Frances Cook: Sanctity and Material Culture: Female Saints and their Devotees in Late-Medieval England

Life of St Margaret, opening folio. Hart MS 41020, f. 167r. Photo F. Cook. Courtesy of Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, 2017

Life of St Margaret, opening folio. Hart MS 41020, f. 167r. Photo F. Cook. Courtesy of Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, 2017

Many extant material and visual artefacts bear witness to the flourishing cults of a variety of female saints in late-medieval England. How can an examination of these artefacts and associated texts inform our understanding of the way devotees responded emotionally to such cults? This is the central question my paper seeks to address. St Margaret of Antioch, and two artefacts associated with her cult, will form the framework for this enquiry.

Detail of the passion cycle of St Margaret of Antioch, north nave wall, St Mary the Virgin, Battle, Sussex, UK. Photo F. Cook.

Detail of the passion cycle of St Margaret of Antioch, north nave wall, St Mary the Virgin, Battle, Sussex, UK. Photo F. Cook.

Hugely popular in medieval England, Margaret, a virgin martyr, reputedly underwent many tortures and was even swallowed by the devil in the form of a dragon for refusing to fall into temptation and renounce her Christian faith. She was believed to have been martyred in 304 AD. Medieval artefacts pertaining to her cult abound, but this discussion centres around two case studies: a set of wall-paintings in the nave of a parish church visible to a wide-ranging lay audience, and a copy of the saint’s Life deliberately added to a Book of Hours owned by a wealthy family. The case studies present material and textual evidence, together with a discussion of event-specific factors, to explore the emotional resonance of these artefacts for devotees of the saint.

Frances Cook (frances@cook3.co.uk)

This post forms part of an open mini-series published in preparation of the COST Action IS1301 Training School “Passionate Devotions. Emotions in Medieval and Early Modern Religious Texts, Images and Music” (see announcement with details about submissions here).

It is published under

CC-BY-NC-ND


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *