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Mary or Michael? Saint-Switching, Gender, and Sanctity in a Medieval Miracle of Childbirth1

  • Katherine Allen Smith (a1)


Medieval pilgrims making the dangerous journey from the Norman-Breton coast to the island monastery of Mont-Saint-Michel would have passed a tall stone cross rising out of the sands about halfway between the mainland and the north shore of the Mont. In the unlikely event that the visitors had not already heard the story of this monument, the so-called “croix des grèves,” they were sure to hear it—and perhaps even see it reenacted—once they arrived at their destination, since the miracle it commemorated was one of the most famous in the shrine's vast store of legend. Popularly known as the “Peril,” the miracle told of a pregnant woman who had come on pilgrimage to the shrine in the time of Abbot Hildebert I(1009–17). As she was making her way across the sands toward the abbey at low tide, a sudden storm blew in from the sea, carrying the tide in its wake. In her frantic efforts to reach the shore before the pilgrims' path was submerged, the woman went into labor and was unable to escape the quickly rising waters. According to the version of this story recounted to generations of pilgrims to Mont-Saint-Michel, the abbey's patron Saint Michael took pity on the unfortunate woman and made a dry space for her to wait out the storm in the midst of the sea, preserving her from harm while she was safely delivered of a healthy son. The boy was christened “Peril” in commemoration of his dangerous birth, and in gratitude to the archangel his mother designated him for the priesthood.



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2. The seventeenth-century historian Thomas Le Roy (sacristan of Mont-Saint-Michel from 1646–48) described the cross in his Les curieuses recherches du Mont-Sainct-Michel, 2 vols., ed. Eugène de Robillard de Beaurepaire (Caen: Le Gost-Clérisse, 1878), 1:106. Le Roy states that Abbot Hildebert I had this monument erected soon after the miracle had taken place, and that it was continually maintained and periodically repaired by the monks of the abbey through the fourteenth century. Le Roy himself claims to have seen the cross in the seventeenth century, by which time it remained submerged by the tides except on rare occasions.

3. In a fragmentary late medieval liturgical play from Mont-Saint-Michel, the end of a script for the performance of this miracle (presumably by monks of the abbey) is found. This text is edited by Eugène de Robillard de Beaurepaire as Les miracles du Mont Saint-Michel: fragment d'un mystère du XIVe siècle (Avranches: A. Anfray, 1862), 2224.

4. See the appendix at the end of this article for a chronological list of edited versions of the Peril, including full bibliographical citations. Although I have endeavored to locate all of the printed versions of the miracle, there may well be additional ones that I have not uncovered.

5. In his study “Les ‘doublets’ en hagiographie latine,” Analecta Bollandiana 96 (1978): 261–69, the most thorough examination to date of this phenomenon, Baudoin de Gaiffier noted that Hippolyte Delehaye was the first to point out the frequency with which medieval hagiographers borrowed vignettes—and even entire vitae—from one another. Ibid., 261–62.

6. Although angels were technically sexless, scriptural depictions of them as men and iconographical traditions that portrayed angels as male ensured that Michael was generally coded as male. Representations of Saint Michael in the medieval manuscripts and lead pilgrims' badges of Mont-Saint-Michel show him as a winged male warrior armed with a lance, shield, and sometimes the scales of judgment (with which the archangel was believed to weigh the souls of the deceased). On scriptural and iconographical depictions of angels and their influence on the medieval clerical—and popular—imagination, see Keck, David, Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 2836.

7. In the past fifteen years the literature on the relationship between gender and sanctity in medieval thought has grown dramatically. The pioneering work of Caroline Walker Bynum on high-medieval women saints in Northern Europe (Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987]) and that of Wemple, Suzanne (Women in Frankish Society: Marriage and the Cloister, 500–900 [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981]) on early medieval Francia remain influential. Two more recent important works by McNamara, Jo Ann (Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns Through Two Millennia [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996]) and Tibbetts Schulenburg, Jane (Forgetful of Their Sex: Female Sanctity and Society, ca. 500–1100 [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998]) have mined the huge numbers of medieval biographies, or vitae, of women saints in order to identify broader trends in the changing definitions of gendered sanctity over the course of the Middle Ages. Much attention has lately focused on holy women and their male amanuenses, with a particular focus on the question of male projection of ideals onto their subjects; recent approaches to this topic are exemplified by the collection of essays in Mooney, Catherine M., ed., Gendered Voices: Medieval Saints and Their Interpreters (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), in particular Mooney's excellent introduction and her essay on Saint Clare of Assisi. On gender and devotion to particular saints' cults in the later Middle Ages, see the essays and bibliographical references in Riches, Samantha J. E. and Salih, Sarah, Gender and Holiness: Men, Women, and Saints in Late Medieval Europe (London: Routledge, 2002).

