Between “The Woman Clothed with the Sun” and a Romanesque Statuette. A Venerated Image Between Cult and History of Art

Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis


  • Irena Vaišvilaitė



cult of images, antiquarian movemen, art history


The article explores a conflict between the cultic and historical approaches to the sacred image. The author refers to a source documenting the conflict – correspondence on the solemn coronation of the twelfth-century statuette of the Virgin of Gleva venerated in Catalonia, the Diocese of Vic. This coronation, carried out with the con- sent of the Chapter of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, meant the recognition of the extra- ordinary cult status of the image. The recognition took place in the presence of the local Church hierarchs and representatives of the community of believers. However, in this particular case, lay people got involved in the recognition process, protesting the way the sacred image was displayed and demanding its historically authentic presentation. The correspondence held in the Madonne Coronate collection of the Manuscript Department of the Apostolic Library in Vatican clearly reveals the clash of the views of the clergy, antiquarians, and art historians, between the cultic and historical approaches. The article also overviews the coronation of other images venerated in different regions of Spain, and the change in the way they were displayed in the twentieth century. For comparison, the historical and museological approaches applied to Russian icons even before the massive expropriation of Church property by Bolshevik Russia, when the larger part of the most famous and venerated Russian icons were removed from the cult environment and transferred to art museums, is briefly discussed. The research allows us to outline how the art historical approach took root in terms of cult images in the first third of the twentieth century.

Author Biography

Irena Vaišvilaitė

is a professor of Vilnius University specializing in research into seven­ teenth and eighteenth century European culture, with a special focus on the religious aspects of culture. She has taken part in a great many national and international research and study projects, and has published articles, monographs, and popular publications. Currently, she leads a research project dedicated to the prominent Enlightenment figure in the Polish­Lithuanian Commonwealth and Europe, artist Franciszek Smuglewicz.



How to Cite

Vaišvilaitė, I. (2023). Between “The Woman Clothed with the Sun” and a Romanesque Statuette. A Venerated Image Between Cult and History of Art: Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis. Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis, (110-111), 55–76.