Professor Jack Freiberg will present “The Image of Pity in Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and the Catholic Monarchs” at the 59th annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in San Diego in April. Freiberg’s paper is part of the session “Before and After 1453: Preserving, Promoting, and Presenting Sacred Heritage between East and West” on Saturday, April 6. The session was organized by FSU alumni Timothy B. Smith of Birmingham-Southern College and Tanja L. Jones of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Freiberg’s paper investigates how the prominent Byzantine mosaic icon of Christ known as the Imago Pietatis (Image of Pity) became charged with new devotional and political meanings when it was brought to Rome toward the end of the fourteenth century, and how a century later those meanings were enlisted to honor the king and queen of Spain, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castile. This study forms part of Freiberg’s broader investigation of Spanish royal patronage in Renaissance Rome.
The Byzantine mosaic icon of Christ preserved in the Roman basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme is distinguished among the many eastern objects that migrated to the West during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries by its legendary association with Pope Gregory the Great. The process of promoting the icon as the one Gregory had created to immortalize the vision of Christ he experienced while celebrating Mass, and how that process formed part of a broader campaign to honor Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castile provide the themes of Freiberg’s paper. In the wake of the fall of Constantinople, and the ongoing struggle to defend the faith, the eastern icon was identified as a western relic attesting to the power of faith and as a politicized image pointing to the Christian recovery of Jerusalem.