8. Medieval misogynistic views that depicted women's sexuality as uncontrollable and polluting have been explored in several recent studies; for surveys of medieval clerical views of men and women's sexuality and relevant bibliography, see Salisbury, Joyce, “Gendered Sexuality,” in A Handbook of Medieval Sexuality, ed. Bullough, Vern L. and Brundage, James A. (New York: Garland, 1996), 81102, and Schulenburg, , Forgetful of Their Sex, chapter 5, “‘Golden Wombs’: Motherhood and Sanctity.”

9. On the value of miracles as sources, Ruth Mazo Karras observes that “if there exists such a thing as a general European medieval mentality, the exempla and miracle stories are among the best places to look for it.” See Karras, , “The Virgin and the Pregnant Abbess: Miracles and Gender in the Middle Ages,Medieval Perspectives 3 (1988): 112–32 (at 112).

10. Miracles might be preached as part of a campaign to promote a particular shrine and its saint or as illustrative anecdotes within sermons devoted to specific moral lessons. For instances of medieval religious communities sponsoring preaching campaigns, see Sumption, Jonathan, Pilgrimage: An Image of Mediaeval Religion (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1978), 152–53. Benedicta Ward describes the widespread dissemination of the miracles of famous medieval sanctuaries such as Santiago de Compostella in Northwestern Spain in her Miracles and the Medieval Mind: Theory, Record, and Event, 1000–1215 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982), chapter 6: “Miracles and Pilgrimage.” On the rise of the exempla collection as an important tool of medieval preachers in the thirteenth and fourteenth century, see Little, Lester, Religious Poverty and the Profit Economy in Medieval Europe (reprint Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983), 192.

11. See, for example, the twelfth-century Old French translation of the Michael-version by Saint-Pair, Guillaume de in his Roman du Mont Saint-Michel, ed. Francisque, Michel (Caen: A. Hardel, 1856), lines 3, 532–715, and the anonymous thirteenth-century Anglo-Norman version of the Peril as a miracle, Marian, La deuxième collection Anglo-Normande des miracles de la Sainte Vierge et son original, ed. Kjellman, H., 2nd ed. (Geneva: Slatkine, 1977), ch. 7, pp. 314–15.

12. These are as follows: Guillaume de Saint-Pair, Roman du Mont Saint-Michel; an anonymous Anglo-Norman verse version, Manuscrits français number 375, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; de Berceo, Gonzalo, Milagros de Nuestra Senora; da Voragine, Jacobus, Legenda Aurea; Alfonso X of Castile, Cantigas de Santa Maria; The South English Legendary; an anonymous exemplum collection entitled Ci nous dit; Gobi, Jean, Scala coeli; and Miélot, Jean, Miracles de Nostre Dame. For modern editions of these works, see the appendix at the end of this article.

13. Signori, Gabriela, “La bienheureuse polysémie,” in Marie: Le culte de la Vierge dans la société médiévale, ed. Dominique, Iogna-Pratt, Eric, Palazzo, and Daniel, Russo (Paris: Beauchesne, 1996), 611–14. There is a rapidly growing body of scholarship on preaching, focused primarily on the later Middle Ages. Joan Young Gregg has edited and commented on a number of exempla that contain clear messages about proper and improper devotional practice, gender roles, and the treatment of non-Christians in her Devils, Women, and Jeivs: Reflections on the Other in Medieval Sermon Stories (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997). On the genre of the sermones de sanctis, which involved the preaching of saints' Lives and miracles according to the liturgical calendar, see Ferzoco, George, “Medieval Sermon Collections on Saints,” in Preacher, Sermon, and Audience in the Middle Ages, ed. Carolyn, Muessig (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 279–91.

