Skip to main content

The Role and Significance of the Religious Confraternities in the Early Modern Art in the Slovenian Lands

Basic Info


Confraternities represent a challenge also in field of art history, since their activities are reflected in the artistic sphere as well as in the wider sphere of cultural history. Similarly as ecclesiastic orders, confraternities played an important role in connecting European religious, cultural and artistic space; studying their role in Slovene sacred art is therefore also a contribution to the European artistic-historical knowledge.
Proposed project is the first systematic research into artistic role of confraternities in Slovenia in their historical context, devotional practice and social mission (charity). Beside commissions by confraternities function of works of art will be discussed, so next to architecture, sculpture and painting also scenery of rituals and spectacles (festive and penitential processions) will be drawn into analysis. A wide span of themes is concerned from sacred and social buildings with their painted and sculptural furnishings to devotional objects and visual elements of the liturgy and processions. Special attention will be paid to confraternities’ images, their symbolical role and devotional usage. Characteristic iconography will be studied, which is particularly determined by themes of (happy) Death and Eternity (saving souls from purgatory).
Research will investigate confraternities in Slovenia from Tridentine Council to Second Vatican Council. Main stress will be on Baroque period until the abolishment of confraternities in 1783 by Emperor Joseph II; their revival from Catholic Restoration to the reforms of Vatican II will also be studied. Main aspect of research will be artistic-historical, other aspects, particularly religious and sociologic will also be taken into consideration. 
Attention will be focused on the role of confraternities as commissioners of works of art. Research will evaluate confraternities’ merits in initiating and spreading of iconographic types and themes, related to their heavenly patrons. Reception of iconographic types will be studied which central arch-confraternities mediated to associated members; attention will be drawn to local derivations which modified the adopted themes resp. enriched them with special accents. Question of the quality of works of art resp. artistic ambitions of congregations will be discussed; research will try to establish correlation between confraternities’ material basis and their artistic activities. Role of benefactors will be studied whose donations contributed to the number and quality of works of art. 
Main attention will be paid to the artists who carried out confraternities’ commissions.
Analysis will include the whole Slovene territory; main stress will be on the former Habsburg lands, while the region under Venetian Republic, where confraternities were abolished only in 1806 by the French, will mostly be attracted comparatively. Special attention will be given to confraternities linked to particular orders who used special symbols for the members as a token of affiliation. Increase of the number of confraternities in course of time will be analysed, a survey of their patron saints will be made and the relation between these patrons and people’s needs in concrete circumstances (e g. plague, war, fire, wine-growing areas) will be investigated. Results of the research will link numerous works of art into wider thematic resp. iconographic complexes, which will make understanding of Slovenian sacred art more integral and deepen comprehension of its religious and social functions. Research will include study of literature, field examining and cataloguing, critical comparative analysis of gathered materials, interpretation and synthesis as well as preparing results for publishing. Due to the fragmentary hitherto knowledge of the subjects in question and to the extensive territory, the research will be demanding; critical approach and references of the researchers participating guarantee high quality of results.