Art History: can the noun 'translation' be used meaning 'transportaton' of the House of Loreto?
Thread poster: Susan Brodar

Susan Brodar
Local time: 17:23
Italian to English
+ ...
Apr 5, 2016

I am translating from Italian into English about the Miracle of the Holy House of Loreto when, according to legend, the Virgin Mary's house in Nazareth was miraculously transported in 1291 from the Holy Land to Loreto in Italy.

In Italian the word is 'traslazione' which I would translate with 'transportation' but all the Italian websites write "the translation of the Holy House" which I consider wrong. Have they all been copying each other or is it possible to say this in old English? I can't find any reference to it in dictionaries.

Any opinions would be appreciated. Thanks, Susan


Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:23
Member (2012)
French to English
According to my Oxford Concise Dictionary Apr 5, 2016

Yes, although the word translation is most commonly used for the process of translating languages, it is also used in a formal or technical sense to mean "the process of moving something from one place to another".

See definition 3 here:

The word comes from the Latin for "carrying across".


Local time: 17:23
Italian to English
religious language has its own traditions Apr 5, 2016

Sure, translation is correct English here and from what I can see it is the common formula used in reputable modern English publications. (I'm not looking at Italian websites, but rather Google Books examples like in: Art, Gender and Religious Devotion in Grand Ducal Tuscany.) I'm sure you are familiar with many religious scenes and events that use what seems to be very archaic language (probably all from Latin?) but that we are just more accustomed to. Think of the Assumption, the Nativity, the Annunciation, ...or how about the Decollation, etc. There are lots of very obscure ones and translation, admittedly, is one of them.


neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:23
Spanish to English
+ ...
How archaic do you want it to be? Apr 5, 2016

Unless you're thinking of "doing an Umberto Eco", I would avoid such recondite archaisms and use a more modern and understandable term, such as "transfer".


United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Neptunia Apr 5, 2016

Most educated people will know what Assumption, Nativity and Annunciation mean, but most won't have heard of this particular legend - I hadn't - so "translation" will sound odd.

Susan: "Transportation" makes me think of putting it on the back of a truck and laboriously hauling it across Europe. You could say "Miraculous transportation". Your job is to make it easy for the reader to understand what the picture is about, even if they don't have it in front of them.


Local time: 17:23
Italian to English
it depends on the kind of text and audience Apr 5, 2016

It IS an obscure meaning of the word translation, and I had to look it up too, but I wouldn't be so quick to abandon it. There is a Feast of the Translation (Dec. 10) and other instances of relics being translated.
It has a specific meaning and it is correctly used here which is what the OP was initially questioning. Depending on whether or not this is just an aside on a hotel brochure or something more substantial with art historical content, maybe it could be seen as a teachable moment in which the text includes a phrase like "the miraculous movement of the house from X to Y, called the Translation,..." If this involves a specific work of art with a title that includes the word Translation, I certainly wouldn't change it.


Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:23
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Transubstantiate(d) Apr 5, 2016

Traslazione can be 'transubstantiation' though it is mostly used for the changing of the host into the body and blood of Christ during Mass. There is another definition but it does not fit the little context you provided- Your context suggests 'transportation'; however it is a suggestion to clarify maybe

[Edited at 2016-04-05 17:24 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-04-05 17:25 GMT]


Peter Nicholson  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:23
Polish to English
How St Clement got lost in translation Apr 5, 2016

It is not difficult to answer this question. Take, for example, Julia Verkholantsev’s The Slavic Letters of St. Jerome: The History of the Legend and Its Legacy, or, How the Translator of the Vulgate Became an Apostle of the Slavs, winner of the Early Slavic Studies Association Book Prize of the Early Slavic Studies Association for 2015. Cynics might think there can’t have been a great many books published on early Slavic studies in 2015, but this thought should not be allowed to detract from the fact that the book is remarkable for its extremely thorough research and quite brilliant analysis.

In her book, Dr Verkholantsev makes several references to the removal of Jerome’s relics from Bethlehem to Rome, calling this event a ‘translation’: ‘The origin of the remarkable outbreak of popular devotion to St Jerome at the end of the thirteenth century may be traced to the ecclesiastical circle of the Papal Basilica of St Maria Maggiore and is related to the discovery of Jerome’s relics and their translation from Bethlehem to Rome’ (p. 3).