14. Angels were believed by medieval theologians to have been created prior to the existence of sex difference, ushered in by the creation of the first man and woman; for an overview of medieval theories of the angelic creation from Saint Augustine onwards, see Keck, , Angels and Angelology, 1627.

15. On lying-in rituals, see Lee, Becky R., “Men's Recollections of a Women's Rite: Medieval English Men's Recollections Regarding the Rite of the Purification of Women After Childbirth,” Gender & History 14 (2002): 224–41 (esp. 227–28), and McMurray Gibson, Gail, “Scene and Obscene: Seeing and Performing Late Medieval Childbirth,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 29 (1999): 725.

16. The offering of special prayers or candles—the lengths of which were determined by the circumference of the pregnant supplicant's midsection—to these saints were common birthing-chamber rituals. See Schulenburg, , Forgetful of Their Sex, 230–31.

17. This early miracle collection is edited as an appendix to Roy, Le, Les curieuses recherches, 1:873–92. On the dating of this early collection and the monastic life at the Mont in this period, see Lelegard, M., “Saint Aubert,” in Millénaire monastique du Mont Saint-Michel, 5 vols., ed. Laporte, J., Foreville, R., Baudot, M., and others (Paris: P. Lethielleux, 19661993), 1:2952 (at 37–41).

18. The version in the eleventh-century miracula of the abbey is edited in Roy, Le, Les curieuses recherches, 1:888–90, and that in the Roman du Mont Saint-Michel at lines 3, 532–710.

19. Although it is difficult to determine the extent to which the Latin miracula would have been made available to pilgrims, the preface to the Roman du Mont Saint-Michel explicitly states that it was composed with an audience of lay pilgrims in mind. Ibid., lines 5–20.

20. Of the thirteen stories contained in the collection just three are acts of mercy or healing: the Peril story and two additional accounts of healings performed by the relics of Bishop Aubert of Avranches, the legendary founder of Mont-Saint-Michel. The remaining ten narratives describe acts of vengeance and displays of power on the part of the archangel. For the full collection of narratives, see Roy, Le, Les curieuses recherches, 1:873–92.

21. I have adopted the distinction between “acts of power” and “acts of mercy” from Benedicta Ward's study, Miracles and the Medieval Mind. For a more detailed explanation of these classifications, see Ward, chapter 3: “Miracles at Traditional Shrines: St Faith, St Benedict and St Cuthbert.”

22. On the development of the pilgrimage to Mont-Saint-Michel and the cult of the archangel at the abbey in this period, see Labande, E. R., “Pèlerinages au Mont Saint-Michel pendant le moyen âge,” Millénaire monastique du Mont Saint-Michel, 3:237–50, and Allen Smith, Katherine, “An Angel's Power in a Bishop's Body: The Making of the Cult of Aubert of Avranches at Mont-Saint-Michel,” Journal of Medieval History, 29 (2003): 347–60.

23. On the “marialization” of miracles in this period, see Philippart, Guy, “Le récit miraculaire marial dans l'Occident médiévale,” in Marie: Le culte de la Vierge, 566–67. For two such instances of the Virgin supplanting Saints Peter and James in stories originally associated with the cults of these two saints, see The Stella Maris of John of Garland, ed. Evelyn Faye, Wilson (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1946), 169–70 (n. 14), and 199–200 (n. 50).

24. The other three miracles in the series are “the Jewish boy,” “Theophilus,” and “Julian the Apostate.” On the “Elements-Series,” see the still important article by Southern, R. W., “The English Origins of the ‘Miracles of the Virgin,’Medieval and Renaissance Studies 4 (1958): 176216, which is supplemented in important ways by Jennings, J. C., “The Origins of the ‘Elements Series’ of the Miracles of the Virgin,” Medieval and Renaissance Studies 6 (1968): 8493.

