changes in the perception of the universe. Initially, the material world was viewed as part of the cosmic order.8 It was thought to represent not only physical properties but also spiritual forces, which were expressed in transgressions or subversions of the natural order. Miracles and the huge sector of magic and the marvellous (such as monstrous births, blood rains, or solar eclipses), supernatural messages orportents, as well as natural disasters (floods, great fires, volcanic eruptions), famines, plagues and other catastrophes - all testified to the need both to respect the world of nature given by God and to understand the sacred order through which these forces could be conjured and controlled by means of appropriate rituals. Indeed, during the early modern period a sharper distinction was made between the supernatural, 'wonders' and 'miracles', caused by God alone, and the preternatural forces or events, 'marvels', which depended on secondary causes (including the works of angels and demons), rather than on God's direct interference in the order of nature.9
An enormous variety of sacral places, persons, and objects were maintained to provide protection against various forms of evil or shelter from divine punishment. Throughout the Christian world, saints like Sebastian or Roch, and a variety of Marian sanctuaries, protected the faithful against the plague, which was symbolically represented by transfixing arrows or purulent wounds. Pilgrimage shrines with sacral objects - such as Saint Hubert's in the Ardennes -served to heal or conjure rabies, or other contagious diseases whose physical causes remained unclear. Some places seemed to acquire a sacred meaning because of their exceptional sites on mountains or islands (like Mont-Saint-Michel in French Brittany); others because oftheir historical connections to the history of salvation or the relics of saints or other sacred persons: Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostella (a city at the end of the world, finis terrae) are the most eminent examples. During the early modern period, Loreto in the province of Ancona (Italy) emerged as a major shrine; here, according to a fifteenth-century legend, the Santa Casa, or home of the Holy Family in Nazareth, had been transferred by angels. Certain cities, like Rome, Cologne or Naples, were huge shrines in their entirety, with all sorts of relics and other sacred objects in a multitude of churches, chapels, and convents.
In the long run, the Reformation brought a new perception of the sacred. Protestant theology ultimately refused to recognize a sacred sphere set apart from earthly life. Since in biblical terms the whole world was considered as blessed by God, and since the principal aim of humankind was to recognize the Lord in the whole of creation, there were no specific holy places, persons, periods, festivals, or objects. In principle, all the faithful shared in the general priesthood ofbelievers. Churches lost their sacral quality; holy objects, statues
Was this article helpful?
Disasters: Why No ones Really 100 Safe. This is common knowledgethat disaster is everywhere. Its in the streets, its inside your campuses, and it can even be found inside your home. The question is not whether we are safe because no one is really THAT secure anymore but whether we can do something to lessen the odds of ever becoming a victim.