Latin Devotion to the Passion: Francis, Stigmata, and Polemic (Part 6b)

Passion Devotion in the Latin Kingdoms

What are the origins of the Latin devotion to the Passion? This is a qualitatively different question that what I asked regarding the Byzantine Commonwealth. There, the question was about the presence of any Passion devotions whatsoever. I argued from the iconographic and liturgical record that yes, Byzantium did have a devotion to the Passion, but that it took a different form, focusing on the Burial of Christ, although it maintained Eucharistic overtones. Likewise, its theological importance lay in its association with relics of the Passion which bore images attesting to the Incarnation. I did not examine in any detail texts from the kanons, akathists, or other liturgically-oriented writings on the topic (I hope to rectify that at some point in the future). In this section, however, because my focus is on the understanding and interpretations Latins themselves gave to devotion to the Passion, I will draw not so much on the artistic heritage of the West, but on its textual sources.

The best source of information on the development of devotion to the Passion in the West is provided by Fulton (2002)’s magisterial work, From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary 800 -1200. Here, I will rely on only a few examples drawn from her monograph (which I highly recommend). Hrabanus Maurus (d. 856), provides an early recommendation for using devotion to the Passion as a way to open up the heart. His advice is taken up by John of Fecamp (d. 1079) in a small book given to the dowager empress of the Holy Roman Empire. This little book concerns contemplation, and details how meditation on the Passion, or specifically, on the Body of Christ, is the beginning of that path.

The twelfth century sees a new set of highly influential writers, among whom are Anselm of Canterbury (d. 1109), Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153), and Richard of St Victor (d. 1173). Anselm is important for a series of prayer-meditations in which Christ is portrayed as the Bridegroom of the soul. That theme is taken up by Bernard in his Commentaries on the Song of Songs, which open with a meditation on the Incarnation as the kiss, or union of two lips, at the start of the Scriptural canticle. Because Bernard’s work is rather long (and because my copies are stored in a box 3000 miles away), I will not examine any texts from him. Rather, I only wish to point out that his commentaries helped popularise the notion of an intimate, even romantic relationship between the soul and Christ. Richard we have had reason to mention before; he will receive only brief mention, in the context of the Song of Songs. Hildegard of Bingen (d. 1179) would be a useful counterpoint if I wishes to provide an example highlighting the types of devotion which preceded the thirteenth century. My purpose, however, is to look at devotees’ understandings of what it means to meditate on the wounds and Passion of Christ. Therefore, I will not delve into her works here.

Three related groups of Old English texts, Ancrene Wisse, the Wooing Group, and the Katherine Group, however, do illustrate the shifts happening in Latin-rite devotion to the Cross and Passion in the years leading up to the thirteenth century. The subject matter of the texts combines imagery of the crucifixion with that of Christ as a bridegroom, bringing together Bernard’s mystical communion with Christ and the very real imagery of the Royal Cross. All three groups were written in the West Midlands dialect of English presumably for an audience of anchoresses (female hermits and recluses who lived in cells near churches and shrines), and in terms of composition date, seem to span the 12th and 13th centuries. Some of these anonymous prayers may have been part of an oral tradition and later written down. They may have been written by the women themselves, though one historian who focuses on the texts, Dr Innes-Parker, suggests they may have been written by a man. Regardless, “the intended audience for these prayers were anchoresses,” who had no access to education or libraries. These prayers were therefore written to provide them with their own devotional material. Nor could they speak Latin, which is why these prayers were written in English. They were the first passion meditation prayers written in English, and will serve as the most northerly examples of Passion devotion I will dip into in this post.

When it comes to devotion to the blood and wounds of Christ as that devotion developed on the Continent (and ultimately came to rest in devotion to the Sacred Heart), three women in particular are often mentioned. Mechtilde of Magdeburg, Mechtilde of Hackeborn, and Gertrude of Helfta, are associated with the High Medieval devotion, not just to the Passion in general, but to the blood and wounds of Christ specifically. (Relics of the Blood shed at the Crucifixion were some of the few relics which could be easily disseminated in the West, while Constantinople held the majority of other material remains associated with the passion.) These three women all lived in the Holy Roman Empire, and are associated with the Cistercian monastery of Helfta. Mechtilde of Magdeburg was born around 1207 (coincidental with the composition of the Wooing of Our Lord), and is thus also contemporaneous with Francis. Her writings attest to the currents of devotion present north of the Alps during Francis’ lifetime; as a Dominican sister, she was not especially invested the Franciscan project of promoting the founder of the ‘rival’ order — but she gives ample evidence of devotion to the Passion.

Mechtilde of Hackeborn (d. 1298) and Gertrude (d. 1302) post-date Francis, and both were contemporaries of Magdeburg after she entered the convent at Helfta. Gertrude was the most famous ‘student’ of Hackeborn, but the two are often mentioned together. Gertrude and Hackeborn were Cistercians, and therefore also not associated with the mendicant movement which developed in response to the new opportunities for pastoral care afforded by urbanisation. As Cistercians, they were part of a contemplative reform movement predating the mendicants, but closely associated through Bernard of Clairvaux with the Crusader kingdoms and the ‘taking up of the Cross’. (Cistercian architectural elements could be seen in the chapels of Crusader castles, of which Krak de Chevalier had until recently been the most well preserved.) The evidence provided by Magdeburg and Gertrude can thus be of use in elucidating the way Francis’ stigmata would be understood in the wider Latin Christian world around his lifetime. These women illustrate how devotion to the Passion was intimately wrapped up with a Eucharistic spirituality which was nonetheless contextualised within the convent’s discourse of women vowed to Christ as their Bridegroom.

Finally, the Cross and the courage in taking it up are themes widely preached in Crusader recruitment sermons to a broader, secular and lay public. The ways in which the Cross and Wounds of Christ are used in such sermons also sheds light on wide societal associations into which Francis easily fit, as a saint who preached to the Sultan, whose order was given custody of the Holy sites around Jerusalem, and as a human whose body bore evidence of taking up the Cross in a hyper-literal, though miraculous sense.

