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On the origins of the Monza collection of Holy Land ampullae: the legend of Gregory the Great’s gift of relics to Theodelinda reconsidered

digital On the origins of the Monza collection of Holy Land ampullae:
the legend of Gregory the Great’s gift of relics to Theodelinda reconsidered
Articolo
rivista ARTE LOMBARDA
fascicolo ARTE LOMBARDA - 2015 - 1-2
titolo On the origins of the Monza collection of Holy Land ampullae: the legend of Gregory the Great’s gift of relics to Theodelinda reconsidered
autore
editore Vita e Pensiero
formato Articolo | Pdf
online da 12-2015
issn 0004-3443 (stampa)
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The paper is dedicated to the collection of ampullae preserved in the treasury of the basilica in Monza and endeavors to shed light on the circumstances surrounding their donation. Traditionally, it is held that these little reliquaries containing sacred oils from Jerusalem were a gift of pope Gregory the Great sent to the Lombard queen Theodelinda on occasion of the Catholic baptism of her son, in 603. As heir of the throne, his baptism was important as it effectively assured the conversion of the previously Arian Lombards to Catholicism. Through the study of the political situation at that time, the religion and the culture of the Lombard court and the analysis of the relic policy of the pope, this essay revises this tradition and tries to draw a plausible historical background for a new hypothesis. Collecting relics was an important part of the early medieval aristocratic evergetism since such objects were deemed to be the religious bulwark of the kingdom. Thus, as in the case of Saint Helen, the role of the Queen was to found churches and monasteries and endow them with relics in order to guarantee the protection and the prosperity of the kingdom. However, an entire collection of relics from Jerusalem does not fit into the relic policy of the pope. The latter tended to distribute rather Roman contact relics in quite a limited number. Thus, in all likelihood, Theodelinda’s foundation of the royal basilica went hand in hand with an endowment of relics, brought to Monza by the pilgrims from Holy Land or by special envoys, as recorded in the case of the Merovingian Queen Radegund.

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