The matter of miracles

Neapolitan baroque architecture and sanctity

Author: Helen Hills

In place of linear historicism, this book offers a new approach to architecture by examining the matter of the miracle in relation to baroque architecture through an interrogation of the relationship between architecture and the sacred in the economy of the relic. It considers the Treasury Chapel as the interaction of movement and sanctity in relation to matter and affect, particularly the transport of salvation. The rituals of the Treasury Chapel made visible the new cartographies and choreographies of spiritual authority that fed it and that it espoused and generated. The book focuses on the miracle of San Gennaro, the blood that courses through the chapel and its telling. It focuses on the Renaissance Succorpo chapel below the main altar of Naples Cathedral as the principal precursor to the Treasury Chapel. The book explores how the enclosed aristocratic convent of Santa Patrizia used its relics of St Patricia to vault its enclosure walls and to intervene in the Treasury Chapel, quite beyond its own confines, to secure and extend its own spiritual authority in Naples. It investigates the relationships between silver and salvation activated and opened by the Treasury Chapel's many splendid reliquaries. The book examines the implications of the wider politics of silver from its mining to its sustenance of Spanish monarchy and Spanish rule in Naples to its surfacing in those reliquaries. It addresses the question of how and why silver affords a peculiarly Neapolitan bridge between the brutality of the mines and the saints' whispers in heaven.

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