Elite Theologies: Passion as Preparation for Contemplation

Devotion to the Passion was not a sadistic glorying in pain and suffering for Latin Christians. Rather, they took seriously the admonitions of Paul, who to turn the Cross from stumbling block to corner stone of faith. Meditation on the Passion, as the means by which salvation was achieved, according to the Letter of the Hebrews, became for these Christians the first step in communion with the Divine. Fulton (2002:154) quotes a significant passage from Hrabanus Maurus, who comments on the Passion as the entry point for devotion to Christ in his Opusculum de passione Domini,

“If you wish to enter into life through Jesus, who is the way and the door… do not let it deter you, nor seem to you vile, if you find the approach to him everywhere troublesome and base. He has thorns on his head, nails in his hands and feet, a spear in his side, whip-marks on his arms; his body is torn to pieces, and like a leper he is ugly to look upon and hard to follow. But beware lest you throw away the nut on account of the bitterness of the shell: for the more bitter the outside may seem, so much the sweeter you will find the kernel inside. So that therefore you may be able to comprehend in some measure… the length, breadth, height, and depth of the mystery of the holy cross and the Lord’s passion, which God has hidden from the wise and knowing of the world and revealed to the little ones, understand the weight of the words… because, with God’s help, they will prepare the soul to have devotion in prayer, consolation in trouble, and revelation in contemplation; and you will know not only what has been given to us by God, but also the one who was given for us… even if you simply meditate on these things according to the letter.”

Hrabanus recommends the Passion precisely because it is an object of compassion or aversion. He promises that meditation on the Passion will lead to sweet fruit in the measure that the bitterness of Christ’s sufferings contain. Even if the person meditating focuses just on the literal events portrayed in the Gospel narratives, and not on the mystagogical interpretations handed down by the tradition of faith, Hrabanus says, benefit will accrue to the soul.

Hrabanus was not alone in composing a ‘little work’ (opusculum) on the Passion. John of Fécamp, who served as abbot of a monastery in Dijon in mid-eleventh century, at the request of the Holy Roman dowager empress Agnes, sent a small book of prayers to her. The empress by this time had entered the convent, and her request was for devotional reading for her new vocation in life. John’s Libellus was the response. It was copied, together with some of Anselm’s prayers into MS Metz 245, creating a thematically unified collection of prayers relating to the Passion (Fulton 2002:155). Fécamp, it should be noted, was a monastic school, founded by John’s own abbot, who had been called there by Richard II of Normandy. Earlier in life, John had made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he had been held prisoner. How that pilgrimage affected his devotion to the Passion would make an interesting study itself.

Like HrabanusMaurus, John of Fécamp discusses meditation on the Passion in the context of prayer: “The contemplative ascent begins… as John has insisted throughout the Libellus, with Christ’s own body – or rather, his wounds, those ‘saving wounds which you suffered on the cross for our salvation and from which flowed the precious blood of our redemption.’ By these wounds, John implores Christ, ‘wound this sinful soul of mine for which you were willing even to die; wound it with the fiery and powerful dart of your charity that is beyond compare… pierce my heart, then, with the dart of your love, so that my soul may say, “I have been wounded by your love” [Song of Songs 2:5]…'” (Fulton 2002:169)

The excerpt just quoted is from John’s fourth prayer in his Libellus, which actually focuses on contemplation of Christ’s resurrection. For John of Fecamp, participation in Christ’s resurrection begins with Christ’s passion. Participation in Christ’s passion begins with the wound or wounds of love, which are here explicitly tied to the love of Bride and Bridegroom in the Song of Songs.

The association between Christ and the soul becomes even more concrete in another passage, in which John identifies Christ’s flesh with our own. This incarnational mystical theology contrasts with Peter Damian’s “conviction that it was necessary to bear with Christ not only his humanity but also the very wounds he suffered in taking on that humanity” (Fulton 2002:159-160).

John, in contemplating the Incarnation as God’s assuming human substance, writes, “And in this humanity is founded all my hope and all my trust. For in Jesus Christ our Lord resides a part of each of us, our flesh and blood. But where part of me reigns, there I believe that I too reign. And where my flesh is glorified, I recognize that I too am glorified. Where my blood rules, I see that I too rule. Although I am a sinner, i do not lose hope because there exits this grace-given communion. And if my sins bar the way, my substance requires that I be there. My sins may exclude me, but my communion in nature does not force me away. For the Lord is not so cruel as to forget humanity and not remember the creature whom he himself assumed, or not to want me for its sake after accepting it for my sake.” Far from being a statement of presumption on his part, it expresses a hope founded on theological faith in the incarnation. Yet it is also an expression of identification with Christ through the Word’s assumption of human nature. We as humans, can participate with Christ in his human experience, which includes a post-Resurrection glory.

Another figure, who, like John of Fecamp, was active during the ‘Norman renaissance’ of theological letters, was Anselm. Originally from Italy, he later settled at the monastery of Bec before being called to become Archbishop of Canterbury. Giles Gasper (2004:53) has suggested that John of Fecamp and Anselm of Canterbury mutually influenced one another, both coming from Norman monasteries located a mere 50 miles apart. (Gasper (2004). Anselm of Canterbury and his Theological Inheritance. Ashgate Publishing.)

Like John of Fecamp, Anselm composed meditative prayers which have been preserved, giving us an insight not only into his particular devotional themes, but also his approach to prayer. In his ‘meditation on the redemption of humanity’, Anselm recommends that it be read aloud, “…said from the depths of the heart and at a slow pace… give them your whole attention, and … do it was well as you are able, so that with humility of mind and the feeling of fear and love the sacrifice of prayer may be offered” (Fulton 2002:171). Key to making lectio divina into meditatio is attentiveness, at least for Anselm. One way to do that is to focus on one clear idea, and slowly work it over in the mind, ‘chewing it’, as Anselm describes. Fulton (2002:189f), in fact, argues that what is new in Anselm is “one of condensation and distillation: Anselm took elements available in the tradition — the image of meditation as rumination, as a slow chewing over of ideas within the stomach of the mind; the injunction, so clearly articulated by Hrabanus, to gaze upon the face of the Redeemer so as to kindle fire in the heart and understanding in the mind; the practice of private, confessional prayer to Christ and the plea, so richly articulated in the long prayer translated above (“Domine Iesu Christe, qui in hunc mundum”), that Christ hear the sinner and forgive all his or her many negligences and sins — and refined and enriched them in the alembic of his reasoned approach to the Christian faith… Above all, he transmuted the fear of Judgement, heightened as it had been for a generation or more by the passing of the millennial anniversaries of Christ’s Nativity and Passion, into an obligation to meditate on the immensity of Christ’s sacrifice.” Anselm, in other words, simply deepened the emphasis of devotions already at hand by imbuing them with an accessible mystagogy, and the methods for entering into that noetic contemplation.

