Crafting Marian Devotion: The Representation of the Theophilus Legend in Northern Europe (9th-14th c.) Open Access

Lyons, Jennifer (2016)

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The Theophilus legend is the tale of an apostate clerk, who sold his soul to the devil with the help of a Jewish magician, but was saved, after a period of repentant prayer, by the intervention of the Virgin Mary. Known in the Latin West by the late ninth century as a saint's life, by the thirteenth century, the legend was one of the most well-known stories told about the Virgin in northern Europe, gaining the status as her official miracle. This dissertation traces the history of that transformation, arguing that penance, devotion to the Virgin Mary, and anti-Jewish rhetoric were the driving forces behind the amplification of the Theophilus legend as a narrative in texts and images. The Latin history of the legend provides an essential context for understanding the pictorial tradition that developed alongside it in stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, and exceptionally, in monumental sculpture. While the earliest representations of the legend in the visual arts were influenced by Theophilus's role as a penitent, by the thirteenth century images of the tale focused on the Virgin Mary's presence in the story as an intercessor. Additionally, the figure of the Jew took on a more prominent role in Theophilus imagery by the thirteenth century in parallel to growing anti-Jewish sentiment in northern Europe. Whether depicted in the context of the monastery, the cathedral, or the city, the Theophilus legend served as a catalyst for a brand new image of the Virgin Mary, represented as a dynamic figure who performed her role as intercessor before the beholder.

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations


Introduction. 1

1. From Saint's Life to Sermon: The Theophilus Legend and the Ecclesiastical Imagination

in the Latin West, 9th-12th C. 24

I. The Latin Life of Saint Theophilus. 25

II. Bishop Fulbert of Chartres's Approbate consuetudinis. 41

III. Picturing the Theophilus Legend in Paris, BnF, MS lat. 11750. 48

2. From the Psalter to Souillac: The Twelfth-Century Beginnings of a Visual Tradition for the Theophilus Legend. 62

I. The Theophilus Legend in the Psalter. 65

II. Animating the Sedes Sapientiae: The Paris Psalter (BnF MS lat. 238) and the Theophilus Relief from

Sainte-Marie at Souillac. 81

3. From Monastery to Cathedral: The Theophilus Legend in the Palace of the Virgin. 101

I. The Theophilus Window from Laon Cathedral. 105

II. The Theophilus Window from Chartres Cathedral. 126

4. Virtue and Vice Personified: The Jewish Magician in Representations of the Theophilus Legend. 152

I. Representing the Jewish Magician in Text and Image. 153

II. Representing the Jew in Gautier de Coinci's Comment Theophilus vint a penitance. 167

III. The Theophilus Reliefs in the Cloister of Notre-Dame in Paris: From the Talmud Trial of 1240 to the Expulsion

of the Jews from France in 1306. 189

Conclusion. 214


I. List of Manuscripts with Copies of the Vita of Saint Theophilus. 230

II. List of Manuscripts with Copies of the Bishop Fulbert's Approbate consuetudinis. 241

III(a). Current Layout of the Miracles of the Virgin Window, Chartres Cathedral. 246

III(b). Pintard's Description the Miracles of the Virgin Window, Chartres Cathedral. 247

III(c). Reconstruction of the Lost Theophilus Scenes in the Miracles of the Virgin Window. 248

IV. List of Illuminated Manuscripts with Theophilus Imagery. 249

Bibliography. 269

Illustrations. 294

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