Chloe Kellow

PhD student

Thesis: A cumulative work of art: the silver Altar of Saint James, Pistoia, (1287-1456) expanded, reconfigured, restaged

Supervised by Prof. Joanna Cannon and Dr Jessica Barker.

Funded by AHRC/CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership.

My thesis examines the Altar of Saint James, a complex metalwork structure that furnished a chapel dedicated to the saint in the Cattedrale di San Zeno, Pistoia. In the mid-twelfth century, the Bishop of Pistoia acquired a relic of Saint James (a small fragment of bone) from Santiago de Compostela, enabling Pistoia to establish itself as a principal centre for the cult of Saint James.

A gleaming display of silver and gold, the Altar of Saint James conveys an outward impression of uniformity which belies a complex history of construction, reuse and restoration. The Altar evolved through a series of successive commissions from 1287 to 1456, involving around twelve iterations and sixteen named goldsmiths from across Central Italy. The silver ensemble, with silver-gilt elements, incorporates thirty-three historiated panels, seventy-seven high-relief figures and sixty-four enamelled plaques.

My research connects the Altar to a late medieval landscape of sacred metalwork projects and burgeoning Italian shrines. Through examination of the evolving structure of the Altar as a ‘cumulative’ object, my thesis explores how the development of the Altar of Saint James from 1287 to 1456, provides insight into the changing practices, priorities and tastes associated with relics, and the objects dedicated to them.


2018 – present: The Courtauld Institute of Art, PhD

2016 – 2017: The Courtauld Institute of Art, MA (Distinction)

– Special Topic: Seeing Sienese Art, Prof. Joanna Cannon

– Dissertation: The Meditative and Devotional Possibilities of the Imagined Journey: The Reliquary of Holy Corporal at Orvieto

2012 – 2015: University of Oxford, BA, English Language and English Literature

Research Interests

  • Italian metalwork, sculpture, painting and architecture (1250-1450)
  • The cult of St James in Italy
  • Real and imagined pilgrimage
  • Late medieval relic cults and the display of relics
  • Reliquaries, cult images and processions
  • ‘Cumulative’ objects
  • The afterlives of objects
  • Reuse of materials
  • The history of collecting and displaying medieval objects