The result, however, was that later Christians “would learn to think of their relationship to Christ in terms of an obligation to praise not simply the God-man but the man who had died in payment for their sins.” By focusing on the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice as achieved through his human nature, the reality of that humanity came to the fore. As Anselm later lamented, “Alas for me, that I was not able to see the Lord of Angels humbled to converse with men, when God, the one insulted, willed to die that the sinner might live. Alas that I did not deserve to be amazed in the presence of a love marvellous and beyond our grasp” (Fulton 2002:144). Anselm recognises in the crucifixion not simply human suffering, but the presence and will of Love, a love which transcends his ability to fully understand. As such, he recognises, but stands outside that love, contemplating it, rather than as in John of Fecamp’s prayerbook, identifying with it, or as in later writers, entering into it — at least in this particular lament.

Because Anselm recognises the love inherent in the act of submitting to the Crucifixion, the humanity of Christ for him is clearly not irreconcilable with a betrothal to one’s soul. In fact, one could draw the logical conclusion from his writings that in that act of supreme love was Christ’s betrothal of himself to the souls of humanity; the tomb, thus truly becomes a bridal chamber, which he enters and lies in wait for the soul of his beloved to join him, that later they may rise together in glory. But Anselm doesn’t quite carry out the imagery through the full triduum, at least not immediately. In the aforementioned prayer-mediation on the redemption of humanity (Meditatio Redemptionis Humanae), Anselm address Christ as Bridegroom in the following words: “I thirst for you, I hunger for you, I desire you, I sigh for you, I covet you… O that I might see the joy that I desire! O that ‘I might be satisfied with the appearing of your glory’ [Psalm 16.15] for which I hunger! O that I might be inebriated ‘with the riches of your house for which I sigh! O that I might drink of ‘the torrent of your pleasures’ [Psalm 35.9] for which I thirst! Lord, meanwhile, let ‘my tears be my meat day and night’ [Psalm 41.4], until they say to me, ‘Behold your God,’ until I hear, ‘Soul, behold your bridegroom'” (Fulton 2002:188). The imagery of Christ as Bridegroom was taken seriously by both male and female writers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and formed one aspect of the mysticism which flourished within and outside the monasteries of the period.

The Chivalrous Christ and the Wounds of Love

Perhaps the most influential preacher of the period was Bernard of Clairvaux. Often called ‘the Last of the Fathers’, he is credited with invigorating the nascent Cistercian reform of the Benedictine order. He preached for a Crusade, advised popes, and wrote extensive commentaries, sermons, and homilies. His commentaries on the Song of Songs, in addition to his work ‘On Loving God’ (De Diligendo Deo or De Amore) are considered to have been a contributing factor to the rise of the troubadour ideal of courtly love. Certainly, to them is attributed the rise of popular devotion to Christ as Lover. In concert with Richard of St Victor’s description of the ‘wound of love’ (Songs 2:4), devotion to the Song of Songs meets with Eucharistic devotion to focus conceptually on the visual source of the gift of love: the body of Christ on the Cross (see Winkworth 1993:138n28 for Richard of St Victor). More specifically, contemplatives begin to contemplate the meaning of the ‘wound of love’.

Commentary on Song of Songs in the Latin church focused on a quest for narration, though not without also searching for personalised experience (more exemplified by LeClerq than Bernard). “Latin interpretation of Song of Songs strives for narrative: the primary objective of breaking the [allegorical] code was to turn the text into a narrative plot.” The narrative plot, naturally enough, cast Christ in the role of Solomon or Bridegroom, and the soul in the role of Bride. This quest for narrative is not unlike the prosopographic exercises in late Antqiue Byzantium which gave rise to types of hymns like the Stavrotheotokia used in the liturgies of Holy Week. (Cf. Symeon’s Hymn to Eros for a Byzantine divine lover image; also his Ethical Discourses cast Christ as Emperor taking his (male) favourite to bed.)

Among the most enthusiastic supporters of this sort of interpretation in the thirteenth century were groups of lay women called Beguines (lay men who gathered in similar associations were called Beghards). As an example of the sort of emotive devotion characteristic of Beguine spirituality, flowing out of the Latin narrative interpretation of Songs, Bowie (Beguine Spirituality 1989:55:(I.4) provides a typical prayer: ‘Lord, you are my lover, my longing, my flowing stream, my sun, and I am your reflection.’ The key theme here, aside from a heavenly beloved, is of reflection: the Beguine devotee’s goal is to reflect the love and virtue of Christ, imitating in her own life the love Christ offered in his own.

Devotion to Christ comes to supersede fealty to Christ as the motivating force of the Christian life, for those who followed the more mystical paths laid out by the authors I mentioned above. The shift can be seen in a set of Anglo-Saxon devotional poems and prayers as one moves form the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries. Beer (1992, Women and Mystical experience in the Middle Ages) juxtaposes a particular prayer-poem in the Katherine group with an older Anglo-Saxon poem, the Dream of the Rood, and links it to a chain which fully flowers in later Beguine spirituality. (Cf. The wohunge of ure Lauerd. Olde English poems.) Beer argues the Katherine poem illustrates the shift from an earlier conception in the Dream of the Rood of the nun as a martial warrior owing fealty to her Lord (as also in Hildegard of Bingen’s works), to the values of being a courtly lover, with Christ as a chivalrous knight as well as bridegroom. In part, this reflects an overall shift in literary topoi during the period in question, as the Res Gestorum of an earlier age give way to the Romances of the High Middle Ages. Likewise, Dr. Catherine Innes-Parker, a professor at UPEI, comments on her newly edited Middle English-Modern English edition of the Wooing Group, a group of texts related to the Katherine group. Dr Innes-Parker describes the Wooing Group as “a 13th century collection of prayers written in English for women. It turns Christ into a figure from romance—the Christ Knight, the ideal bridegroom” ( …For additional academic resources see: The Milieu and Context of the Wooing Group. Edited by Susannah M. Chewning Distributed for University of Wales Press.).

The two positions of martial fealty and courtly love, of course, are not as antithetical as it may seem: the societal shift may have been from a warrior ethos to a chivalric ethos, but the principle difference was the latter’s incorporation of courtly ideals and devotion to love into the pre-existing warrior ethos of glory, honour, and fealty to a feudal lord. Nevertheless, in the Katherine Group of texts, particularly in its later works, Christ is loved “for who he is, and what he has done [more] than for what he has to offer” (Beer 1992:75). In one particular poem, The Wooing of Our Lord (The wohunge of ure Lauerd), “the woman does not have to be convinced to choose Christ [as in earlier works in the Katherine group]: she fully recognises his desirability, and addresses him as his committed lover. Her sensitivity [is] to the degree of sacrifice made for her…” (Beer 1992:75).

