History of Art


Matilde Mosterts de Banfield

PhD supervisor: Prof. Bob Mills
Working title for PhD: The Problem with Paxes: Touch, Relationality and Cross-Temporal Comparisons.

My research focuses on medieval paxes. These little, often bejewelled para-liturgical objects present themselves to us in a wide variety of materials. Although we know paxes were kissed during mass between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, they tend to complicate their own definitions and perform complex ontologies. My project addresses the methodological problems of studying paxes historiographies, as these often do not allow us to understand in full the phenomenological affect they had on the believers who kissed them. Paxes point, despite the limited documentation surrounding them, to complex interplays of touch and sight as seen in relation to eucharistic theology. This thesis observes how placing paxes in ‘conversation’ with contemporary artworks can offer a new way of thinking about and studying medieval visuality. Paxes are treated as off-modern objects, in the words of critical theorist and artist Svetlana Boym, to question values of periodisation.

Paxes are quite often found in museums amongst other liturgical objects. They are small and each example differs slightly from the others, which complicates categorisation. However, if a tablet with a surrounding frame and handle at the back shows considerable sign of haptic wear, this could be a pax. Anyone who finds a pax in a museum and would like to contribute to the locating and gathering of data on paxes, please feel free to send an image of the pax, its display, and the museum label at matilde.banfield.21@ucl.ac.uk.


  • UCL Studentship for postgraduate work in the Department History of Art