Definitions

Ex-voto

Ex-voto

[eks-voh-toh]
An ex-voto is a votive offering to a saint or divinity. It is given in fulfillment of a vow (hence the Latin term, short for ex voto suscepto, "from the vow made") or in gratitude or devotion. Ex-votos are placed in a church or chapel where the worshipper seeks grace or wishes to give thanks. The destinations of pilgrimages often include shrines decorated with ex-votos.

Ex-votos can take a wide variety of forms. They are not only intended for the helping figure, but also as a testimony to later visitors of the received help. As such they may include texts explaining a miracle attributed to the helper, or symbols such as a painted or modeled reproduction of a miraculously healed body part, or a directly related item such as a crutch given by a person formerly lame. In the church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde in Marseille, France, the site of a major local pilgrimage, the ex-votos include paintings, plaques, model boats, war medals and even football shirts given by players and supporters of Olympique de Marseille, the local team. In a corner of the basilica of Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal there is a tall wall with thousands of crutches and other supports from those Brother André supposedly healed. Pope John Paul II recognized the authenticity of the miracles and beatified Brother André in 1982.

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