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The Many Faces of Vincent: A New Digital Collection of Vincentian Holy Cards

by Andrew Rea 3/22/2013 8:39:00 AM

A typical holy card from the late 19th centuryDePaul University Libraries is proud to announce a new digital collection of over 200 Catholic holy cards featuring St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, the Congregation of the Mission, and the Daughters of Charity. These cards span two centuries, feature several languages, and reveal the trends and shifts in the iconography of St. Vincent and other important Catholic figures. They also give a fascinating glimpse into the history and distribution of Catholic material culture after the invention of lithography in the late 18th century.

You can visit the collection here.

Catholic holy cards are small religious images roughly the size of a playing card. They most often depict a Catholic saint, religious scene, or Biblical story, and are blessed by priests for the use by the faithful. The reverse side usually contains a prayer or other devotional text.

An earlier example of a St. Vincent holy cardThese holy cards most frequently show Vincent interacting with children or infants, which is undoubtedly his most popular iconographic depiction. However, while this portrayal is popular now, it was uncommon prior to the French Revolution of the late 18th century. Early examples of Vincent de Paul holy cards depict the saint holding a large crucifix or cross, the pose of a Catholic evangelist (one who preaches the Christian Gospel). After France’s revolution, and the secularization of the French government, Vincent’s iconography shifted to share a more secular goal: assisting those in need, foremost among whom were innocent children.  

DePaul’s collection of holy cards represents only a small portion of DePaul University's Vincentian Studies Collection, which includes other digital collections, as well as books, serials, maps, archival material, illustrations and art objects, and large collection of ephemera. The Vincentian Studies Collection supports both international research of Vincentian Studies and University's Catholic and Vincentian identities.

The Vincentian Studies Collection currently resides at DePaul University’s John T. Richardson Library, in Special Collections and Archives (room 314). For more information on the collection, please visit DePaul Libraries' Vincentian Research Guide.


DePaul Digital Collection of Vincentian Holy Cards:


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