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Black Saints in Early Modern Global Catholicism
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Book description

From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, Spanish and Portuguese monarchs launched global campaigns for territory and trade. This process spurred two efforts that reshaped the world: missions to spread Christianity to the four corners of the globe, and the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. These efforts joined in unexpected ways to give rise to black saints. Erin Kathleen Rowe presents the untold story of how black saints - and the slaves who venerated them - transformed the early modern church. By exploring race, the Atlantic slave trade, and global Christianity, she provides new ways of thinking about blackness, holiness, and cultural authority. Rowe transforms our understanding of global devotional patterns and their effects on early modern societies by looking at previously unstudied sculptures and paintings of black saints, examining the impact of black lay communities, and analysing controversies unfolding in the church about race, moral potential, enslavement, and salvation.


‘Black Saints in Early Modern Catholicism shifts our framings but also the optics for conceiving of early-modern black religiosity. An impressive project that conceptually and methodologically engages Black Catholicism in a refreshing manner. A deeply rewarding study for readers of early-modern Europe and Latin America’s past.'

Herman L. Bennett - Graduate School and University Center, City University of New York

‘Black Saints is the first full-length study of this neglected phenomenon; it is a major contribution to the study of global Christianity in the early modern centuries.’

R. Po-chia Hsia - Pennsylvania State University

‘This exciting new book sheds new light upon the intersections of early modern ideas about race with Catholic belief and practice. Drawing upon extensive archival research and an extraordinary collection of heretofore unstudied images, Rowe uncovers the central role of Afro-Iberians in shaping Catholic devotional culture around the globe.’

A. Katie Stirling-Harris - University of California, Davis

‘After a quest which has taken her (and her photographer father) from Palermo to Peru, via Portugal and Spain, Erin Kathleen Rowe has written and richly illustrated a book that will become essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand how sacred blackness was constructed and circulated in a Transatlantic world.’

Simon Ditchfield - University of York

‘Rowe successfully argues that looking at the struggles and holiness of these many saints leads one into a deeper, more profound sense of what it means to be holy. The uniqueness of this book lies in Rowe's method: she makes her case by examining many of the works of art and devotionals of the time. Replete with a multitude of references to (and illustrations of) black saints, this book will prove valuable for those interested in the theology of the early modern period or the sociology of religion broadly.’

A. Jaeger Source: Choice

‘… this book is an indispensable contribution to Black Catholic history.'

Bianca Lopez Source: Comptes Rendus

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