25. Malmesbury was rededicated to the Virgin under the abbacy of Aelfric (ca. 965–77), whose Marian writings would certainly have been known to William of Malmesbury; Evesham had been dedicated to the Virgin at its foundation in the eighth century. On devotion to the Virgin in Anglo-Saxon England more generally, see Clayton, Mary, The Cult of the Virgin Mary in Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), (see 133–37 for the trend of rededicating churches to the Virgin after the tenth century). Clayton's analysis of the Marian homilies of Aelfric and Fulbert and discussion of the place of miracles in these texts is at 235–52.

26. According to J. C. Jennings, Dominic of Evesham's collection (which slightly predated and strongly influenced William of Malmesbury's own Marian miracula) represents a turning point in the development of Marian miracles, since “no longer are St. Basil, St. Cyriacus or St. Odo of Cluny given predominance, but the Virgin's miracles have been extracted from their Lives and she has been raised to primary importance.” See Jennings, , “Origins of the ‘Elements-Series,’” 91.

27. Michael was credited with the weighing of souls and the guardianship of heaven (tasks also sometimes assigned to Saint Peter), while the Virgin was imagined to intercede on behalf of sinners who would otherwise be condemned, originally by pleading with the archangel (or Peter) and in later centuries by dropping her rosary into the scales to tip them in the sinners' favor. On the tradition of this association in Anglo-Saxon England, see Clayton, , Cult of the Virgin, 253–54; for the development of this belief and its iconography more generally, see Mâle, Emile, Religious Art in France: The Twelfth Century (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press), 413–14, and Fournée, Jean, “L'archange de la mort et du jugement,” in Millénaire monastique du Mont Saint-Michel, 3:76–87.

28. Interestingly, the “croix des grèves” was located at the halfway point between Tombelaine and the larger Mont-Saint-Michel. Paul Gout provides a convenient map showing the relative positions of Tombelaine and the cross vis-à-vis Mont-Saint-Michel in his Le Mont Saint-Michel, 2 vols. (Paris: A. Colin, 1910), 1: plan III (facing page 38). On the Virgin's shrine at Tombelaine, which was founded in 1137 and consisted of a priory and pilgrims' church staffed by monks from the nearby abbey, see Dubois, Jacques, “Les dépendances de l'abbaye du Mont Saint-Michel et la vie monastique dans les prieurés,” Millenaire monastique du Mont Saint-Michel, 1:662–65.

29. J. C. Jennings suggested that Guillaume de Saint-Pair's version of the Peril was “the original version of the ‘Childbirth at Sea’ story” appropriated by Dominic for his collection. The secure daring of the Roman du Mont Saint-Michel to the early part of the abbacy of Robert de Torigni (1154–86), however, seems to rule out the possibility that Dominic of Evesham was familiar with Guillaume de Saint-Pair's version of the Peril. For a fuller examination of Dominic of Evesham's collection and its sources, see Jennings, , “Origins of the ‘Elements-Series’”; on the dating of the Roman du Mont Saint-Michel, see Blacker, Jean, “Monastic History in a Courtly Mode? Author and Audience in Guillaume de Saint-Pair's Roman du Mont-Saint-Michel and the anonymous Histoire de l'abbaye de Fécamp,” in Literary Aspects of Courtly Culture: Selected Papers From the Seventh Triennial Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society, ed. Donald, Maddox and Sara, Sturm-Maddox (Rochester, N.Y.: D. S. Brewer, 1994), 261–99.

30. Italics mine. Canal, José A., ed., “El libro ‘De miraculis Sancte Mariae’ de Domingo de Evesham/' Studium legionense 39 (1998): 268: “Refertur vero a quibusdam sanctum Michaelem archangelum quondam suum peregrinum sublevatione aquarum liberasse a periculo maris, sed hanc mulierem Domina mundi in ipsis fluctibus liberavit a periculo mortis.” Dominic's acknowledgement that the Peril, rendered as a miracle of the Virgin, is in a sense a “stolen” miracle, is repeated in several later redactions of the tale, including the mid-twelfth-century “Pez” collection, a slightly later grouping of stories contained in the unpublished British Library MS, the poet Adgar's collection contained in British Library, Cotton Cleopatra C X, ed. Neuhaus, C. as Adgars Marienlegenden (Heilbronn: Aschersleben, 1886), 2223, and the thirteenth-century Liber Mariae of Gil de Zamora, edited as “Cincuenta leyendas por Gil de Zamora,” ed. Fidel, Fita, Boletín de la Real Academica de la Historia 7 (1885): 37 (120–22). Although he undoubtedly knew Dominic's collection well, his contemporary William of Malmesbury recorded his own Marian version of the Peril without any reference to a preexisting redaction of the story involving Saint Michael.

