Beneath the Banner of the Cross: What You Missed

Today’s post was written by library student assistant Lia Chen.

I was delighted to attend the opening event for the William H. Hannon Library’s spring 2022 exhibit, “Beneath the Banner of the Cross: The Global Vision of the Early Jesuits.” This is a student-curated exhibit, in which students in Professor Woodson-Boulton’s HIST 4910 course explored and researched Jesuit artifacts from the 16th-19th centuries.

During the event, a panel of three students explained their respective processes in choosing their object to analyze. Although the majority of these books and manuscripts were in Latin, the students were able to access and interpret them through the use of translating devices and through the use of images. I discovered that many of the chosen objects were pictures because language was not a barrier.

I was fascinated by the variety of pictures and scripts that the students found and displayed for this exhibit. A particular picture that stood out to me was of a Jesuit wearing traditional Indian clothing. I was intrigued by the picture because the Jesuit was wearing white robes, as opposed to their usual black attire.

Madeline Diehl, a junior student majoring in history and minoring in political science, investigated this picture and highlighted that Jesuits “dressed differently in the different places they established missions to emulate the culture.” The reasoning behind this was the strategy of “accommodation,” in which the Jesuits would “implement local culture and tradition into their teachings.” I found this concept particularly interesting because Madeline explored how accommodation could be both a force of good, by connecting with the communities, but also could be a force of colonialism and appropriation. This brings out the complexity of history and how anything can really have multiple stories and meanings attached to it.

I would strongly encourage students, faculty, and staff to walk through this exhibit displayed on level 3 of the William H. Hannon Library in the Terrance L. Mahan, S.J. Gallery. In addition to the objects displayed, there are student-written captions and audio guides to enhance the learning experience. There is so much to be discovered through these artifacts of Jesuit history and their global reach. There is also an online companion website that you can explore.