It is interesting to see the terms she uses as she continues:

‘The Basilica of St Maria Maggiore, also known as St Maria ad Praesepem (St Mary of the Crib) already housed a relic of the Holy Crib from the cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which was moved there after Palestine had fallen to the Arabs in the seventh century. A document, written in the 1290s and titled Translatio corporis beati Hieronymi (The Translation of the Remains of St Jerome), tells the story of how Jerome, who had allegedly been buried at the entrance to the cave of the Nativity, appeared in the dream of a monk and ordered him to exhume his remains and rebury them in St Maria Maggiore, next to the Holy Crib. In the dream, Jerome explained that he desired to leave Bethlehem, occupied by the infidels, and to return to Rome. Jerome’s intervention in the fate of his remains as described in this document was intended to explain the sudden appearance of the relics in Rome and to provide legitimacy to the clergy’s claim to the rightful ownership of these relics. The transfer of Jerome’s relics to St Maria Maggiore signified distinction for the clergy of the Basilica and the display of God’s blessing of the Roman see and its people’ (pp. 3-4).

It is also important to note the Latin word translatio, as well as the fact that Susan’s question is about an alleged miraculous event, whereas the translation of Jerome’s relics is said to have been effected by human effort.

Another book which is helpful here is Cyril and Methodius of Thessalonica: The Acculturation of the Slavs by Antoni-Emil Tachiaos. We should not assume the language used in this book is ‘archaic’, because it was published in 2001. Similarly, we should not be distracted by the fact that the author is apparently not a native speaker of English – the book was published by a highly specialised publisher in the United States and undoubtedly benefited from a very high standard of professional editing. Page 79 of Tachiaos’ book reproduces a fresco found in the Basilica San Clemente in Rome, with the caption ‘The translation of the relics of St Clement. A copy of an 11th c. wall painting in the saint’s church in Rome’. Page 81 shows an enlarged section of the painting, accompanied by the caption ‘Detail of the translation of the relics of St Clement, showing Cyril and Methodius with pope Adrian’.

The plot takes a real twist in the published translation of the Life of Constantine, found in Martin Kantor’s Medieval Slavic Lives of Saints and Princes. (Just to make things perfectly clear, Cyril the brother of Methodius was also known as Constantine.) The Life includes a description of Cyril’s funeral procession. There is no doubt that this was a translation, in which his body was removed from a Greek monastery in Rome to the Basilica of St Clement, but the word ‘translation’ is not used in the Kantor text because the Life was originally written in Church Slavonic using the Glagolitic alphabet, and so did not use words of Latin origin such as translatio. However, the book does use the word ‘translation’ at this point, in the caption to a picture on page 80 which reads: ‘Translation of the relics of St Cyril to the Basilica of St Clement in Rome’. The twist in the plot is that the picture is the very same as the one reproduced by Tachiaos, which Prozians can view here.

Also of interest is an event recorded in the Old Testament, in Genesis 5.24, which is universally known as the ‘translation of Enoch’, even by people who prefer a Bible version other than the AV (Hebrews 11.5-6a: By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him). A similar event is recorded in 2 Kings 2.11, known as the ‘translation of Elijah’, and in fact, if you listen carefully to how Christians speak, you will sometimes hear the death of one of their number referred to as a ‘translation’.

A related issue is an event known as the ‘Rapture’, not because it will be a joyful experience, but because it takes its name from the Latin word rapere, from which we also derive the English word ‘rape’. Christians who use the word ‘Rapture’ in this meaning have a very specific understanding of certain events described in the Bible. Christians who do not share this understanding prefer to use terms such as ‘take’ or ‘catch up’, based on the AV readings of Matthew 24.40-41 (Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left) and 1 Thessalonians 4.17 (Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord). The analogy of the experience of Enoch and Elijah is so close that this event, which also bypasses death, is also often referred to as a ‘translation’.

Suggesting that educated people may not understand this use of the word ‘translation’ does rather beg the question, and there is no doubt that the correct technical term for this kind of transportation of a house is indeed 'translation'. However, if translating for the hoi polloi (dare I say the linguistically challenged British tourist), it might be advisable to explain the term, as indeed Julia Verkholantsev has done for her more academic readership.

[Edited at 2016-04-05 20:12 GMT]


United Kingdom
Local time: 16:23
Serbian to English
+ ...
where did you find that ???? Apr 5, 2016

Josephine Cassar wrote:

Traslazione can be 'transubstantiation' though it is mostly used for the changing of the host into the body and blood of Christ during Mass. There is another definition but it does not fit the little context you provided- Your context suggests 'transportation'; however it is a suggestion to clarify maybe

[Edited at 2016-04-05 17:24 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-04-05 17:25 GMT]

verb: transubstantiate; 3rd person present: transubstantiates; past tense: transubstantiated; past participle: transubstantiated; gerund or present participle: transubstantiating
convert (the substance of the Eucharistic elements) into the body and blood of Christ.
change the form or substance of (something) into something different.