31. On the differences between medieval and modern scholarly approaches to multiple versions of a text, and the increasing tendency of modern medievalists to place value on multiple redactions, see Ashley, Kathleen and Sheingorn, Pamela, “Introduction: Reading Hagiography,” in Writing Faith: Text, Sign, and History in the Miracles of Sainte Foy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), and Lifshitz, Felice, “Beyond Positivism and Genre: ‘Hagiographical’ Texts as Historical Narrative,” Viator 25 (1994): 95113.

32. These are the versions in the eleventh-century miracula of Mont-Saint-Michel and the Roman du Mont-Saint-Michel.

33. Roy, Le, Les curieuses recherches, 1:888; Roman du Mont Saint-Michel, lines 3, 550 and 3, 592.

34. Roy, Le, Les curieuses recherches, 1:888: “Ipsa vero eundem sanctum majori succensa desiderio ut hoc facerent urgere coepit omnimodo. Cuius ille tandem devictus precibus cum suorum aliquibus ad eundem Sancti Michaelis locum est profectus.”

35. Ibid., 889: “Pelagus itaque altius accrescens in immensum quasi quemdam circa earn profundissimum effecit puteum: nee una gutta sui introrsus per totum ipsius circuli defluente spatium. … Talis, itaque ut sic dictum sit, tuta munimine valli, ibidem iam secura peperit, enixumque puerum ejusdem pelagi undis abluit quod ad abluendum ut aqua hauriri poterat.”

36. Roman du Mont Saint-Michel, lines 3, 687–95: “Seignors, oiez; / Si vos dirai cum sui guarie, / Se dam-le-Deu me benéie. / Tant cum la mer ici esteit, / Avis me fut que il aveit / Une cortine entor mei blanche / Molt plus assez que nois sor branche; / A semblance de mur esteit, / La mer passer ne la poieit.”

37. Biblical precedents of angels as “a burning fire” (Ps. 103:4) probably inspired these descriptions of apparitions of the archangel at Mont-Saint-Michel, which appear in chronicles and miracle stories from the eleventh through fifteenth century.

38. Roman du Mont Saint-Michel, lines 2, 859–60: “cum un brandon / Qui est espris tot environ.”

39. For a reproduction of this retable, along with a discussion of its stylistic elements and probable provenance, see Blanc, Monique, Retables: la collection du Musée des arts décoratifs (Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 1998), 6061.

40. Caesarius of Heisterbach, The Dialogue on Miracles, trans. Von E. Scott, H. and Swinton Bland, C. C., 2 vols. (London: Routledge, 1929), 2:77 (bk 8, ch. 76). It should be noted that the aid of certain male saints might be invoked by medieval women in labor; for example, Michael E. Goodich has shown that fourteenth-century Italian matrons called on the Dominican Saint Peter Martyr to ease the pains of childbed, though he does not mention any cases of the saint taking an active role in childbirth miracles by appearing in the lying-in chambers of the women in question. See Goodich's, Violence and Miracle in the Fourteenth Century: Private Grief and Public Salvation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 8789. Ronald C. Finucane found that Thomas Becket and Saint Louis IX were both credited with saving several women suffering labor complications, but again none of these miracles featured either male saint appearing “in person” to the women concerned; by contrast, Finucane mentioned another case in which the husband of a parturient woman waiting outside the lying-in chamber saw an apparition of Saint Dorothy of Montau entering his wife's room, as if to assist the midwives already within. See Finucane's, The Rescue of the Innocents: Endangered Children in Medieval Miracles (New York: St. Martin's, 1997), 2735.

