(D2-7) Indescribable Violence: Visual Worlds of Martyrdom in the Modern Period

In recent years, martyrdom has increasingly been investigated from a cultural historical perspective. Questions as to the individual and collective forms of perception and interpretation of martyrdom in the emerging Christian denominations in Europe have been dealt with. This has drawn attention to the media of circulation and presentation such as hagiography and historiography, pamphlets, sermons and longs, poetry and theatre. Even if images in particular have been playing a key role in transmitting martyrdom, they have been dealt with rather marginally and mostly drawn on for illustrative purposes. This, however, hardly does justice to the images.

For historians, images of martyrdom are interesting not only as evidence of an ‘also’ artistic preoccupation with this topic, but they need to be recontextualised and analysed in their virulence for the respective society. Basically, thus, images should be dealt with in a manner similarly to what Quentin Skinner’s Cambridge School postulated for political ideas: it is not so much a question of discovering typical and classical motives, but rather of understanding image strategies within a certain historical context. The image scientific approach in the history of martyrdom may bring together entirely different research lines here: it links the topic of martyrdom in painting with the imagery in printed and, later, also in electronic mass media.

The social reception and perception of the images from the 17th century until today will be investigated, in a both Christian and non-Christian context. This way, change and cultural difference become important categories of analysis. The martyrdoms and their images gained new relevance in completely different contexts, they were re-actualised, interpreted anew and reinterpreted. The interdenominational (also: interreligious) comparison of imageries seems to be particularly worthwhile: were there different image strategies? Did the images foil the respective other denomination, did they refer to one another? Where is the point where image satire begins? Finally: what was, in principle, the significance of the imageries of martyrdom for the relationship of and the change in religion and politics in the modern age? Could it be that the images were not only a medium to create identities and alterities but also already (unintentionally) a contribution to secularisation?

The Project is part of interconnecting platform E Differentiation and De-Differentiation, F Transcultural Entanglements and H Cultural Ambiguity and coordinated project group Martyrdom and the cult of martyrs.