The Matter of Piety

Zoutleeuw's Church of Saint Leonard and Religious Material Culture in the Low Countries (c. 1450-1620)


The Matter of Piety provides the first in-depth study of Zoutleeuw’s exceptionally well-preserved pilgrimage church in a comparative perspective, and revaluates religious art and material culture in Netherlandish piety from the late Middle Ages through the crisis of iconoclasm and the Reformation to Catholic restoration. Analyzing the changing functions, outlooks, and meanings of devotional objects – monumental sacrament houses, cult statues and altarpieces, and small votive offerings or relics – Ruben Suykerbuyk revises dominant narratives about Catholic culture and patronage in the Low Countries. Rather than being a paralyzing force, the Reformation incited engaged counterinitiatives, and the vitality of late medieval devotion served as the fertile ground from which the Counter-Reformation organically grew under Protestant impulses.
Open Access
Download PDF

Prices from (excl. shipping):

Ruben Suykerbuyk, Ph. D. (2018), Ghent University, is postdoctoral researcher at the same institution. He is the author of several works on fifteenth- to seventeenth-century religious art, material culture, and patronage in the Low Countries.
"It is not only the extended timespan and the bottom-up perspective that lends this beautifully published book an ambitious scope. Its multidisciplinary approach, bridging the gap between history and art history, and the use of different types of sources – written, visual, and material – further adds to the far-reaching aims of this work."
Carolina Lenarduzzi (Leiden University) in Early Modern Low Countries 7 (2023)

"... to show that Suykerbuyk's carefully crafted publication, which is rich in material and findings, makes for stimulating reading."
Esther Meiser, (TU Köln/TU Dortmund) in Renaissance Quarterly 1 (2023)
List of Illustrations
Note on Currencies

Introduction: The Matter of Piety in an Age of Religious Change
 A Pulverized Image? Status quaestionis
 Sources, Methodology and Set-up

Part 1: Late Medieval Piety in Perspective

1 The Cult of Saint Leonard at Zoutleeuw
 Saint Leonard’s Altarpiece
 Protohistory of the Cult
 The Fortunes of Devotion: Offerings
 The Promotion of Devotion

2 The Image of Piety at the Dawn of Iconoclasm
 Old Sources, New Views: Miracles and Indulgences
 The Cult Circuit in the Low Countries
 A Spirited Devotional Culture Materialized

part 2: Catholic Piety in Iconoclastic Times

3 1520. The Waning of Medieval Piety?
 Cornelis Floris’ Sacrament House
 The Introduction of Protestant Thought
 The 1520-Thesis

4 Pilgrimage
 The Public Debate on Images, Miracles and Pilgrims
 The Cult of Saint Leonard at Zoutleeuw: Tradition and Innovation
 Miracles and Cults, Old and New
 Miracles as Anti-Protestant Statements

5 Parish Liturgy
 The Eucharist
 Musical Embellishment

6 Patronage
 The Memorial Landscape in Zoutleeuw
 Van Wilre’s Project
 Countering the Reformation
 Sacrament Houses as Objects of Defiance

7 1566: The Beeldenstorm and Its Aftermath
 Destructions and Descriptions
 The Wonderyear: Facts and Theories
 Les villes bonnes
 Zoutleeuw and the Hageland Region

Part 3: The Miraculous Counter-Reformation

8 The Resumption of Miracles
 Paulus Gautier’s Miracle Memorial Painting
 A New Era?
 The Rise of Votive Paintings
 A Culture of the Miraculous
 Zoutleeuw, 1612

9 Devotional Negotiation with the Archducal Government
 The Object of Devotion: Image versus Relic
 The Gift
 The Translation

Conclusion: The Thin Line Between Tradition and Transformation

Appendix 1: The Churchwarden Accounts of Zoutleeuw’s Church of Saint Leonard

Appendix 2: Graphs
 Primary Sources
 Published Sources
 Online Databases
All those interested in religious art, material culture, and patronage of the late medieval and early modern Low Countries, and anyone concerned with religious developments of the later Middle Ages, Reformation, and Counter-Reformation in Europe.
  • Collapse
  • Expand