Perpetual Devotion: A Sixteenth-Century Machine That Prays

Elizabeth King

in Genesis Redux

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print August 2007 | ISBN: 9780226720807
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226720838 | DOI:
Perpetual Devotion: A Sixteenth-Century Machine That Prays

Show Summary Details


This chapter portrays the power of an artificial being to provoke a response in “Perpetual Devotion.” A portrait of Diego de Alcalá is reported. It is believed that Diego's saintly attributes are precisely the small cross and rosary. The automaton monk may be small and portable, but to consider it a toy presents an awkward dilemma for the interpretation of its performance. Artists have long understood the dangers of an overdetermined verisimilitude, for too much realism (or too visible an effort to achieve it) can halt the imaginative motion of the viewer. Size is always a matter of weight and material: the nature of a thing is often a consequence of pure conditional imperative. The story of San Diego, even if no more than contemporary to the monk, helps us to see how invested this machine is with the burden of faith.

Keywords: Perpetual Devotion; Diego de Alcalá; cross; rosary; automaton monk; faith

Chapter.  11570 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.