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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: October 2013

6 - Wo/men only? Marian devotion in medieval Perth

Summary

A recent study of Marian iconography in relation to The Lord of the Rings pithily notes that Mary, ‘in many respects is the central figure of the Middle Ages’. There is a vast body of surviving texts, statues, pictures, rosaries, misericords, icons, etc., relating to Mary, and even in their vastness they are but a small portion of what existed during the middle ages. This fact underpins this exploration of Marian devotion, which aims to see what sense can be made of the varied but fragmentary evidence for that practice in medieval Perth. It assesses how that evidence fits the broad pattern of such devotion in medieval Europe and whether we can see any kind of gender dimension to that devotional practice. Mary is a figure both human and quasi-divine, both a virgin and a mother, the Church's feminine ideal. As Marina Warner observed, women are equal in God's eyes but not in men's, and ‘Whether we regard the Virgin Mary as the most sublime and beautiful image in man's struggle towards the good and the pure or the most pitiable production of ignorance and superstition, she represents a central theme in the history of western attitudes to women.’