The Visual Culture of Revelation: Visions and the Images that Reveal Them
It is often thought that since remote, rare, and ephemeral events such as apparitions are not available to the direct observation of scholars, the question of their nature as events must be set aside in scholarly inquiry. This results in a focus on meaning that can ignore the qualities of the event as reported and as apprehended by devotional imagery that emerges over time to provide access to the event and its relevance for devotional practice. It also encourages concepts of revelation that are not able to consider the event as a visual form of experience and regard revelation itself as something that must be either true or false. This essay proceeds otherwise, arguing that revelation is not a single, closed event, but an ongoing visual process in which sketchy schemata interact with fixed imagery to interpret the event in an ongoing history of iconography and visual interpretation. The essay focuses on the visuality of devotion to Our Lady of Fátima as a case study in how seeing works and imagery functions to make revelation a visual process whose devotional life is ongoing.
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