Mobile Shrines and Magical Bodies: Reframing Medieval Afterlives of Marian ‘Vierges Ouvrantes’ in Sacred and Liminal Spaces

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Early modern efforts to reinvigorate the diverse plethora of Marian sculptures, paintings and votive shrines reflect the enduring position of the Virgin in both Catholic and Protestant forms of worship and spaces of sacred initiation. My concern in this article is a particular category of medieval votive Marian objects, ‘Vierges Ouvrantes’ and ’Shine Madonnas’, and their complex, enigmatic meanings uses in mediating rituals of birth, procreation and incarnation as bodily ‘performance’ – enacting multiple, frequently controversial, thresholds of the sacred. Shrine Madonnas have their origins in medieval votive practices in women’s monasteries, linked to Europe’s major pilgrimage routes, proliferating across France, Spain and the German lands. Yet they also embody highly distinctive types of talismanic Marian object. They range from tiny and portable to near life-size figures in which the sculpted body of the Virgin comprises a series of moving parts, opening to disclose an inner sacred architecture, a womb-like interior, often elaborate and complex in its staging of Incarnation and Christological Trinitarian iconology. Whilst the medieval provenance of these now rare objects has attracted recent scholarly treatments, this discussion explores neglected contexts and afterlives of Shrine Madonnas and their cognates, ‘Vierges Ouvrantes’, in an expanded framework of Marian reception and response, encompassing key pre-modern and nineteenth-century new ritual, sensory and cultural contexts. In particular, my focus will be the significance, and to borrow from Aby Warburg, the ‘afterlives’ or Nachleben of Shrine Madonnas, within re-imagined embodied medieval practices and spaces, examining anew, fascination with their liminal aspects as object-dramas and threshold figures entwined with the sacred uncanny.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSalve Regina: New Approaches to Marian Devotion in the Middle Ages
EditorsAndrea-Bianka Znorovszky
PublisherRoutledge
Publication statusSubmitted - 16 Jul 2020
EventSalve Regina: New Approaches to Marian Devotion in the Middle Ages - Ca' Foscari, University of Venice, Venice, Italy
Duration: 28 Sep 202030 Sep 2020
https://www.academia.edu/42176990/Conference_programme-Salve_Regina._New_Approaches_on_Marian_Devotion_from_the_Middle_Ages_to_the_Council_of_Trent
https://www.eventbrite.it/e/salve-regina-registration-94363532867

Conference

ConferenceSalve Regina: New Approaches to Marian Devotion in the Middle Ages
CountryItaly
CityVenice
Period28/09/2030/09/20
Internet address

Keywords

  • Art, Architecture & Applied Arts
  • Medieval women, shrines, material culture

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    Simpson, J. (2020). Mobile Shrines and Magical Bodies: Reframing Medieval Afterlives of Marian ‘Vierges Ouvrantes’ in Sacred and Liminal Spaces. Manuscript submitted for publication. In A-B. Znorovszky (Ed.), Salve Regina: New Approaches to Marian Devotion in the Middle Ages Routledge.