Seeing and Not Seeing the Reliquary Bust of Saint Yrieix
Sears, Andrew Russell
Honors Thesis, Emory University, (2011)
In this thesis, I construct a devotional framework within which the early thirteenth-century Limousin reliquary bust of Saint Yrieix operated. Using museological literature as a lead-in, I consider the primacy modern-day scholars give to object experience over object beholding, and how we should consider medieval reliquaries not only as objects to be looked at, but as objects to be experienced. With that in mind, I articulate the medieval lay mode of experiencing the reliquary of Yrieix and how it was rooted in a system of unseen devotion, far different from the museum experience of taking on an appraising gaze. Yrieix’s relics operated in the realm of the unseen, and despite the splendor of the reliquary image that housed them, the reliquary did, as well. The object was shrouded from public view and only seen for short periods of time and for distinct purposes, either for feast days or communal processions.