiality of devotion; devotion to Christ’s passion; bardic religious poetry; hagiography; history of preaching; medieval exempla; catechisms and their use; sacred history; 19th and 20th century prayer books; relationship between popular piety and liturgy from the Middle Ages to the present day; Irish religious folklore
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Since the writings of St Paul in the mid-first century, the events surrounding the crucifixion and death of Jesus of Nazareth have occupied a central place within the Christian imagination. The New Testament passion narratives, found in all four canonical gospels, would soon be supplemented by patristic writings which would employ a wealth of additional imagery to convey the significance of the passion event. A host of non-canonical / apocryphal works would also contribute to the ever-expanding literature treating of Christ’s passion and death in the earliest Christian centuries, introducing an additional cast of characters and traditions not found in the New Testament. There are still many, for instance, who, while making the Stations of the Cross, take it for granted that the figure of Veronica, with her sudarium, originally appears in the New Testament passion narratives. As centuries passed, the two thieves on either side of Christ were given names, and the period of time between Christ’s death and his resurrection on the third day was accounted for by various versions of the Harrowing of Hell narrative, when Christ descended to Hell to release those just souls who had awaited his coming. This subsequently gave rise to a very rich tradition in the art and literature of the Middle Ages, east and west.

The empress Helena’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the fourth century and her “discovery” of the True Cross would not only launch the Holy Land as a pilgrimage destination, but also contribute to the cult of relics of Christ’s passion, which was enormously significant in the Middle Ages, and especially so in the West in the aftermath of the Sack of Constantinople in 1204. While the True Cross remained the passion relic par excellence, other passion relics would also gain a great deal of importance. The number of objects associated with the story of Christ’s passion would steadily increase, giving rise to the arma Christi tradition, with its various props such as the nails, the lance, the hyssop stick, the sponge, the dice, the seamless garment, the lantern, the ladder, the pincers, the mocking faces of those who taunted him, the lock of hair being roughly pulled by a hand, and so on. Each of these developed their own particular devotions, with accompanying prayers, sculpture, iconography, devotional verse, and relics. Perhaps the most ubiquitous passion-devotion of all in the later Middle Ages was that of the Five Wounds, presented either as a set, or individually, the most efficacious of all being the heart or breast-wound.

Many of these European passion devotions were brought to the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and, once there, would take on a life of their own in succeeding centuries, inspiring a dizzying number of variations on these, many of which survive in various versions to this day. Meanwhile, missionaries who hoped to spread devotion to Christ’s passion in Asia, were confronted with a number of difficulties of reception, not least the fact that crucifixion was still employed as a form of execution in Japan. Nineteenth- and twentieth-century Christian missionaries, across numerous religious denominations, would also have to reckon with the difficulties of presenting the notion of a crucified God to those whom they attempted to evangelise. However, as Christianity steadily became a truly global religion, these same missionaries would also need to walk a fine line between, on the one hand, encouraging devotion to Christ’s passion and, on the other, ensuring that the practice of that devotion—and the theologies behind it—adhered to sound Christian doctrine. Of course, it was ever thus.

The passion and death of Christ—and its interpretations—remains a subject that fascinates, and which evokes intense feelings. The level of interest surrounding the release of Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ in 2004—and the degree of controversy it provoked—is testament to this. Meanwhile, pilgrimage locations such as Oberammergau in Bavaria, with its centuries-old, world-famous passion play, continue to draw large numbers and, each Good Friday, the live penitential crucifixions practised in the Philippines receive widespread media coverage. The Passion of Christ—with its representations and interpretations—is truly a subject of global significance across time and space.

While there exists an enormous literature relating to Christ’s passion, across multiple disciplines—theology, religious studies, patristics, hagiography, medieval literature, art history, archaeology, anthropology, ethnography, among many others—it is often the case that scholars focus their energies on their own time period, or discipline, and so rarely get the opportunity to read about some of their research interests in a very different context or key. Therefore, for instance, a scholar of medieval literature who specialises in the study of the arma Christi might not have the occasion to study how the instruments of Christ’s passion are represented in Mexican folk art.

This Special Issue aims to bring a wide range of scholars who work on passion subjects in different time periods and geographical regions together to examine representations and interpretations of Christ’s passion and death from a global perspective, and across all Christian denominations, on a large canvas. Possible topics for articles include: patristic imagery for Christ’s passion; relics of Christ’s passion and their legends; artistic representations of Christ’s passion; the influence of apocryphal writings on Christ’s passion on vernacular religious literature; pilgrimages, shrines and devotional practices associated with Christ’s passion; the passion of Christ in medieval preaching exempla; the passion of Christ in hymnody; the passion of Christ in sermons; the passion of Christ in devotional treatises; the passion of Christ in prayer books; the material culture of Christ’s passion—relics, paintings, crucifixes, medals, religious prints, holy cards, etc; the passion of Christ in mystical literature; the passion of Christ in religious folklore; passion plays, medieval to modern; the passion of Christ in warfare; the passion of Christ in world literature and film, and its reception, and so on.

