Staging Holiness The Case of Hospitaller Rhodes
STAGING HOLINESS THE CASE OF HOSPITALLER RHODES
Aims and Context of This Study
This book is the result of an investigation conducted in the framework of the research project “From Venice to the Holy Land: Mise-en-scène and Forms of Perception of Holy Sites along the Sea Routes to Palestine (1300–1550),” supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation and supervised by Professor Michele Bacci at the University of Fribourg.
The project’s objective was to study the ways in which the towns that served as ports of call for the ships sailing along the Venetian sea routes to the Holy Land were invested with new cultic meanings and became associated with the idea of “site-bound” holiness, linked with Jerusalem and the Holy Land.1
The project team explored a specific network of sites that were geographically linked to the Holy Land as the destination of the journey but also traced a sacral topography that had been shaped by the maritime nature of the travellers’ experiences.
The individual case studies surveyed Venice, Zadar, Dubrovnik and Lesna, Durrës, Vlora and Pllanë, Corfu, Strofades, Crete, and Rhodes, and each one was intended as a contribution to the exploration of the entire topographical network that de- developed over the course of late medieval pilgrimage. Within this scope, the research focused on previously neglected, but important, sacred sites of the Middle Ages;
it considered them in perspective and examined whether and how they came to constitute part of a new sacral topography; their ritual and religious significance in the perception of pilgrims were investigated, and their art-historical significance was re-evaluated in light of the different cultural realities that were established amid the effects of local traditions being combined with Byzantine and Western culture.2
The case studies were analyzed through an interdisciplinary, but fundamentally art-historical, outlook, in order to address the issue of the special function and characteristics of the holy and sacred Christian cultic sites.3
The core of the research lay primarily in the examination and indexing of more than 300 pilgrims’ texts written between 1300 and 1550 in