Bodies of Unsurpassed Beauty: "Living" Images of the Virgin in High Medieval Miracles
Viator: Medieval and Renaissance Studies
As Marian devotion rose to prominence in the Latin West after the first millennium, images of the Virgin came to occupy central roles in Christian meditative and liturgical practices. A reading of Latin and vernacular miracles composed in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries suggests that such images were understood not merely as works of art or devotional aids but as surrogate bodies of the Virgin. Moreover, narratives involving women and men portray the source of these images’ miraculous power differently; while the feminine beauty of Marian images lent the Virgin power over male devotees, such images served a more maternal, protective function in their interactions with women. This essay reads Marian image-miracles in light of contemporary interest in the Virgin’s body and its ultimate fate, as evidenced by debates over Mary’s conception and bodily Assumption, and proposes that images may have offered medieval Christians a means of access to the Virgin’s body otherwise denied them.
Smith, Katherine A. "Bodies of Unsurpassed Beauty: “living” Images of the Virgin in the High Middle Ages." Viator. 37.1 (2008): 167-187. Print.