Given that a vast body of literature exists relating to the study of representations of Christ’s passion and death, this Special Issue particularly welcomes articles which highlight lesser-known or localized manifestations of passion devotion, especially those which have not yet appeared in scholarly literature in English.

In order to facilitate the gathering of the richest collection of material, this issue welcomes articles of various lengths, from c. 5,000 words to c. 15,000 words.

Shorter articles of a minimum length of 5,000 words will allow scholars to bring to the attention of readers evidence of a particular passion devotion; practices at a particular shrine; discussion of a specific folk image, or devotional artefact; or, indeed, one particular folk tradition; this will be especially useful in cases where not a lot of ancillary evidence exists, or where the discussion might not merit a longer article. 

This Special Issue especially welcomes—and indeed, encourages—accompanying images (which are required to be high resolution at a minimum of 300dpi).

Proposals of c. 100 words, with a working title, should be forwarded directly to [email protected]

Contributors are encouraged to submit expressions of interest by 29 October 2021  and formal proposals by 26 November 2021, although earlier submissions are, of course, very welcome.

I look forward very much to working with you on this exciting project. 

Prof. Dr. Salvador Ryan
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • passion of Christ
  • crucifixion
  • crucifix
  • the Cross
  • patristics
  • passion relics
  • passion play
  • passion poetry
  • apocryphal literature
  • pilgrimage
  • Holy Land
  • Jerusalem
  • preaching
  • exempla
  • medieval drama
  • folk art
  • arma Christi
  • lived religion
  • holy cards
  • religious folklore

