A 15th-century doll of the Christ Child that survived an Italian earthquake will be displayed as part of a forthcoming exhibition in Cambridge.
The Christ Child had been confirmed as an object of the “Madonnas and
Miracles: The Holy Home in Renaissance Italy” exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum before the earthquake took place last year.
But in October, the monastery of Santa Chiara, where the doll is venerated, was struck by an earthquake which reduced most of the building to rubble.
Miraculously, the doll survived unscathed.
The doll will leave Italy for the first time to be featured in the exhibition.
It was created in the 15th century for St Camilla Battista da Varano, a princess-turned-nun who had visions of the Madonna kissing the Christ Child. St Camilla Battista was canonised in 2010.
During the Renaissance era, many Italian women had similar dolls
which they dressed and cared for to mimic the Virgin Mary’s bond with
the baby Jesus.
Every year, hundreds of people make pilgrimage to the church where the doll is kept to kiss it during the feast of the Epiphany.
The exhibition will also feature three groups of ex-voto paintings
from the 15th and 16th centuries, none of which have ever been on
display in Britain before.
Ex-voto paintings were created as offerings
to the Church in acts of gratitude or devotion.
The exhibition aims
to challenge the “idea of the Renaissance as an age of increasing
worldliness” and “shows how religion remained a powerful force that
coloured every aspect of daily life”.
“Across the length and breadth of Italy, houses were filled with
decorative objects and works of art with spiritual significance,
designed to aid members of the family in their devotional lives,”
according to promotional material.
“Madonnas and Miracles: The Holy Home in Renaissance Italy” began this past Tuesday, March 7, until June 4.