The matter of miracles

Neapolitan baroque architecture and sanctity

By Helen Hills

The matter of miracles

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8474-4
  • Pages: 656
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: October 2016
  • BIC Category: Art History, History of art, Baroque, ARCHITECTURE / History / Baroque & Rococo, ART / History / Baroque & Rococo, The arts / History of architecture, Art & Design Styles: Baroque
  • Series: Rethinking Art's Histories


This book investigates baroque architecture through the lens of San Gennaro's miraculously liquefying blood in Naples. This vantage point allows a bracing and thoroughly original rethink of the power of baroque relics and reliquaries. It shows how a focus on miracles produces original interpretations of architecture, sanctity and place which will engage architectural historians everywhere. The matter of the baroque miracle extends into a rigorous engagement with natural history, telluric philosophy, new materialism, theory and philosophy. The study will transform our understanding of baroque art and architecture, sanctity and Naples. Bristling with new archival materials and historical insights, this study lifts the baroque from its previous marginalisation to engage fiercely with materiality and potentiality and thus unleash baroque art and architecture as productive and transformational.


'This book gathers together the results of important, original and ambitious research. [...] from the title on, HH challenges one to read between the lines and to go beyond the appearance of architecture and baroque sanctity. [...] Hills interprets 17C and 18C architecture as a 'machinic', a productive phenomenon and in terms of potential; not the reflection of the will of patron or architect, but a microcosm, an 'assemblage' that through its materiality and physical presence creates relations, worshippers, city, politics and spirituality.'
Annali di architettura


Introduction: Openings
Prologue: The analogous relic
1 The matter of miracles: San Gennaro's blood and the Treasury Chapel
2 Blood, bronze, Vesuvius: material transformations
3 Miraculous witness: exclusive affects
4 The Machinic Chapel and the production of protectors
5 From prayer to presence
6 Niche and Saints: folding the wall
7 Saints on the move and the choreography of sanctity
8 Holiness and history: relics and gender
9 Heads and bones: face to face
10 Silver saints: between transformation and transaction
Conclusion: The miraculous chance


Helen Hills is Professor of History of Art at the University of York

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