Embodied Objects: A Digital Exploration of Women, Space, and Power in the Monza Holy Land Ampullae

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During the Late Antique and Early Byzantine periods, women were fundamental to the expansion and development of the Christian religion. While many sources detailing the lives of these individuals have been lost, the objects owned by elite women may provide answers where text cannot. A collection of lead flasks belonging to Theodelinda (c. 570-627), a seventh century Lombard queen, present an opportunity to study how women exercised power through patronage.The Monza collection has been analyzed extensively as the remaining material culture of early Christian pilgrimage. Although the material, creation, and decoration allude to the Holy Land, the flasks have been housed in northern Italy since their acquisition by the Queen Theodelinda. Art historical and archaeological works have mostly sought to tie the visual traits of individual objects to their role in pilgrimage. Other aspects, such as the collection’s relation to space and role in patronage, are less apparent and therefore have been under investigated. Until we understand these facets, knowledge of the flasks and their owner, Theodelinda, will remain limited. This thesis aims to reconsider the spatial significance of the ampullae through Theodelinda’s perspective. Building from previous literature, the project combines analog and digital approaches to form new perspectives on the collection. Maps created with ESRI’s ArcGIS contextualize the ampullae within the larger spheres of seventh century Holy Land pilgrimage and medieval queenship. A model constructed from images of ampullae of the Aedicule in the Holy Sepulchre using SketchUp and Unity visualizes one way that the symbolic iconography may have been viewed by Theodelinda. Through this multi-dimensional, visual approach to space, a better understanding of the affordances of digital and analog methods may be achieved, as well as a greater comprehension of the power of the Monza Ampullae and, in turn, their owner, Theodelinda.





Pinchbeck, Clara Garmisa (2020). Embodied Objects: A Digital Exploration of Women, Space, and Power in the Monza Holy Land Ampullae. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/22220.


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