The Measure of Piety!

The Measure of Piety!

1. Why are the Wounds of Christ a key element in late Medieval piety?
2. Do you agree with Lewis about the gendered nature of devotion in the later Middle Ages?
3. What did a focus on the side wound promote in the worshiper?
4. Is it a useful fiction to view men as the authors of guides to meditation and women as the authors of visions?
5. How do the Rothchild Canticles differ from the representation of Christ in Kunigunde’s manuscript?
6. How has scholarship treated the sexual nature of the side wound? Where do you stand on this issue?
7. What associations does the Arma Christi have besides invoking the Passion of Christ?
8. How does the symbolism of the Arma Christi vary over the course of the medieval period and is it the same for lay and religious audiences?
9. Does Christ weigh in (as it were) on the arithmetic of grace?
10. What was quantified for spiritual merit in the later Middle Ages?
11. What is implied by the phrase “with spiritual interest and annuities?” Have you done your taxes?
12. What was the impact of the written word on this economy of grace?
13. Who criticized the quantification of piety and what did that criticism engender?
14. In what ways did this number game function as a mnemonic system? What was the purpose of number symbolism in the later Middle Ages?
15. What was God’s side of the bargain in this bartering system?


6 responses

  1. Question 2:
    I do agree with Lewis about the gendered nature of devotion in the Middle Ages. I especially like her statement that “though female imagery could be used by men and male imagery by women, this does not mean that their responses were identical” (204). This makes sense because women and men would have had different experiences in society and life, which would lead to different responses. For instance, the idea of childbirth would have had special resonance for women, which is why “images of the life-size wound could also give more practical aid as a talisman against the ever-present danger of death in childbirth” (217). Weapons are another item that would have different meanings for people of different genders. For men they might signal aggression, but for women they serve “only as a passive defence” (223). Thus, devotion in the Middle Ages was gendered, but in ways that can be bent and changed, like when “the female imagery of sexual union and childbirth could be appropriated by men” (223). Even when gender is fluid, it remains present.

  2. 14. In what ways did this number game function as a mnemonic system? What was the purpose of number symbolism in the later Middle Ages?

    Numbers of prayers were not necessarily arbitrary, but maybe excessive. Numbers would have helped laypeople remember what they were doing, making their devotion ritualistic and probably comforting, and made devotions easier to remember (as in the example of St. Mark’s lion.)

    15. What was God’s side of the bargain in this bartering system?

    God didn’t really seem to have a side. The practice of praying with beads and numbers seems to me to have been a really personal practice; that is, it was more for the calming effect, or to reassure laypeople that they weren’t going to be in purgatory for eons, than it was for the benefit of others–let alone God.

  3. I really appreciated our discussion in class on question 1 yesterday. It helped to solidify some of the devotional trends that occurred throughout the Middle Ages for me. It seems that with the general shift from divine to secular from the 11th to 16th centuries, the religious focal points make a similar movement: While in the earlier centuries the focus was more on the triumphant Christ and the Arma Christi, the later centuries focused more on the wounds and the image of Christ as a Man of Sorrows. This effectively humanizes Christ–instead of giving attention to Christ as a deity who endured physical harm from many different weapons, the later Medieval devotions give attention to the actual pain that Christ felt as a human being. This shows us a connective point between the intense religious culture of the Middle Ages and the far more secular, human, tangible interests in the Renaissance.
    This also connects to the growing economy and use of indulgence that was covered in “The Counting of Piety” in question 10. A more tangible form of evidence was needed for people to understand that they would be safe one day–It’s almost as if Christ dying on the cross for them was no longer enough. With all the problems they faced in their everyday lives, such as plague, war, famine, and poverty, people were anxious to reach salvation and also to absolve themselves from anything that might stand in their way. Therefore, a quantified, solid number of prayers for a quantified, solid number of years off of purgatory became, at this time, a reasonable way to cope with the unknowns and the anxiety of salvation. This is why the written slips became popular as well–they almost acted as proof, or receipts, of faith and as a physical form of evidence that the person shouldn’t have to suffer any longer before reaching salvation.

  4. Exactly—-just as the quantification of the Passion concretized the suffering Christ endured, the measurement of piety enable the worshiper to keep track of his or her own salvation score card. What interests me about this is why this only occurred in the later Middle Ages. I appreciate the intensification of the blood/suffering/famine/plague, etc.—but the economy of salvation seems to be a part of Christian theology from the beginning.

  5. Why are the Wounds of Christ a key element in late Medieval piety?
    Do you agree with Lewis about the gendered nature of devotion in the later Middle Ages?

    I think all of the articles we have been reading focusing on the shift from the instruments used in Christ’s Passion to the Wounds of Christ seem to come to the same consensus; the wounds create a tangible and visceral portrayal of Christ’s Passion. As I mentioned in class I kept thinking about any possible connections between shift from instruments to wounds and the way Christ in the Rothschild Canticles is depicted. Lewis draws on Jeffrey Hamburger’s argument that this depicted Christ is “Man of Sorrows…an image of triumph rather than suffering, and even though bound to the Cross and tied to the pillar, he is an active, upright, figure, gazing at the sponsa” (212). This joy of union that Lewis mentions seems to be intrinsically gendered in nature. She compares a naked Christ’s body to that of the Virgin Mary, juxtaposing modesty and nudity. I find the Rothschild Canticles to be a fascinating evidence for Lewis’ argument for the gendered nature of devotion. The differences between Kunigunde’s Passional and the Rothschild Canticles is astounding to me, and I am not sure why! This joy of union with Christ addresses the idea of self and other and the intersection of these two. The intersection of self and other seems to also be one of the key aspects of devotional meditation. The need to transcend one’s own experience in hope to elicit devotional memory.

  6. Grace, you should really look at Jeffrey Hamburger’s study of the Rothschild Canticles! It is an amazing analysis of the manuscript and his sensitivity to gender issues is seen in much of his scholarship, particularly on cloistered German nuns. You make some very good observations about the devotional images we have been studying and their gendered nature is to me irrefutable. Onward!

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