Talking Images in the Spanish Empire: Vision and Action
This article examines stories of religious images from different countries and time periods that miraculously spoke. Typically, a person in the throes of spiritual turmoil seeks succor or guidance from an image of Christ or the Virgin Mary, which replies with a brief, yet meaningful, answer. These stories of crisis and miraculous resolution, exceptional as they were, dramatize the common practice of late medieval and early modern Catholics of using images to communicate with divinity. Supplicants plead with the divine, coax gifts, and clamor for attention. During these highly charged encounters with divinity, the exchange taking place was not entirely one-sided, as in the top-down model of communication implicit in a vision granted by an omnipotent God to a captive soul. Examining the interrelation between vision and action provides important insights into an individual's relationship with divine authority in the early modern era.