The Cult of St. Roch in Castelli (Abruzzo) and the Earthenware anatomical ex Voto

Alessandro Bencivenga, Gianluca Di Luigi


Ex voto are devotional objects, widely used in Italy as a form of prayer or wish, or as thanksgiving for a grace received. In a broader historical perspective, votive offerings are hung in Greek, Etruscan, Roman shrines and later in churches or to show gratitude for miracles obtained, healing from illness or infirmity, or as a simple supplication and prayer.
The ex voto here presented seem to be unique in the world: made of majolica, they come from the church of St. Roch in Castelli (Abruzzo). They depict breast benign and malignant lesions (mastitis, abscess, fat necrosis, inflammatory cancer, infiltrating carcinoma) in three dimensions, performing an accurate and personalized portrait of breast diseases (in some cases with the depicted name of the sick woman), showing fine details of each disease, and demonstrating accurate knowledge of the female anatomy and pathology.

Key words: Abruzzo - Ex voto - Breast disease - St. Roch

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