An ex-voto is a votive offering to a saint or to a divinity. It is given in fulfillment of a vow (hence the Latin term, short for ex voto suscepto, "from the vow made") or in gratitude or devotion. Ex-votos are placed in a church or chapel where the worshiper seeks grace or wishes to give thanks. The destinations of pilgrimages often include shrines decorated with ex-votos.
Ex-votos can take a wide variety of forms. They are not only intended for the helping figure, but also as a testimony to later visitors of the received help. As such they may include texts explaining a miracle attributed to the helper, or symbols such as a painted or modeled reproduction of a miraculously healed body part, or a directly related item such as a crutch given by a person formerly lame. There are places where a very old tradition of depositing ex-votos existed, such as Abydos in ancient Egypt.
A few examples
In the church of Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseille, France, the site of a major local pilgrimage, the ex-votos include paintings, plaques, model boats, war medals and even football shirts given by players and supporters of Olympique de Marseille, the local team. The magnificent Lod mosaic is thought to be an ex-voto expressing gratitude for rescue from a shipwreck. In the long Votive Chapel of Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, there are fixed on iron grilles hundreds of crutches, canes and braces left behind by pilgrims who claimed to have received a healing while meeting with Brother André, CSC. Pope Benedict XVI recognized the authenticity of the miracles and canonized Saint André Bessette in 2011.
- Votive tablets to Saint Mary in Himmerod Abbey, Germany
- A model ship (probably thanking help during a storm) hanging in a Söderköping church.
- Ex-votos in the Lady Chapel of Jasna Góra, Częstochowa
- Several body parts in a Cypriot plaque from the Roman age.
- Roadside Votivtafeln, Ganz, East Tirol
- Ex voto plaques in Rome, Italy, on a wall publicly exposed on the street.
- History of Egypt Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria in the Light of Recent Discovery, L. W. King, H. R. Hall, Echo Library, 2008
- A suggested reconstruction of one of the merchant ships on the mosaic floor in Lod (Lydda) Israel, Elie Haddad and Miriam Avissar , The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology (2003) 32. I: 73-77
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ex voto.|
- Everyday Miracles: Medical Imagery in Ex-Votos National Library of Medicine.
- Marine french ex-voto of Marseille (France)