Medieval relics have the uncanny capacity to pleat time: to bring past and present into close relationship. In the sixteenth century, Protestant reformers attacked the cult of relics – objects that claimed to carry the “touch” of the past – in search of a greater truth about the medieval past. This process is analogous to many of the influential formations of medievalism, and the construction of the medieval period as the other to rational modernity. At the same time, the reformers’ discourse about relics was not absolute: this chapter argues that belief and disbelief are not binary opposites but are held in complex and enabling tension. Reformist thinkers and writers were suspicious of the medieval (that is, Catholic) capacity to be constantly re-making the past: that is, to be engaging in medievalism. But relics and reliquaries depend on the category of “wonder”, which resists conventional historical ontologies, and opens up such categories to the study of cultural affects.
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