As Innes-Parker elaborates, “These prayers refer to a romantic, even erotic meditation based on the Song of Songs. They are deeply rooted in the image of Christ as the bridegroom of the soul.” The commentaries and narrative-interpretation of the Songs, as we mentioned above, cast Christ as the bridegroom and the soul as his bride. Th Song of Songs is thus a scriptural account of Christ wooing the soul. “These poems were written to be read aloud,” says Innes-Parker. “The speaker had to look on the passion of Christ with the eyes of her soul and ask herself why her heart wasn’t breaking. Christ showed great love on the cross, and the response from these women was impassioned love.”

Beer (1992:67) also highlights that “a powerful element in the Wooing is the intense pathos surrounding the image of the Crucified Christ, the aching compassion expressed by a woman for the agony of her lover” (Beer 1992:77). The lover, of course, is the Bridegroom of the soul, Christ; and although the tomb in which he will be placed is not described as a bridal chamber — later prayers would ask Christ to hide the devotee in his wounds — as it is in the Byzantine liturgy, the focus of the poem is an interactive dialogue, not a monologue. (One wonders if the ‘pathos’ expressed in the poem is part of a general female experience of husbands and brothers as they left for Crusades, or when they heard that their men were wounded in battle? I would like to see if any female (secular) narratives attesting to such a relationship have survived, or is the poem a case of romanticising — in the sense of reading Romances and Courtly love onto everyday experience?)
In these groups of texts, we have a focus which moves from the Cross to the person on the Cross, who is loved as a Bridegroom who sacrifices himself out of love for his bride, personalised in the individual anchoress. Focus then moves from the incarnate man on the Cross to the actual wounds he suffered, and the motivating factor which led him to accept such marks: love.

The Wound of Love: Transformation of Lover and Beloved

Imagery of Christ as lover continued on the Continent during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. Two strands of devotion, to the Eucharist and to the Crucified Bridegroom, are tied together in a vision recorded by Mechtilde of Magdeburg. In Mechtilde of Magdeburg’s Second Book, she describes a vision of transubstantiation, in which an image of a white lamb with red wounds wavers back and forth with the image of a white wafer: “As he [John the Baptist/ the priest] took the white wafer in his hands, the Lamb which was on the altar stood up and was changed into the wafer and the wafer into the Lamb, so that I saw the wafer no more but instead a bleeding lamb which hung on a red cross. He looked on us with such sweet eyes that never can I forget it. … John the Baptist took the white lamb with the red wounds and laid it on the mouth of the maid. Thus the pure lamb laid itself on its own image in the stall of her body and sucked her heart with its tender lips” (Beer 1992:86). In this vision, the Eucharist is the Crucified but Living Christ, symbolised in the wounded Lamb who stands up. The two images are brought together in one event, and the saint’s mind is able to hold both truths of her faith at once, without committing to one at the exclusion of the other. In addition, contemplation of the human person as image of God is alluded to: in the Eucharist, we who are the Body of Christ receive the Body of Christ. The transformation of the beloved one into her Lover is again alluded to later in the vision, which describes a “wreath of gleaming gold with the words: ‘His eyes in my eyes, His heart in my heart, His soul in my soul, Embraced and unwearied (and her face seemed the face of an angel).'” (Beer 1992:86)

Despite polemic that the Latin devotion to the Passion excludes contemplation of the mystery of the Resurrection, in Magdeburg’s vision although the imagery in that particular example is focused on the Crucified Christ, it is not divorced from Resurrection, or even apocalyptic-end time, images. In the vision of the wounded lamb, the lamb is alive as the resurrected Christ, who still bears his wounds (as we attest on Thomas Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter). The sister who receives communion is identified as an image of Christ, referencing Genesis in which humanity is made in the image of God, while the Lamb of God intimates not only John the Baptist’s preaching, but the imagery employed in the book of Revelation. The vision, in a sense, sums up the cosmological cycle of Christian time, and roots itself in the here and now through the mystery of the Eucharist.

Identification with the image of Christ also alludes to an underlying emphasis in the conventual life, of imitating Christ. That identification is brought out explicitly by Magdeburg in the third and seventh books,p where she “describes the passion and crucifixion of the individual soul, revealing that her spiritual ordeal, insofar as it mirrors that of Christ, is a way of regaining the divine likeness and achieving union” (Beer 1992:105). Later, in book seven, written at Helfta, Magdeburg broadens this imagery to embrace the entire community. The bride of Christ is the Church, and the Church is the Body of Christ, as much as is the individual Christian, who as a member of the Church, is also a member of the Body of the Crucified One. No contradiction between the individual sister as bride and the Church as a whole as bride is evinced.

Magdeburg’s disciple Gertrude also references the substantial identity humans have with God through the Incarnation. In one passage, she writes that Christ is he who has become ‘bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh;’ the incarnation is paralleled in the Eucharist, reception of which allows the recipient to incorporate Christ so that his flesh becomes a part of her own (Winkworth 1993:103). The resulting association then draws together love imitating love, the wounds of the Cross, and a union of flesh through Eucharist and Incarnation as God becomes human and humans, through the mystery of the altar, receive a God made flesh.

Gertrude is perhaps the most interesting example for illustrating the idea of stigmata and devotion to the wounds of Christ. For Gertrude, the stigmata are both medicinal draught and intoxicating liquor; the intoxicating liquor,as the Blood of Christ, is also the Eucharistic cup. In her writings, she records in a dialogue with Christ that she received “the stigmata of your adorable and venerable wounds interiorly in my heart, just as though they had been made on the natural places of the body [i.e. physically, not psychologically]. By these wounds you not only healed my soul, but you gave me to drink of the inebriating cup of love’s nectar” (Winkworth 1993:100). Gertrude describes the wounds of Christ impressed on her heart as a transformation or healing though love.

In a passage immediately preceding the description of Gertrude’s own reception of interior stigmata, Gertrude quotes a prayer to Jesus which reads in part, ‘Inscribe with your most precious blood, most merciful Lord, your wounds on my heart, that I may read in them both your sufferings and your love. May the memory of your wounds ever remain in the hidden places of my heart, to stir up within me your compassionate sorrow, so that the flame of your love may be enkindled in me’ (Winkworth 1993:99). The Eucharist, as the immediately accessible Blood of Christ, is the means by which Christ’s love is written in the Gertrude’s heart. Through the Eucharist, which was made possible by the Passion and Crucifixion, particularly the wound in Christ’s side from which flowed blood and water, Gertrude read not simply suffering, but also love. The goal of meditating upon the connexions between crucifixion, eucharistic blood, and love, was to rouse within herself a reciprocal love and devotion to Christ.