41. For these associations, see Atkinson, Clarissa W., The Oldest Vocation: Christian Motherhood in the Middle Ages (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991), and Wood, Charles T., “The Doctors' Dilemma: Sin, Salvation, and the Menstrual Cycle in Medieval Thought,” Speculum 56 (1981): 710–27.

42. The South English Legendary, 3 vols., ed. Charlotte, D'Evelyn and Mill, Anna J., Early English Text Society 0.5. 235, 236, and 244 (London: Oxford University Press, 19561959), 2:407: “And hadde child ÞER in Þe se / and ate 3eres ende / Hol and sond wiÞ hure child / to Þis feste he gan wende.”

43. Ibid.: “And saued was in Þe deope se / Þoru grace of sein Michel / For Gode Þer nis non of 30u / Þat hure coutÞe habbe iwest so wel / Ne so iued hure ne hure child / Þat necostnede worÞ a strau / For Þei he[o] hadde viss & drinke inou / 3e witeÞ wel it was rau / And to fleote so in Þe grete se / wonder Þat heo nas ded / Sein Michel was a god wardein / wane we habbeÞ al ised.”

44. For the Glossa Ordinaria's standard interpretation of these elements, see Migne, J.-P., ed., Patrologiae cursus completus: series latina, 221 vols. [hereafter PL] (Paris: 18441866), 114: 731–32. The woman clothed with the sun was also sometimes interpreted as the Virgin Mary (who was in turn a common metaphor for the Church); for an edition and French translation of several medieval Latin exegetical texts concerning this passage, see Lobrichon, Guy, “La femme d'Apocalypse 12 dans l'exegèse du haut Moyen Âge latin (760–1200),” in Marie: Le culte de la Vierge, 407–39.

45. On the Virgin's delivery as imagined by medieval men and women writers, see Atkinson, , Oldest Vocation, 111–13. The Virgin's painless delivery was celebrated in liturgical prayer as well, as in the following sequence from the English Sarum Missal: “But, O how happy and joyous, O Mary, was the dialogue between you and the angel, by which life came forth for the whole world. / But your most blessed childbirth, free from pain, seems to outshine all others. / Through which the curse of Eve was dissolved, and equally a blessing was bestowed on all women. / To whom, therefore, other than you, consoler of all women, shall desperate pregnant women, groaning with tears, flee?” This text is translated by Murray, Jacqueline in Love, Marriage, and Family in the Middle Ages: A Reader (Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 2001), 410.

46. Gibson, , “Scene and Unseen,” and Coletti, Theresa, “Purity and Danger: The Paradox of Mary's Body and the En-Gendering of the Infancy Narrative in the English Mystery Cycles,” in Feminist Approaches to the Body in Medieval Literature, ed. Linda, Lomperis and Sarah, Stanbury (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993).

47. On the theme of the Virgin as midwife, see Karras, , “The Virgin and the Pregnant Abbess,” 122–24.

48. For the details of medieval nativity plays as performed in fourteenth-century northern France, see Penn, Dorothy, The Staging of the ‘Miracles de Nostre Dame par Personnages” of MS. Cangé (New York: Columbia University Press, 1933), 29.

49. Penn, , Staging of the Miracles, 29, 9495. In the Cangé collection these are as follows: 1 (“Infant Given to the Devil”), 2 (“Pregnant Abbess”), 5 (“Nativity”), 15 (“Revived Infant”), 18 (“Theodoric”), 29 (“Queen of Hungary”), 30 (“Jehan le Paulu”), 32 (“King Thierry”), 37 (“King's Son”), and 39 (“Clovis”). Other well-known Marian miracles involving pregnant women are the “Jewess in Childbirth” and “Incest” (in which a mother becomes pregnant by her son), both of which appear in Vincent of Beauvais (as well as multiple other medieval collections), Speculum historiale, ed. and trans. Michel, Tarayre as La Vierge et le miracle (Paris: H. Champion, 1999), ch. 7, pp. 9395, 99.

50. Penn, , Staging of the Miracles, 58. Penn notes that irresponsible husbands are stock characters in many of these tales, “credulous and quick to suspect the infidelity of their wives,” or prone to go off on pilgrimage at inopportune moments.

