Sacrifice and Conversion between Europe and the New World

Thomas Gruber's picture
April 19, 2018 to April 20, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Early Modern History and Period Studies, Latin American and Caribbean History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology

Villa I Tatti - The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence (Italy)


From Tupinambá anthropophagi to ‘bloodthirsty Aztecs’ or ‘child-killing Incas’, American (human) sacrifices flooded the European imagination in the sixteenth century. In Europe, these images interacted with a heated debate about salvation, the Eucharist, and the role of sacrifice within Christianity. Far from being restricted to universities, monasteries or courts, this debate penetrated European societies at every level and informed the violent struggles of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

This conference will address the various ways in which images and discourses on American sacrificial practices impacted the religious debates taking place in Europe in the sixteenth century and, conversely, how these debates affected the perception and interpretation of American sacrifice. At the same time, it will examine the extent to which European conceptions of these sacrificial practices influenced projects and processes of Christian conversion.