Dislocating holiness: city, saint and the production of flesh

Helen Hills


Just as the making of a patron saint was an important event in baroque devotional and urban history, so the city itself was an event in holiness and sanctity. This article investigates the figuring of saint and city while resisting the tendency in historical scholarship to treat city and saint in terms of representation. Instead I examine the co-implication of saint and city in terms of event in baroque Naples, seeking to treat neither as discrete and thus their relation as more than merely sequential, in order to consider the re-imagining of the city that was implicated in the re-imaging of sanctity. I argue that reconfiguring this relation amounts to a dislocation. That dislocation also entails the question of the subject of the city and indeed of subjectivity, with which city and saint were intimately enfolded.

Keywords: protector / patron saint, sanctity and city, Micco Spadaro / Domenico Spadaro, Jusepe de Ribera, Giorgio Agamben, plague, Vesuvius, San Gennaro, intercession, Onofrio Palumbo, Didier Barra, cityscapes, Neapolitan baroque painting, place and holiness, city and miracle, Habsburg monarchy in Italy, viceregal Naples, Revolt of Masaniello, Mattia Preti, ex-voto

Full text: OAJ_issue6_Hills (pdf, 2.32 MB)

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5456/issn.2050-3679/2018w02

Biographical note

Helen Hills is Professor of History of Art at the University of York. She has also taught at the University of Manchester and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research probes ways in which architecture and place might be investigated and considered as productive and discontinuous, even disjunctive. She has published on baroque theory, southern Italian baroque art and architecture; religious devotion and social divisions; miracles and materiality; architecture, gender and social class; academic art history’s marginalisation of certain places, groups and interests through discourses of style, taste and place. Major publications include: The Matter of Miracles: Neapolitan Baroque Architecture & Sanctity (Manchester University Press, 2016), which investigates the relationship between matter and miracle in baroque Naples; Rethinking the Baroque (Ashgate, 2011); Invisible City: The Architecture of Devotion in Seventeenth-Century Neapolitan Convents (Oxford University Press, 2004). Recent publications include: ‘Taking place: Architecture and holiness in seventeenth-century Italy’, chapter for Renaissance and Baroque Architecture: The Companion to the History of Architecture, (ed.) A. Payne, vol.1, (Wiley Blackwell, 2017).