Saturday, January 5, 2019

Karin Vélez's "The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto"

Karin Vélez is associate professor of history at Macalester College.

Here she dreamcasts a movie based on her new book, The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto: Spreading Catholicism in the Early Modern World:
While Hollywood movies feature a surprising number of houses these days, few of the houses of the silver screen have the chops to play the miraculous Holy House of Loreto. Two candidates immediately spring to mind because they have already demonstrated that they can fly: Dorothy’s house in the original 1939 Wizard of Oz and the house in the 2009 animated feature Up. Dorothy’s house has more star power, but unlike Loreto’s Holy House, it is best known for falling on and killing the Witch of the East—a darker claim to fame than the Holy House, which is known for being the original house of the Virgin Mary, mysteriously flown from the Holy Land to Italy in the thirteenth century without squashing anyone upon landing. The house in Up better embodies the situation and the varied historical movements of the Holy House of Loreto. It was also an old, cherished home in need of rescue. Likewise in Up, the house’s means of propulsion were varied and prosaic to the point of amusement: it was shifted by a bunch of balloons, a large bird, an old man and a boy. As discussed in my book, the Holy House of Loreto was transported, dispersed and replicated in hard copy by a similarly unexpected and unsolicited cast of Jesuits, Slavic migrants, and Huron, Moxos and Monquí Indians. It leapt the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas and the Atlantic Ocean at the hands of these self-appointed assistants.

Another necessary casting call for The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto would be for Mary, the Christian icon and renowned Holy Mother of Jesus. I would start by casting Hollywood leading ladies Maria Bello, Mary Steenburgen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Mary Alfred Thoma, Maria Valverde, and Mary Stuart Masterson in no particular order. In Chapter 6 of my book, I argue that Huron, French, Spanish and English women of the 1600s and 1700s who coincidentally shared the name Mary ended up inadvertently influencing artistic depictions of the Virgin Mary. A great way to illustrate this on the movie screen would be to cast a different actress called Mary to play Jesus’ mother every time she makes a new entrance. The most famous Mary of all could thus be literally rendered as a composite creation of many diverse, often unrelated women who share her name.
Learn more about The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue