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Signs of Mental Disorder in Late Medieval Visual Evidence

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Chapter Summary

Images are an important part of any communication. They transmit, among other messages, social, cultural, religious, economic, scientific, or political ideas. They help people, both senders and receivers, to recognise, to understand, to teach, to warn, to emotionalize, and so on. This chapter concentrates on such visual evidence, its signs, symbolic character, patterns, and their development, which were, in a religious context, mainly meant for a more or less learned public of non-specialists in the field of medicine: from members of monastic houses to the broad scope of churchgoers of different social, cultural, and intellectual levels. Usually visual representation of mental disorder characterises the depicted persons as either negative or positive, to be helped or healed, mostly by the intercession of saints. Saints, for instance, can be traced in votive images or depictions of miracles that had happened at pilgrimages, mainly from the end of the fifteenth century onwards.

Keywords: mental disorder; religious context; signs; visual evidence



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