I can't see how it could have anything to do with "translation" used to mean "moving something"; 'transubstantiation' is ONLY ever used to mean the substance of the Eucharistic elements being transformed into the body and blood of Christ;

well, also in alchemy - the famous quest to achieve transubstantiation of lead into gold, but let's not digress..

and yes, even outside of the religious lingo, "translation" does have also the [absolutely NOT unusual] meaning of moving - linear moving (of some solid body) = translation, moving around an axis = rotation


Susan Brodar
Local time: 17:23
Italian to English
+ ...
Thanks for all the very prompt feedback from so many of you... Apr 8, 2016

I would like to thank all of you for the prompt and very informative (especially Peter Nicholson) replies to my query. I think 'translation' with a further explanation to the 'transfer' is what I'll use to make sure all kinds of readers are catered for. I had planned on finishing the translation the same day as the query so really appreciate the speed with which you all replied. I also work as a teacher and so unfortunately time was not on my side but this way I had the possibility to 'digest' all the information and take my decision. So many many thanks again!


Catherine Howard
United States
Local time: 11:23
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Webster's 1913 Dictionary is a gold mine Apr 10, 2016

What a delightful thread -- Peter, your references are especially fascinating!

I know you've already turned in your translation, Susan, but for the benefit of you and others who might still be following this conversation, I thought I'd call your attention to a marvelous resource, now online and searchable, the Webster's 1913 Unabridged Dictionary. It was one of the richest versions of the Webster line of dictionaries and, with the copyright recently expired, has been going through a sort of revival (notably by the Gutenberg Project). In fact, famous writers like John McPhee have used the 1913 edition to enhance their creative writing (see the great article, "You're Probably Using the Wrong Dictionary" at Several websites now have it available to download (but it's a big file) or to search online, a good one being,a . I find this resource so useful for my translating (especially in history) that I have the link parked in my bookmark toolbar at the top of my screen.

As an example, here's how Webster's 1913 defines "translation":

n., Trans*la"tion [F. translation, L. translatio a transferring, translation, version. See Translate, and cf. Tralation.]

1. The act of translating, removing, or transferring; removal; also, the state of being translated or removed; as, the translation of Enoch; the translation of a bishop.
2. The act of rendering into another language; interpretation; as, the translation of idioms is difficult.
3. That which is obtained by translating something a version; as, a translation of the Scriptures.
4. A transfer of meaning in a word or phrase, a metaphor; a tralation.
5. Transfer of meaning by association; association of ideas.
6. Motion in which all the points of the moving body have at any instant the same velocity and direction of motion; -- opposed to rotation.

And here's how it defines "translate" (note that the linguistic meaning is low on the list!):

v. t., Trans*late" [imp. *** p. p. Translated] p. pr. *** vb. n. Translating.] [f. translatus, used as p. p. of transferre to transfer, but from a different root. See Trans- , and Tolerate]

1. To bear, carry, or remove, from one place to another] to transfer; as, to translate a tree.
2. To change to another condition, position, place, or office; to transfer; hence, to remove as by death.
3. To remove to heaven without a natural death.
4. To remove, as a bishop, from one see to another.
5. To render into another language; to express the sense of in the words of another language; to interpret; hence, to explain or recapitulate in other words.
6. To change into another form; to transform.
7. To cause to remove from one part of the body to another; as, to translate a disease.
8. To cause to lose senses or recollection; to entrance.

The Webster's 1913 is fun just to browse through. Unlike the current abbreviated Webster's, it shows a wide array of nuanced meanings. It even gives usage examples (which I deleted above for the sake of brevity). There's poetry to be found in the connections from one meaning to another. No wonder creative writers still rely on this version.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

[Edited at 2016-04-10 02:14 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-04-10 02:17 GMT]


Susan Brodar
Local time: 17:23
Italian to English
+ ...
Thanks also for telling us about Webster's 1913 Dictionary Apr 10, 2016

I am really honoured to have so many beautiful and detailed contributions to this thread - thank you so much Catherine, too.

Webster's 1913 dictionary will definitely be at the top of my Dictionary list as I often find modern dictionaries tend to leave out nuances in meanings and after a while I wonder whether my knowledge of too many languages is contaminating my translation. So this will definitely clarify any doubts.

With all your wonderfully detailed contributions I will have to be sure to keep a copy for future reference. I really appreciate the time you all took to follow up my query. Thanks once again!


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Art History: can the noun 'translation' be used meaning 'transportaton' of the House of Loreto?

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