Medieval Christians knew the past primarily through what they saw and heard. History was reenacted every year in ritual observances particular to each place and region and rooted in the legends of local saints. This richly illustrated book explores the layers of history found in the cult of the Virgin of Chartres as it developed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Focusing on the major relic of Chartres Cathedral, the Virgin’s gown, and the Feast of Mary's Nativity, Margot Fassler employs a wide range of historical evidence including local histories, letters, obituaries, chants, liturgical sources, and reports of miracles, leading to a detailed reading of the cathedral's west façade. This interdisciplinary volume will prove invaluable to historians who work in religion, politics, music, and art but will also serve as a guidebook for all interested in the history of Chartres Cathedral.
Margot E. Fassler is the Robert Tangeman Professor of Music History at Yale University.
Winner of the 2012 Otto Gründler Book Prize sponsored by Western Michigan University.
Winner of the 2011 ACE/Mercers' International Book Award (UK Award)
“Fassler is one of the only scholars in medieval musicology able to bring both the liturgical and the historical expertise to questions of cult. We so desperately need this book if we are to fully understand the workings of religion in medieval Europe.”—Rachel Fulton, University of Chicago
"Fassler goes much further in her explication of the liturgy of Chartres Cathedral than any scholar has yet done. This is destined to be an important book."—James Bugslag, University of Manitoba
"The Virgin of Chartres is an astonishingly bold, broad, and learned account of the relationship between social and political history, church and kingship, theology and liturgy, in the rise of the cult of the Virgin and the building of Chartres, her chief sanctuary in Europe."—Howard R. Bloch
"This imaginative, pioneering, but also precise and thorough examination of the cult of Mary at Chartres examines the medieval processes of knowing the past through rituals, visual art, music, and devotional texts. The result is a total history of devotions to the Virgin at one of the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages and a model of multi-disciplinary study in any period."—Robert Nelson
“Among its chief virtues is the subtle presentation of a wide range of evidences that engender nuanced connections in the mind of the reader. What results is something akin to a thick description, in the anthropological sense of the term, of the Virgin’s cult at medieval Chartres. Moreover, the book repeatedly and generously imagines productive trajectories for future inquiries, especially with respect to the political implications of the liturgy. One could extend Fassler’s admirably interdisciplinary approach to subsequent artistic and architectural campaigns of the cathedral, as well as to broader trends within the monumental arts throughout the region. Did, for example, the Thibaudians have an agenda in the construction of history that can be observed in other churches? What role might the Virgin have played in forging regional identities beyond the city limits of Chartres? Fassler has provided a great service in offering future generations of scholars a formidable and flexible model for approaching these and many other questions. For this reason, her study will likely endure as essential reading not only for students of Chartres but for all those interested in examining the multifaceted ways that medieval communities constructed their own histories.”—Kirk Ambrose
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