Gift, Sale, and Theft: Juan de Ribera and the Sacred Economy of Relics in the Early Modern Mediterranean

in Journal of Early Modern History
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Abstract

In 1599 Valencia celebrated the arrival of an ancient Christian martyr whose remains were the latest addition to the collection of the city’s archbishop, Juan de Ribera (1532-1611). Through an examination of some of Archbishop Ribera’s relic acquisitions, I explore the inner workings of the early modern sacred economy of relics. Ribera’s collection strategies blended distinct modes of exchange and linked him to a clandestine economy of relic theft. These transactions reflected the relic’s own uncertain ontological status as both person and object. This ambivalence became a factor that fostered an atmosphere of anxiety around the early modern relic economy, as did Protestant reformers’ critiques and their upending of the traditional Christian symbolic order. The reaffirmations of the cult of relics by the Tridentine Church stabilized the value of the sacred commodities. The economy of relics illustrates how the sacred constitutes a heretofore underexamined area of inquiry for commodity studies.

Gift, Sale, and Theft: Juan de Ribera and the Sacred Economy of Relics in the Early Modern Mediterranean

in Journal of Early Modern History

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References

15

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Boiron“Définition et statut juridique des reliques” 27-28. “Sanctorum corpora spectant ad congregationem fidelium: sunt enim Ecclesiae membra. Ideo fideles omnes habent partem adiutorii eorum sicut unum quodque; membrum habet partem in opere alterius membri ut pes in opere manus: quia manus operatur pro pede & pes ambulat pro manu & pro aliis membris; & stomacus digerit pro singulis. Hoc igitur modo corpora sanctorum pertinent ad fideles quo etiam ipsa membra spectant ad totum corpus.” Giovanni Battista Segni Reliquiarum sive de reliquiis et veneratione sanctorum . . . (Bologna 1610) 179-180 234.

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GearyFurta Sacra136-43. The parallels between relics and slaves become especially apparent in probate inventories where slaves and relics—or more frequently reliquaries—are often listed alongside furniture linens pots and pans and other household goods. Some examples: Archivo Histórico Protocolos de Granada (AHPrGr) G-440 (July 5 1610): inventory of Cristóbal Fernández de Córdoba alderman of Granada; AHPrGr G-300 (May 22 1593): inventory of Fernando Martínez inquisitor.

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SegniReliquiarum172-178.

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