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Article
Representations of the Passion of Christ in Brazil: Devotional Sculpture as Open Artwork
Religions 2022, 13(12), 1138; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13121138 - 23 Nov 2022
Viewed by 224
Abstract
Sculpted representations of the Passion of Christ became widely used for popular religious devotion in Portuguese America. They comprise a variety of forms, since the Passion had so many episodes, and thus necessitated various bodily positions for Christ. In investigating the manufacture and [...] Read more.
Sculpted representations of the Passion of Christ became widely used for popular religious devotion in Portuguese America. They comprise a variety of forms, since the Passion had so many episodes, and thus necessitated various bodily positions for Christ. In investigating the manufacture and trade of Latin American Baroque sculpture, it is possible to identify a market of whole-body carvings, items of dress, and loose body parts, such as heads, hands, feet, etc. This parts-based approach to sculpture, in effect, transformed them from “finished” works into “open” ones. The idea of an open artwork applies to objects that are not usually classified as art. This openness can be found in lifelike images that encourage the viewer to connect with them emotionally. In the case of images that show suffering, viewers respond with empathetic horror before the realistically proportioned and colored representations. The present study analyzes the idea of an open artwork by focusing on sculptural series of the Passion, especially scenes of the Agony in the Garden, that belong to Carmelite lay brotherhoods in São Paulo, Mogi das Cruzes, Itu, and Santos, cities in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. Images of the Passion existed in a constant process of transformation and, thus, openness, from their manner of construction to their uses in Holy Week rituals. By allowing viewers to interact with them on their own terms, we argue that devotional sculptures had far-reaching potential. Full article
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Article
The Lacerated Body of the Book: Bloody Animation of the Passion in a 15th Century Devotional Book
Religions 2022, 13(11), 1102; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13111102 - 15 Nov 2022
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Abstract
The body and blood of Christ are essential to Christian liturgy and passion devotion. In medieval devotional books, this came to the fore in an overtly material way. The skin of the pages, the red ink, the words, and the images constituted more [...] Read more.
The body and blood of Christ are essential to Christian liturgy and passion devotion. In medieval devotional books, this came to the fore in an overtly material way. The skin of the pages, the red ink, the words, and the images constituted more than a symbolic representation of the body of Christ. The corpus of the book was experienced as the Corpus Christi, the living Savior. This is particularly evident in one specific manuscript from the British Library, BL MS Egerton 1821, in which the skin of several folios was covered with red ink almost as if the pages have seeped in the blood from Christ’s wounds. The article investigates the material, fluid, hyperreal, and mechanical strategies that animated the body of Christ in the hands of the owner, focusing in particular on blood and milk as the substances of life. Full article
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Article
Crucified with the Brother from Galilee: Symbol of the Cross in Modernist Yiddish Imagination
Religions 2022, 13(9), 804; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090804 - 30 Aug 2022
Viewed by 324
Abstract
The European Enlightenment witnessed a Jewish reclamation of Jesus. It led modernist Yiddish intellectuals to experiment with Christian motifs as they tried to contend with what it meant to be Jewish in the modern world. This article proposes to examine, with special focus [...] Read more.
The European Enlightenment witnessed a Jewish reclamation of Jesus. It led modernist Yiddish intellectuals to experiment with Christian motifs as they tried to contend with what it meant to be Jewish in the modern world. This article proposes to examine, with special focus on poetry, how the crucified Jesus not only became a space of hybridity for Yiddish literary artists to formulate modern Jewish identity and culture but also the medium through which to articulate Jewish suffering in a language that resonated with the oppressors. By doing so, the article seeks to understand the relevance that such literary depictions of Jesus by Jewish authors and poets can have for the Christian understanding of its own identity and its relationship with Judaism. Full article
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Article
Visual Threats and Visual Efficacy: Ideas of Image Reception in the Arguments of Lucas Tudense about the Changes in the Crucifixion (c.1230)
Religions 2022, 13(9), 779; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090779 - 25 Aug 2022
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Abstract
In this paper, I examine the ideas regarding image reception that can be extracted from the De altera uita, a theological treatise written by the Iberian bishop Lucas de Tui in ca. 1230. In this book, he devotes one chapter to rejecting [...] Read more.
In this paper, I examine the ideas regarding image reception that can be extracted from the De altera uita, a theological treatise written by the Iberian bishop Lucas de Tui in ca. 1230. In this book, he devotes one chapter to rejecting the changes that were taking place at the time in the image of the Crucifixion, especially concerning the variation in the number of nails and the shape of the cross. I will show that this text provides illuminating references regarding image reception, mainly through Lucas’s concerns about the visual misleading of the faithful and their devotional responses to artworks. By examining this work, which I will set against the theological and devotional background of its time, I will argue that this treatise reflects the importance of sight within the religious experience of late-medieval Europe. Full article
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Article
La Vera Cruz: Wills, Confraternities, Catholic Reconquest and Reform in Sixteenth-Century Gibraltar
Religions 2022, 13(8), 710; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080710 - 03 Aug 2022
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Abstract
In his Historia de Gibraltar, the Gibraltar-born jurado Alonso Hernández del Portillo described how “the confraternity of the Santa Vera Cruz has a fine and pleasant church on the Main Street”. Set in the heart of town, it was an impressive building, [...] Read more.
In his Historia de Gibraltar, the Gibraltar-born jurado Alonso Hernández del Portillo described how “the confraternity of the Santa Vera Cruz has a fine and pleasant church on the Main Street”. Set in the heart of town, it was an impressive building, which caused the missionary Pedro Cubero Sebastián to describe it as “most excellent” in the late seventeenth-century. Within the church existed the confraternity’s pride and joy: el Cristo de la Vera Cruz, a miraculous image of the crucified Christ and a key feature of local devotion. Using unpublished testamentary evidence, this article explores the early years of this local manifestation of Christological devotion, as well as the devotional context out of which it grew. The timeline established by these wills not only allows us to place this church and confraternity, and therefore Gibraltar, within the context of the Catholic Reformation, but to locate these religious developments as part of a prolonged process of Christianisation which began with the city’s reconquest in 1462. Full article
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Article
Post-Tridentine Mass Attendance as Devotion to the Suffering Christ