51. A detailed history of the Virgin's veil, the Byzantine predecessor of the holy ceinte, and of the uses and significance of such Marian relics for women, has recently been written by Weyl Carr, Annemarie; see “Threads of Authority: The Virgin Mary's Veil in the Middle Ages,” in Robes and Honor: The Medieval World of Investiture, ed. Stewart, Gordon (New York: Palgrave, 2001). For the uses of the Virgin's clothing and milk in the medieval West, see Warner, Marina, Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary (New York: Vintage, 1976), 278–79. The Old French words are much closer than the modern French “ceinture” (belt) and “enceinte” (pregnant).

52. Schulenburg, , Forgetful of Their Sex, 230–31.

53. Karras, , “The Virgin and the Pregnant Abbess,” 116–19.

54. On the clerical compilation of Marian miracles and their “ingredients” in the High Middle Ages, see Signori, Gabriela, “The Miracle Kitchen and Its Ingredients: A Methodical and Critical Approach to Marian Shrine Wonders (10th–13th century),” Hagio-graphica 3 (1996): 277303.

55. Dominic of Evesham's description, which is echoed almost verbatim in the versions of Gil de Zamora (Liber Marine, ed. Fidel, Fita, Boletín de la Real Academica de la Historia 17 [1885]: 121) and the “Pez” collection (Liber de miraculis Sanctae Dei Genetricis Mariae, ed. Pez, Bernard, reprint Thomas Frederick Crane [Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1925], 25), is as follows: “turbis ad eius limina properantibus, ac iam in medio arenae maris positis, affuit inter ceteros quaedam mulier paupercula, vicino partu omnino iam gravida.”

56. William of Malmesbury, De laudibus et miraculis S. Mariae, ed. Canal, José A. as El Libro “De laudibus et miraculis Sanctae Marine” de Guillermo de Malmesbury (Rome: Alma Roma, 1968), 159: “In mediis fluctibus locus sit amoenissimus, cui virginis manica fit thalamus, spura balsami odorem suauissimus.” The wording of this passage is strongly reminiscent of Deuteronomy 33:12, which describes how “the best beloved of the Lord shall dwell confidently within him: as in a bridal chamber shall he abide all the day long, and between his shoulders shall be rest.”

57. London, British Library Royal MS 2 B. VII, fol. 214r. For the identification of this miniature with the Peril story, see Warner, George, Queen Mary's Psalter: Miniatures and Drawings by an English Artist of the 14th Century (London: British Museum, 1912), 35. This image is reproduced in Herolt, Johannes, Miracles of the Blessed Virgin Mary, ed. and trans. Swinton Bland, C. C. (London: Garland, 1928), pl. II, no. 2 (facing p. 22). For additional medieval visual representations of the Peril as a Marian miracle, see Barnay, Sylvie, Le ciel sur la terre: les apparitions de la Vierge au moyen âge (Paris: Cerf, 1999), 6566.

58. Vierge et le miracle, 48: “manica super earn proiecta, ita intactam a terrisono impetu maris reddidit, ut nec minima etiam gutta totius abyssi illius vestimenta contingeret.” Virtually identical descriptions are found in Dominic of Evesham, De miraculis Sancte Mariae, 268; “Pez,” Liber de miraculis Sanctae Dei genetricis, 26; and de Zamora, Gil, Liber Mariae, 121.

59. For this Classical meaning, see Glare, P. G. W., The Oxford Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 934. On the medieval use of intacta in connection with the Virgin, see Blaise, Albert, Lexicon Latinitatis Medii Aevii, CCCM 27 bis (Turnhout: Brepols, 1975), 495.

60. For example, the following antiphon, a short chanted prayer widely sung in her honor as part of the liturgy for the feast of the Nativity, describes the Virgin in these terms: “Hodie intacta virgo deum nobis genuit teneris indutum membris quem lactare meruit omnes ipsum adoremus qui venit salvare nos.” Corpus antiphonalium officii, ed. Hesbert, Renato-Joanne, 6 vols. (Rome: Herder, 19631979), vol. 3, entry number 3104, p. 256.

