Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2016

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



My dissertation considers the late-medieval rise of the Holy House of Loreto, a major shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the March of Ancona, and the development of its regional sacred economy through pious bequests, gifts of cash and objects, and property donations. In a region located within the hinterlands of the Papal State, fragmented by geography and internal political strife, the Holy House rose to great economic and political prominence as it developed into a regional focus for devotees. I examine this economic rise in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to demonstrate the pervasiveness of the Marian economy in daily economic transactions such as testamentary gifts, rent payments, taxation, and wool markets. The notarial protocols located at the Archivio di Stato di Macerata provide the quantitative and qualitative basis for this study, and allow for a thorough reconstruction of a medieval sacred economy in both its urban and rural aspects. In this spiritual economy, devotion to the Madonna in life and in preparation for death structured lived reality. One cannot understand inheritance patterns or the social meaning of wealth without also taking into account the cult of saints.

To date, no one has yet examined the cache of wills connected with the Holy House or with its sacred economy. Because wills survive in large numbers, and because their structure remained stable over the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, they lend themselves to quantitative analysis. Gifts of property, monetary donations, burial requests, miracles, demonstrate individual relationships to the Madonna. Such an approach indicates whether men or women, the rich or the poor, or those of Balkan or Italian origin were more likely to donate to Loreto. The social patterns illuminated in the database of testaments, the foundational evidence for my dissertation project, show that thinking about death, providing for the Virgin, and the relationship between the two structured everyday life.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Daniel Bornstein

Committee Members

Philip Gavitt, Christine Johnson, Mark Pegg, William Wallace,


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7W66J25

Available for download on Friday, May 15, 2116