Religions 2022, 13(7), 643; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070643 - 13 Jul 2022
Viewed by 349
Abstract
Continuing the long tradition of the allegorical interpretation of the Mass, the seventeenth- and eighteenth century ideal of proper mass attendance was devotion to the suffering Christ, inextricably linked to each step of the liturgy. In this article, post-Tridentine mass books, booklets, or [...] Read more.
Continuing the long tradition of the allegorical interpretation of the Mass, the seventeenth- and eighteenth century ideal of proper mass attendance was devotion to the suffering Christ, inextricably linked to each step of the liturgy. In this article, post-Tridentine mass books, booklets, or chapters on the mass in devotional books for lay people, are investigated to understand the praxis pietatis in which they were embedded. These texts served devotional and educational purposes outside mass as well, but primarily they reveal a concerted effort to promote active participation of lay people at mass. In the post-Tridentine era, the mass books for lay people became a kind of Passional, serving active participation of the faithful at mass as a devotional practice configured to the actions of the priest as mass progressed. Joining Ordo and Passion, the mass books combined two dimensions of the one sacrifice with the main objective being to support a heartfelt, attentive focus on both. Based on the mass books and other devotional texts investigated, no sharp distinction can be made between attending the formal liturgy and engaging in a devotional practice as the Passion narrative unfolded in, and by, the actions of the priest. Full article
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Article
Jesus’s Death as Communal Resurrection in Mark Dornford-May’s 2006 Film Son of Man
Religions 2022, 13(7), 635; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070635 - 08 Jul 2022
Viewed by 456
Abstract
Instead of trying to recreate the ancient life of Jesus, Mark Dornford-May’s film Son of Man depicts many famous scenes from the gospels, reworked to tell the story of Jesus in the fictitious “Kingdom of Judea, Afrika” with the concerns of local and [...] Read more.
Instead of trying to recreate the ancient life of Jesus, Mark Dornford-May’s film Son of Man depicts many famous scenes from the gospels, reworked to tell the story of Jesus in the fictitious “Kingdom of Judea, Afrika” with the concerns of local and global poverty, violence, and imperialism. Jesus’s life turns when he directly challenges the Judean leadership, and his arrest, torture, and death reinterpret the dynamics of power from first century imperial Rome in brilliantly analogous fashion both for a localized South African setting and for global settings that struggle under violently repressive governments. Jesus’s death stands as the focal point of communal resurrection, inspiring Mary to challenge the oppression perpetrated by those in power. Jesus’s death serves to express the complexities of international injustice in South Africa and other countries in Africa and around the world, to embolden and unite an oppressed community, and to shine a light on a mother as the leader of this resurrected community. Full article
Article
The Visual Representation of the Crown of Thorns Motif in Irish Stained Glass: A Symbol of Universal Suffering for the Catholic Revival in France and Ireland in the Early Twentieth Century
Religions 2022, 13(7), 588; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070588 - 24 Jun 2022
Viewed by 429
Abstract
The fire that broke out on 15 April 2019 in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris was devastating for the French nation, as the cathedral had long been regarded as a symbol of French religious and cultural patrimony, described by the Washington Post as “the [...] Read more.
The fire that broke out on 15 April 2019 in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris was devastating for the French nation, as the cathedral had long been regarded as a symbol of French religious and cultural patrimony, described by the Washington Post as “the spiritual heart of France”. The heroic rescue of the relic of the crown of thorns by the chaplain of the Paris Fire Department, Père Jean-Marc Fournier, offered some consolation in a night of national trauma. World attention was focused on the relic, its history, and what its loss would signify to the people of France, and to the world. This paper will examine the importance of the relic to the people of France, and its enduring legacy as a symbol of universal suffering. It will demonstrate how the motif of the crown of thorns, as attested to in three of the canonical gospels, has acted as a powerful source of inspiration for the proponents of the French Catholic Revival of the early twentieth century. It will also examine the appearance of the motif in the earliest stained-glass windows produced for Loughrea Cathedral, Co. Galway at the beginning of the twentieth century, during a period of extensive building of churches and cathedrals following Catholic Emancipation in Ireland in 1829. Finally, it will reveal the largely undocumented link between the French Catholic Revival (le renouveau Catholique) and the sacrificial politics of early-twentieth-century Ireland. Full article
Article
‘Behold the Wounds on Christ’: Crucifixion Imagery in Late Medieval Ireland
Religions 2022, 13(6), 570; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13060570 - 20 Jun 2022
Viewed by 621
Abstract
Crucifixion scenes in late medieval Ireland, as was typical elsewhere in Europe at the time, largely present a pitiful image of a wounded and tortured Christ. This paper examines the iconography of these scenes across various media including manuscript illumination and sculpture in [...] Read more.
Crucifixion scenes in late medieval Ireland, as was typical elsewhere in Europe at the time, largely present a pitiful image of a wounded and tortured Christ. This paper examines the iconography of these scenes across various media including manuscript illumination and sculpture in stone and metalwork from the late fourteenth to the mid sixteenth century. The iconography is situated within the wider European artistic tradition and within the context of contemporary religious sentiment in Ireland as expressed through the literature and material culture. Finally, the interaction between image/object and the viewer is explored, and it is proposed that such imagery encouraged and often required an active rather than passive participation on behalf of the devotee. Full article
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Article
Christ’s Wounded Body, Sorrowful Soul and Joyful Spirit: The Interpretation of Christ’s Passion in a Forgotten 16th Century Classic of Mystical Literature
Religions 2022, 13(4), 365; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13040365 - 15 Apr 2022
Viewed by 641
Abstract
The Passion of Christ is not only an important theme in Christian theological and devotional literature, iconography, and music, but it is likewise the focus of considerable attention in contemplative, mystical literature. This contribution focuses on a specific interpretation of the suffering of [...] Read more.
The Passion of Christ is not only an important theme in Christian theological and devotional literature, iconography, and music, but it is likewise the focus of considerable attention in contemplative, mystical literature. This contribution focuses on a specific interpretation of the suffering of Christ, which is to be found in an important but now somewhat forgotten mystical text, namely the Evangelical Pearl. This text is to be situated within the broad mystical network and initiatives of the Cologne Carthusians in the early sixteenth century. The Pearl has a remarkable interpretation of Christ’s passion, namely that—simultaneously—his body was in terrible pain, his soul was deeply sorrowful and his spirit was joyful. These reflections culminate in a radical theology of deification. Full article
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