Signaling Saintly Presence: Constructing Identity in Fourteenth to Seventeenth-Century Dalmatia

Rebecca Johnson, MPhil

Throughout the late medieval to early modern periods, Dalmatia was uniquely positioned between colonial empires, vying for power and control over the Eastern Adriatic littoral. While existing under shifting imperial dominions, the port cities of Dalmatia still flourished as important hubs of cultural and artistic exchange. Although not politically unified, the Dalmatian coast still shared a sense of connection through geographic proximity, religion, language, and saints. 
Rebecca’s project examines the architectural and spatial development of tomb-shrines of select patron saints, located in the port cities of Zadar, Trogir, and Split. She examines how these spaces, as sacred sites, were activated through visitor experience via methods of signaling presence and fortifying boundaries. Her work constructs a diachronic analysis of saintly shrines and their environments to understand how they evolved in relation to the political and social conditions contextualized to each geographic place. In this regard, Rebecca investigates how the cult of patron saints contributed to fashioning a sense of both a communal, local identity as well as translocal identity (across Dalmatia more broadly).

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