The ex -voto as symbol of faith and survival

Marjorie Atwood, Salve Regina University


Prehistorically and historically throughout human experience, man has looked to the supernatural for rescue from disaster and for favor of many kinds. Man's quest for supernatural assistance may be identified as early as the Paleolithic Age. The search for the sacred is thought to be related to cave painting found in cave “sanctuaries” in petition for success in hunting. Later civilizations (North Africa, Mesopotamia and the Greek Archipelago) reflect further developments of this human endeavor. The Jewish tradition and early Christian votive offerings bring an additional wealth of testimony. The Christian cult of the saints was accompanied by the construction of sanctuaries and the popularization of pilgrimages to them. Local festivities in honor of a sacred personage were also celebrated with song and dance. These romerias were similar to larger scale pilgrimages but were generally more geographically concentrated. Testimony of the human need for divine support is reflected by the emergence of the ex-voto, a symbol of humanity's recognition of the necessity for supernatural assistance in its constant pursuit of faith and survival.

Subject Area

Art History|Religious history

Recommended Citation

Atwood, Marjorie, "The ex -voto as symbol of faith and survival" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI3042380.