In a passage where Gertrude advised her readers to meditate on the love of Christ’s heart as he hung on the cross, she makes the intention of reciprocal love quite clear. She meditates on the love of Christ’s heart, she writes, ‘so that from the fountains of charity flowing from the fervour of such inexpressible love I might draw the waters of devotion that wash away all offences…’ (Winkworth 1993:101; cf. Bernard, Songs 18.5). The association of love with Christ’s heart would later help shift devotion from the Wounds of Love to the Sacred Heart specifically; but that development occurred over the course of centuries.

As a concrete example of the sort of meditation Gertrude means, in Bk II, Ch 5, she relates how she asked someone to pray a particular prayer for her before the crucifix: “By your wounded Heart, most loving Lord, pierce her heart with the arrow of your love, so that it may become unable to hold anything earthly, but may be held fast solely by the power of your divinity.” Gertrude then relates that after receiving the Eucharist, she saw a vision: a ray of sunlight came out from the side wound of the Crucifixion image painted in a book. The ray had a point like an arrow, spread itself out, then drew back into the page (Winkworth 1993:101). Here again, Gertrude connects Eucharist, Passion-Crucifixion, and love. Interestingly enough, this vision is clearly associated with an icon, or at least a manuscript miniature, contained in the prayerbook.

In another passage, Gertrude writes that one “regarding [the] crucifix is to contemplate Jesus saying, ‘See how I hung upon the cross for love of you, naked and despised, my body covered with wounds and every limb out of joint” (Winkworth 1993:210). In this passage, Gertrude clearly expresses her belief that the crucifixion wasn’t a mere means to death for Christ; it was a death accepted out of love for humanity. Likewise, humans must express compassion towards Christ. Getrude points out that the wounds of Christ, like those of any man wounded in battle, need bathing, anointing, and bandaging; prayer, contemplation, and works of mercy, along with right intent, are the means by which that is accomplished. Meditation was not simply emotive, but served to remind the Christian of his or her practical duty.

From meditation on the person of the lover hung on the Cross, the mystic then moves her attention to the wounds suffered out of that love. Those wounds are then personalised and given agency all their own. (The relationship of these wounds to the Body of Christ imagery in which each member is given a role within the Church does not seem to have been drawn, either in Latin rite or Byzantine rite countries.) From here, it is a small step to meditate simply on the wounds themselves (without an initial meditation on the Cross of the Body on the Cross), as the bodily heralds of divine love. Thus, along with meditation on the love of Christ represented by the Cross, Gertrude describes how she recited Ps 102 (Bless the Lord O my soul), vv1-5 while meditating on five wounds: The first verse referred to the feet, where, she said, ‘I was granted to lay down upon the wounds of your sacred feet the scouring rust of sin and all attachments to the worthless pleasures of the world.’ The second verse moved to the wound in the side, where were washed ‘all the stains of fleshly and ephemeral pleasure in the fountain of your cleansing love, whence blood and water flowed for me.’ The third verse belonged to the left hand, imagined as a dove’s nest, while the fourth, right hand, was a treasury of virtue. Finally, by the fifth verse, she was purged of the infamy of sin by Christ’s ‘sweetest and most longed for presence.’ (Winkworth 1993)

Gertrude’s meditation on the Five Wounds was the means by which she felt her soul could bless God, as the Psalmist asked. Through the meditation, she moves from a washing away of sin and attachment, to a deeper cleansing through love. Realising love, she found a place in which to repose, and a means by which she could find a path to bring forth the virtuous fruits of the Holy Spirit. At the end of the meditation, purged of all other attachments and longing only for her Beloved, she finds him.

Ideas relating the love and wounds of Christ continued to play out into the fourteenth century. The Anima Christi prayer, composed no later than 1370 and allegedly by Pope John XXII (who was decidedly not a staunch ally of Franciscan zeal), exemplifies how the Latin devotions to the Passion, Wounds, and Eucharist as Body and Blood of Jesus, become securely fused by the time the Renaissance period was beginning. Devotion to the wounds of Christ culminates in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, particularly in French devotion to the Sacred Heart; it has recently resurfaced , associated with the Polish devotion to Divine Mercy, popularised by Bl Faustina and the late Pope John Paul II (who died on the feast day associated with Divine Mercy, corresponding to the Orthodox Thomas Sunday). The difference in devotion to the Divine mercy is its lack of physicality, though it contains the very visual depiction of red and white rays associated with the blood and water which flowed from Jesus’ side at the close of the crucifixion. The movement from blood to light is a movement towards abstraction, and mirrors the historical pendulum from abstract Cross to personalised devotion to the Crucified Bridegroom, back to an abstraction in the Blood of Christ and again to a personalised Sacred Heart, which then becomes abstracted into devotion to Divine Mercy, never quite losing its association with Eucharistic devotion.

The Crusading Ideal: Take up the Cross and Follow Me

Devotion to the wounds of Christ did not develop in a vacuum. I already alluded to the troubadour tradition of songs, and the courtly romances being produced during the period. That literature, too, functioned in the context of an internationally focused military recruitment history has called the Crusades. The Crusades were so named because a ‘Crusader’ is one who takes up the Cross; the link is even more obvious in French and Spanish (croix, cross; croisade, crusade; cruz, cross; cruzado, crusader). Through a linking of the Cross, Crusades, and devotion to Christ, Francis became central to both popular devotion and elite Latin theology of the period. This network was all the more resilient once friars began to supplant monks as the preachers for the Crusading ideal. I will therefore briefly examine how the themes of the legend of the Cross and Devotion to the Crucified Christ were used in some Crusading sermons which have survived in manuscript collections, and how devotion to the Cross comes back to Francis, as the human who perfectly took up the Cross in imitation of Christ. Maier’s 1994 work, Preaching the Crusades: Mendicant friars and the cross in the Thirteenth Century offers the most sustained account of this theme, and the next section relies almost exclusively on his research.

The first crusade relied on monks as the preachers, but the initial effervescence of idealism spread to the monastic orders themselves. The period saw the emergence of several monastic reforming orders, among which the Cistercians, with Bernard of Clairvaux as their spokesperson, were the most successful. In the succeeding century, however, as the Franciscan and Dominican mendicant orders grew, friars were more often used to preach crusade. Friars had several advantages over monastics as international preachers. Not only were mendicants generally not bound to one particular house and its rule of devotions, friaries were more often located in urban areas (where the friars could minister to the urban poor), whereas monks were more often found in the countryside. Like the Cistercians before them, friars were able to extend the papal centralisation programme as a corollary of their preaching; preachers chosen because of familiarity to both cardinals and curia and to the crusaders, their lands, and customs (Maier 1994:34). (The friars may also have inadvertantly spread the university programme throughout Europe as well, but that is another topic.) If the friar-preachers were familiar with the curia, then they also had a potential investment in elite and scholarly theological programme, among which were cosmologies which placed Francis at the apogee of the human capacity for transformation, through love, in God, by the economy of Christ’s passion and blood.

