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Erin Elizabeth Benay
Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH 44106-4901)
Early Modern Religious Connections Between Italy and India

Preparation of a book-length study on the cult of St. Thomas Apostle and his pilgrimage sites in medieval and early modern India.

The return of a saint’s body to its rightful resting place was an event of civic and spiritual significance. Legends of St. Thomas Apostle, for instance, claimed that the martyred saint had been miraculously transported from India to Italy during the thirteenth century. However, St. Thomas’s purported resting place in Ortona, Italy did not become a major stopping point on pilgrimage routes, nor did this event punctuate frescoed life cycles or become a subject for Renaissance altarpieces. Instead, the site of the apostle’s burial in Chennai, India has flourished as a terminus of religious pilgrimage. An unlikely destination on the edge of the ‘known’ world became a surprising source of early modern Christian piety.  By disrupting assumptions about how knowledge of Asia took shape during the Renaissance, this project challenges art historical paradigms in which art was crafted by locals to be exported, collected, and consumed by European patrons.

Project fields:
Art History and Criticism; Renaissance Studies; South Asian Studies

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2017 – 6/30/2018