Martyr Cults in Nineteenth-Century Italy

TitleMartyr Cults in Nineteenth-Century Italy
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsRiall, Lucy
JournalThe Journal of Modern History
Date Published06/2010

In this article, the author aims to show how similar images of heroic self-sacrifice could be deployed with equal skill by the Catholic Church in its mobilization against Italian nationalism and as part of its assault on the threat of revolution. The survival, indeed revival, of the martyr as a collective symbol and tool of propaganda in the nineteenth century is widely recognized by historians of Catholicism and of nationalism. Still, there have been relatively few attempts to compare Catholic and nationalist martyr cults and to analyze their common meanings and (often, if not always) opposing purposes. This lack is especially noteworthy in Italy, where the fight between church and nation in the nineteenth century was particularly fierce and where the divisions have been preserved in two scholarly worlds that remain largely distinct from each other. However, as the author aims to show in this article, precisely because nineteenth century martyr cults in Italy were so close in semantic terms and so far apart politically, a study of them can offer us important insights into the development of religion and nation in this period and into the unfolding relations between them.

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