Ironically, most crusader sermons which have been preserved are from secular clerics, not friars. Textual content for these sermons exists in several model crusade summons, and sermons on this theme begin to appear in sermon collections at start of thirteenth century, especially at the University of Paris (Maier 1994:111). Maier points out that recruitment sermons for the Crusades often coincided, in theme at least, with the two feast days of the Cross in the Latin-rite Calendar, May 2/3 and September 14. As Maier writes, “the connexion between preaching the cross and preaching on the feast days of the cross is obvious. Sermons for the feast days of the cross usually concentrate on the properties and the symbolism of the cross and the devotion on the crucified Christ. In such sermons the theme of crusading is often used as a metaphor for the journey to the heavenly Jerusalem. Model sermons for the feast days of the Cross might thus have provided crusade preachers with themes or illustrate material for crusade recruitment sermons” (Maier 1994:113).

Among the preachers whose sermons or sermon collections have come down to us, Gilbert of Tournai’s sermons 132 – 137 refer to the Cross or recruit for the Crusades; Humbert of Romans has a sermon on the Cross from the latter thirteenth century (no 90, De predicatione S. Crucis, ca. 1266 – 1268); while both Roger of Salisbury (for more on him, See Cole, Preaching 227 -31) and Frederick Visconti were other Crusade preachers whose works have survived. (Maier 1994:112. For more on medieval preaching, Maier refers to D’Avray; Cole; Powell.) John Russel’s Crusade recruitment sermon is followed by a de cruce sermon in the MS fragment (in Bodleian: Digby 154 (1755)), which “seems that it was meant to provide material for a distinctio on signum crucis.” (Maier cites Smalley 1956. ‘John Russel OFM’ in Recherches de Théologie Ancienne et Mediévale 23:277-320, esp 280f) Likewise, Eudes Châteauroux’s sermon on the Invention of Cross includes recruiting passages. The influence, though, went both ways. Crusading themes, for example, appear in Alain Lille’s Sermo de Cruce Domini.

Crusader sermons, or at least the models which were copied into collections, generally relied on two tactics to move their audience to take up the Cross. One obvious tactic was to arouse aggression and anger towards the enemy of faith. These enemies were by no means confined to ‘Saracens’ or Saljuk Turks; after all, ‘crusades’ were preached for the Levant (to free the Holy Sites and in theory return them to the Roman Emperor in Constantinople), the Baltics (which were pagan at the time, wedged between Catholic Poland and Mongol-occupied Russia), North Africa (formerly part of Justinian’s empire, and thus a part of Christendom), Spain, and S France (against the so-called Cathars) (Maier 1994:116).

The other tactic is more interesting for tracing how Francis becomes a node in a network of symbols. This second tactic was to arouse penitential and devotional sentiments among the listeners. This could easily have been done by focusing on the wounds and violence suffered by Christ, inflicted by his enemies and who prevented Christ’s loved ones from approaching him. In support of this theme, the narrative movement from the symbolic nature of taking up the cross in Crusade, to devotion to Christ Crucified, miracles and visions are not infrequently reported. Maier recounts the case of Oliver of Cologne, who preached the Cross/ crusade in Frisia in 1214: “Several times Oliver’s preaching was said to have evoked visions of the Crucified Christ in the sky which caused a multitude of people to take up the Cross” (Maier 1994:120).

Although I have not read an account of Francis appearing during such sermons, he, of course, is one who took up the cross into his own body, as evidenced by the stigmata, and could hardly have been far from the minds of either the sermon composers, or those who listened to Franciscan preachers. On the other hand, in the Scripta Leonis, a work about Francis by his close companion Brother Leo, a Crusader sermon delivered by Francis himself is mentioned in which Francis praises Charlemagne for his victory over enemies of the faith, alluding to a history his audience shared and admired (Maier 1994:16), but the usual themes of taking up the Cross do not seem to have been repeated there, in the East, to the Crusaders who had already responded to such calls.

Papal legates were not always successful in winning over peasants, however. A thirteenth century Dominican MS near Bern (Bern Burgherbibliotek 679ff, 68v-69r) contains the story of an unlearned cleric who was tasked to do what several papal legates could not: convince the village to take up cross. He began his sermon to the wary villagers (wary because they were encountering yet another cleric preaching to them about taking up the cross) with an image which would be quite familiar to them. ‘Which is more difficult,’ he began, ‘threshing or winnowing?’ ‘Threshing takes 10 people, winnowing only 1, so threshing,’ replied the villagers. The cleric then said he was there to winnow the grain which the legates had threshed. He continued the metaphor with a short sermon. “He reminded the people of the opportunity to be absolved from their sins which Christ had offered them through his passion on the cross, his death, and the shedding of his blood. He said they had the choice of either taking cross and ‘become grains taken to the barn of paradise’ or chaff for the fire “(Maier 1994:121). In that short sermon, taking up the cross is seen as a way to demonstrate gratitude for the wounds suffered by Christ. The sermon ends by reminding the villagers that their souls could be fruitful, and stored up, or they could be meaningless and blow away in the wind. The theme of Crusade as a journey to Paradise or salvation, evoked in the imagery of being stored up, rather than dispersed is invoked. But a shift has occurred in this short sermon: it relies on guilt, rather than on love, as a motivating factor, at least in the snippet which survives.

The idea of Crusading as a means to salvation was not foreign to Francis. Francis himself is recorded to have gone East, to the Crusader stronghold of Damietta, burning with zeal for martyrdom during the fifth crusade, in 1219. Francis’ companion during his time in Damietta seems to have been Friar Illuminatus, whom Bonaventure places with Francis during his meeting with the Sultan, and implies that Friar Illuminatus may have been the source of that account. (Bonaventure is the author who later introduces the ordeal by fire during Francis’ visit with the Sultan.) The story in Julian of Speyer and Thomas of Celano follows a typical topos, Maier points out, so he turns to another contemporary source, James of Vitry. Maier quotes James of Vitry’s eye-witness account of Francis’ presence among the crusaders: ‘He [Francis] was not afraid to go into the camp of our enemy, burning with zeal for the faith; for several days he preached the word of God to the Saracens, but with little success’ (Maier 1994:9). The Vita Secunda records that Francis preached in front of Crusaders on Eve of battle not to go into battle on that day, for it would not go well , and not because of peace loving platform (Maier 1994:12). Francis is likewise quoted as using the scriptural advice to ‘tear out your eye’ to justify crusades, which, Maier asserts, “merely portrays him as a strict adherent of the contemporary doctrine commonly used to justify the crusades” (Maier 1994:15).

