From the Latin meaning “from a vow,” ex-votos are small offerings created to ask deities for favors or
to thank them for help. Ex-votos can take the form of a painting, sculpture, or similar item. They are found all
through the ancient world but in more modern times have evolved into milagros.
Milagros, Spanish for miracles, evolved in Western Europe as small pressed metal objects shaped to resemble
body parts that require healing. Hands, feet, hearts, and eyes can all be found constructed out of tin, brass, and silver. Milagros are rubbed on the body parts they represent and then used to ask patron saints for cures or to thank them
for a miracle. Catholic conquistadores brought the practice to the Americas where it still thrives in some churches
and at home altars. Shown above are two examples of ex-votos used for the treating eye disease.
Courtesy of the Foundation of the American Academy of
Ophthalmology’s Museum of Vision and museumofvision.org.