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
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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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
Manuscript Submission Information
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- passion of Christ
- the Cross
- passion relics
- passion play
- passion poetry
- apocryphal literature
- Holy Land
- medieval drama
- folk art
- arma Christi
- lived religion
- holy cards
- religious folklore