The Cross was of particular importance during the Fifth Crusade negotiations in summer of 1219. In addition to the return of the Holy City, the sultan offered to return a relic of Holy Cross lost to Saladin in 1187. Maier notes that the relic may actually have been lost permanently, for the Crusaders brought pieces of the True Cross with them to Damietta from Rome (Maier 1994:13). A specific event during that visit links Francis with the Cross, and specifically with his own theology of the Cross, which he delivers in a speech to the Sultan. An account dating from around 1256 – 1273 relates that before he granted audience to Francis, the Sultan placed on the ground a cloth with crosses embroidered on it to see if Francis would tread on the cross. Francis did, in fact, do so. When asked how he could do so without offending God, Francis replied: “You must know that along with our Lord thieves were crucified. We in fact have the cross of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, and it is this cross which we worship and embrace with all our devotion. The holy cross of God has been given to us, whereas the crosses of the thieves were left as your share; this is why I was not afraid to walk over the signs of the thieves. Nothing of the sacred cross of the Saviour belongs to you or is amongst you” (Maier 1994:14). Interestingly, devotion to the wounds of Christ, a belief which is not shared in Islam, was not mentioned in Francis’ sermon to the Sultan. Of course, Francis preached in front of the sultan before his reception of stigmata; one wonders what, if any, impression a stigmatist would have made in such a situation.

The Cross makes its way into the Francis story again, but this time, the evidence comes from art historical sources. The Basilica of San Francesco in Arezzo, and Santa Croce in Florence, both in Italy, offer two examples of the convergence of the two theological themes. Although named after St Francis, the Basilica of San Francesco is more famous for its frescoes depicting Jacob of Voraigne’s History of the True Cross than it is for any portrayal of St Francis. Santa Croce, on the other hand, offers the opposite case: a church dedicated to, and housing, relics of the True Cross, is nevertheless enmeshed in cycles depicting St Francis’ life, in addition to frescoes about the Cross. (For a full treatment on this theme see also Baert 2004. A Heritage of Holy Wood: The Legend of the True Cross in Text and Image, esp 384ff.)

In her article on Sta Croce, Franciscans, and the True Cross, Thompson (2004) indicates that “Francis’ reception of the stigmata gave his followers a unique claim on Christ’s wounds, and images commissioned by the Franciscan order in the thirteenth century and early fourteenth centuries consistently emphasized Francis’ dedication to Christ’s Passion.” (see Thompson 2004. “The Franciscans and the True Cross: The Decoration of the Cappella Maggiore of Santa Croce in Florence”. Gesta, vol 43, No 1:61 – 79.) In particular, she notes that “while the early apse program [of the history of the True Cross, painted by Cimabue and Ugolino da Siena] proclaims the centrality of the cross and of Christ’s Passion to Franciscan worship, Francis’ role as the Alter Christus, and Francis’ place in the history of human salvation, Gaddi’s frescoes of the True Cross celebrate the potency of the relic.” In other words, the positioning and narrative discourse conveyed by the frescoes to the viewer gathers together several associations at once: Christ, the Holy Cross, Christ’s passion, Francis’ sharing in that Passion, and the prophetic-eschataological role of Elijah the Prophet (which I will not discuss here). Thompson further argues that “The relic of the True Cross that rested on the Franciscan altar in Santa Croce was not just a symbol of Christ’s suffering. Within a Bonaventuran frame, it referred to the stigmata with which God marked Francis at La Verna,” and, as she argues, with the eschatological view in which all people will be marked by the Cross in Paradise.

Among the Franciscan saints portrayed in Sta Croce, two are particularly associated with the Crusades: Gerardo of Villamagna, who was first a Knight of Jerusalem and later a hermit of the third order of Franciscans; and Pietro da Siena. Both of whom “took on Francis’ charge in the rule of 1221 to go and preach among and, with luck, convert the Saracens in order to attain martyrdom. While Pietro died for his beliefs in the style of an early Christian martyr like Minias, Gerardo … lived [his life] in imitation of Francis and Christ; they were made like Christ not through physical martyrdom, but through the enkindling of their souls” {Thompson 2004:73). The association of Francis’ vision is thus further tied to Crusading and missionary work, as well as to the simple devotion of hermits who remained at home, devoted to poverty and ministering to those in need locally.

As already mentioned, the earlier churches of Arrezo and montegiorgio contain scenes from Jacob of Voraigne’s History of the True Cross. Baert notes that the fresco cycles in both Montegiorgio and Arrezo take care to highlight the presence of Constantine I, or both Constantine I and Heraclius, in their associations with the cross. Baert suggests this was due to Franciscan concerns about the unity of Christendom. The fate of Constantinople (if it fell to the Seljuks, for example) was of interest to them.

Especially noteworthy in the Montegiorgio cycle of frescoes on the Cross is the Judas Cyriacos/ Kyriakos legend. While that legend as a whole includes the conversion of the Jew as one trope, it is another aspect of the written (not frescoed) story which may be the origin of Francis’ Seraph of the Stigmata. In particular, the Judas Kyriakos narrative contained in the devotional text The Invention of the Cross, a text which survives in several languages, offers not only a narrative which circulated in both the Byzantine Commonwealth and the Latin Kingdoms of East and West, but it also contains a small detail which easily elides with the particulars of Francis’ reception of stigmata around Sept 14 on Mt Alverno. (The narrative was eventually codified in the West in Jacob de Voraigne’s Golden Legend; ‘Invention’ in this case means something like ‘Finding’ or ‘Discovery’ by St Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great.)