61. For the different meanings of the verb, see Lewis, Charlton T. and Short, Charles, A Latin Dictionary Founded on Andrews' Edition of Freund's Latin Dictionary, rev. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1962), 449–50.

62. The Virgin's role in this respect is strongly reminiscent of her association with conversion and the “purification” of non-Christian places of worship in Reconquest-era Spain and Colonial Mexico, as described by Remensnyder, Amy G. in her article on “The Colonization of Sacred Architecture: The Virgin Mary, Mosques, and Temples in Medieval Spain and Early Sixteenth-Century Mexico,” in Monks & Nuns, Saints & Outcasts: Religion in Medieval Society: Essays in Honor of Lester K. Little, ed. Sharon, Farmer and Rosenwein, Barbara H. (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2000), 189219 (esp. 198–201).

63. Compare the wording of Psalms 68:16–17: “Let not the tempest of water drown me, nor the deep swallow me up: and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. Hear me, O Lord, for thy mercy is kind; look upon me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.”

64. Dominic of Evesham, De miraculis, 268: “O quam pia es, Domina nostra sancta Maria. Succere ergo, Virgo Dei genitrix, et nobis miseris peccatoribus famulis tuis in tua misericordia sperantibus, ut non nos demergeat tempestas aquae, neque absorbeat nos profundum, neque urgeat super nos puteus os suum, se tua misericordissima pietate et sanctissima intercessione adiuti ac confortati, serviamus vero regi, qui vivit et regnat per immortalia saecula. Amen.”

65. Glossa Ordinaria, PL 113:948: “Vers. 16—Profundum. (Cas.) Peccatorum quod delugit animas, unde: ‘peccator cum venerit in profundum peccatorum, contemnit’ (Prov. XVIII).… Et si cecidisti non claudit super te puteus os suum, si non claudis os tuum, sed confitere et dic: ‘De profundis clamavi ad te, Domini,’ et evades. …” “Vers. 17—Exaudi me, Domini (Cas). Periculis hominum expositis voce eorum precatur: ‘Exaudi me Domine, quia benigna misericordia,’ non qui merui. … Suavis est tribulato misericordia, ut panis esurienti. Venit tribulatio: differt Deus subvenire, ut moveat desiderium, et sit dulce auxilium.”

66. Dominic of Evesham, , De miraculis, 268: “Sunt nota fratribus loci sanctae Dei genitricis miracula.”

67. For the foundation of Monte Gargano and the archangel's provision of these relics for the shrine, see Arnold, John C., “Arcadia Becomes Jerusalem: Angelic Caverns and Shrine Conversion at Monte Gargano,” Speculum 75 (2000): 567–88; for the relics of Michael's sword and shield at Mont-Saint-Michel, see Dubois, Jacques, “Le trésor des reliques du Mont Saint-Michel,” in Millénaire monastique, 1:501–93 (at 569–70).

68. For examples of this iconography from late medieval England, see Duffy, Eamon, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400–1580 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992), pl. 120–22.

69. I make no claim to have searched exhaustively for evidence of male saintly “midwifery” in medieval vitae; this is simply my impression, and further work on this subject will certainly offer a more nuanced reading of the evidence. My use of Thomas Becket and Louis IX as examples of male saints' interaction with parturient women is derived from the research of Ronald Finucane on their miracula that involve pregnancy and childbirth in some way. See Finucane's, The Rescue of the Innocents, 2735.

70. This wonderful explanation of the appeal of miracle stories to medieval sensibilities comes from Vauchez, André, The Laity in the Middle Ages: Religious Beliefs and Devotional Practices, trans. Schneider, Margery (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993), 88.

1 An earlier version of this article was read at the 38th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in May 2003 in a panel on “The Cult of Saint Michael the Archangel in the Middle Ages.” Susan Wade brought up important questions at an early stage that helped shape my thinking on the gendered imagery in the different versions of the Peril, and successive drafts of this article have benefited enormously from the perceptive comments and questions of Penny Johnson and Mary McLaughlin. I am also grateful to the anonymous reader for Church History for providing additional references and suggestions that helped me to clarify and expand upon the arguments that follow. All scriptural quotations are from the Douay-Rheims version; all other translations, except where noted, are my own.

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Church History
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