Votive Offerings (Ex-Votos)

Ex-voto in silver, embossed with a top slot, 19th century, Gallerie Guglielmo Tabacchi – Safilo Museum
Ex-voto in silver, embossed with a top slot, 19th century, Gallerie Guglielmo Tabacchi – Safilo Museum
Votive offering, painted on wood, perhaps southern Germany, or northern Italy, 1839
Votive offering, painted on wood, perhaps southern Germany, or northern Italy, 1839
Ex-voto – eyes, silver, 5 x 12 cm, 1836, Josip (Joseph) Haller (probably a Croat), Diocesan Museum, Zagreb, foto: Dr. Daniiel Herceg, 1998
Ex-voto – eyes, silver, 5 x 12 cm, 1836, Josip (Joseph) Haller (probably a Croat), Diocesan Museum, Zagreb, foto: Dr. Daniiel Herceg, 1998
Votives in gold and silver bought to buy grace in heaven. These were often hung in churches to offer thanks to God for during eye afflictions
Votives in gold and silver bought to buy grace in heaven. These were often hung in churches to offer thanks to God for during eye afflictions

+ Larger Font | - Smaller Font

Exvoto is a Spanish word meaning votive offering. The word comes from the Latin, meaning "out of a promise or vow" and these votive offerings are given or dedicated in fulfillment of a vow or pledge, or expressing a wish or desire. It is most commonly a personal thank you note to God, often taking the form of folk art. In most cases, the exvoto explains why the giver is giving thanks - what God did for him or her. An exvoto has to show the saint who they asked for some favour (typically to be cured of an ailment), and also the date and the person who was cured or asked to be cured. The most common reason for thanks is health, with many exvotos dedicated after operations. Survival of accidents is a close second. The exvoto is most often left at the site of a shrine or a healing well. Many are requests (even thank yous) just left at an altar. They are very public, yet very personal, professions of faith in God.

An exvoto or votive offering is an expression of thanks, dedicated to a cured part of the body (in this realm we are referring to the eyes). They are made of silver, wax, or painted on a panel. They are brought out of gratitude, displayed at the church. Prior to the advent of the eye-care professional they were the only recourse for those suffering from eye problems; basically praying was all that was available in early times. Poorer folk centuries ago likely offered ex votives on perishable material, not being able to afford better, none having survived.

The concept of a votive offering has been around for a few thousand years and in many cases, they tell a very touching story. This personal story is what makes them so fascinating.

Slideshow – Paintings

Slideshow – Ex-voto, Silver

Slideshow - Ex-voto, Other Materials


Home ] Introduction & News ] History & References ] Identification & Preservation ] Public Collections & Virtual Museum ] Interesting Topics ] Education & Games ] Links ] About Us ]