Unlike other accounts of the finding of the Cross, in the Judas Kyriakos legend, the focus is on the Cross, more than on St Helena. However, it is the presence of a Seraph in the Judas Kyriakos legend and in the account of Francis’ stigmata contained in Thomas of Celano which seems curious. In the Judas Kyriakos legend, Judas capitulates to Helena’s request to show her the hiding place of the True Cross. “On the eight day Judas gives in and shows Helena the place where Christ was crucified. Praying in Hebrew he asks God for a sign. He calls God a creator, the maker of the Cherubim, who serve Him, and the Seraphim who guard the Tree of Life at the centre of Paradise” (Baert 2004:44). The Tree of Life is not just at the centre of the garden; it is also the Cross. The Seraphim thus are also guardians of the Cross. Together with icons of ministering angels holding the instruments of the Passion (as appear in the Virgin Eleousa icons, or Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the West), angels come to be associated with Christ’s crucifixion. It seems a curious coincidence to then have a Seraph, specifically, a crucified man with six wings, appear to Francis during the vision after which he developed stigmata. To my knowledge, none of the medieval writers, and no frescoes make this parallel; my conclusion, then, is that to the Christians of the time, the vision was more important for other reasons — its association with Seraphim burning with love, for example — than with any specific attempt to identify the Seraph of the Passion with the Seraphim who guard the Tree of Life in the Judas Kyriakos legend.

Summary of Section

In this section, I asked the principal question, ‘Why were Francis’ stigmata understood as proof of his conformation to Christ — in the West — and why were such marks absent in Byzantium’s holy men and women? Taking as a starting point the association of Francis’ stigmata with the Cross (his stigmata were received on or around Sept 14), and the idea that they confirmed conformation to Christ, I examined devotion to the Passion in the Byzantine Commonwealth and the Latin Kingdoms, with an eye to also looking at how evidence of conformation to Christ was evidenced in both geopolitical worldviews.

I argued that Byzantium had a devotion to the Passion, and like the devotion to the Passion in the West, was associated with the Eucharist, or specifically, the Eucharistic liturgy. I concluded that while both Byzantium and the Latin Kingdoms of East and West had a common devotion to the Cross, Passion, and Eucharist, these three elements had different associated ideas in each rite. For the Byzantines, the Passion and Eucharist are associated with icons, so necessary for the public liturgy and accessible to private devotion; emotive liturgical hymns focused on the relationship of Mary and Christ. The Passion is also associated with relics. Both relics and icons are associated with sainthood. In the Latin Rite(s), The Passion and Eucharist are associated with the wounds of Christ, and the motivating impulse of the Word towards humanity, namely, Love. Both the wounds and Love are tied together with commentaries on the Song of Songs, which is itself associated with the Troubadour tradition of literature at the time. Finally, the Cross is associated with fealty and the Crusades, as well as with the Body which hung on it and is received in the Eucharist. Crusaders, as I showed in sermon extracts, could be aroused to fight through devotion to Christ’s love.

Clearly, when how Francis was portrayed in both the popular art and elite hagiography of the Latin West in the century after his death is taken into account, Francis ‘fits’ into the Latin network of associations much more easily than he does the Byzantine. Francis’s love and devotion to Christ, Francis’ association with the Crusades, Francis’ own poetical compositions, and Francis’ stigmata all combine to draw together those previously constructed associations of ‘nodes’ in the Latin spiritual tradition(s). Writers and speculative theologians expanded upon those associations, forming a cosmology into which Francis could fit, and including the choirs of angels and transformation in Christ. Francis does not fit into a rite whose liturgical foci centred around Stavrotheotokia hymns, iconoclasm, and material relics of the historical Passion. This does not mean that Francis could not fit into such a scheme today; merely that it disrupts the ‘symmetry’ in place at the time.

Francis’ stigmata would not have been understood in Byzantium unless framed in terms of post-iconoclastic rhetoric. For Byzantines, the understanding of transformation was couched in social terms related to becoming an icon, either in the sense of leaving behind relics, or in the sense of having an icon painted afterwards. Francis could potentially have been understood in Byzantium as a ‘living icon’, had commentators framed their presentation in terms of iconographia rather than imitatio, conformatio, or participatio. Yet one could argue that the presence of theological positions rooted in opposition to written icons (i.e. ongoing iconoclasm in Anatolia) would mitigate against any orthodox argument that humans could be or become living or true icons as well. That is, if a person could become a living icon, of what use are written icons? It is because a person has become a divinised being that the icon takes its purpose and ‘power’ (if we are to use such terms), not the other way around.

Additionally, later Byzantine theological rhetoric (rhetoric in the sense of literary or textual evidence using particular lines of argumentation and imagery) regarding transformation into Christ focused on Tabor or post-Resurrection events. This emphasis, traceable in origin to the eleventh century, lead not only to the later Hesychast emphasis on the uncreated light, but more immediately for determining holiness, on the presence of post-mortem relics. Living persons were too ‘unstable’ to be certain of their holiness. The age of living saints, as present in the Isaurian and Heraclian dyansties, was giving way to a different conception of ‘the Holy Man’ during the Comnenian and subsequent periods. (For people unfamiliar with Orthodox spirituality and relics, I would refer to the nineteenth century correlate of what I am describing in Dostoevsky’s Brother’s Karamazov, particularly the chapters surrounding the death of Father Zosima).

I don’t think a strong argument could be made that perhaps Byzantine spirituality was not as bodily-centred as Latin-rite spirituality. Symeon the New Theologian and his life certainly present evidence against that view, as do the later very physical descriptions of Hesychastic meditation and meditative techniques.

Both Byzantium and the Latin kingdoms faced a loss in their access to the materiality of the Passion. For Byzantium, the loss came through theft of the relics gathered by the Imperial family during the Latin occupation of Constantinople in the thirteenth century. Devotion to these relics continued in the subsequent Paliaologan and Romanov dynasties, but through the medium of icons which made those relics present to the devout. For the Latin countries, the loss of their Eastern kingdoms cut off access to the sites of the Passion, and solace was taken in devotions which had already begun to make their appearance during the Crusading period for people who could not make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem during that time. Although relics of the Passion were housed in locations as various as Saint-Chapelle in Paris, various churches in Rome and Venice, and chapels in the Holy Roman Empire, it was the private devotion afforded by the Stations of the Cross, the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, and the Wounds of Christ Crucified which kept the sites and events of the Passion in the hearts of the devout. Those reminders stirred the devout to remember the power of love, without thereby detracting from the experience of the Resurrected Christ, who was present in the Eucharistic elements as both Love-wounded and Love-stronger-than-death.

Keeping in mind these two sets of comparison, the larger Latin tradition of naming something ‘stigmata’ and the liturgically influenced Byzantine spirituality of the Cross, a comparison of the Latin ‘ecology’ of religious symbols in the twelfth and early thirteenth century with roughly contemporary Byzantine devotional forms (themselves undergoing changes in the eleventh and twelfth centuries) has demonstrated how they symbolic associations of Francis stigmata ‘fit’ a Latin context, but would not have been clearly understood in the Byzantine Commonwealth under the Comneni.


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