Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Christine De Pizan's Crown of Twelve Stars

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Christine De Pizan's Crown of Twelve Stars

Article excerpt

In the twelfth chapter of her Epistre de la prison de vie humaine ,' a consolatory epistle completed on 20 January 1417 os (1418 ns) and designed to comfort all the grieving princesses of the realm and other noble ladies affected by the French defeat at Agincourt on 25 October 141 5, Christine de Pizan lists and defines the twelve joys of paradise that will be experienced by the righteous dead after the Last Judgement. She states that, according to the doctors of the Church and other authorities, each resurrected body will receive a victor's crown which is studded not with precious stones but with twelve stars, each star corresponding to one of the twelve joys of Paradise:

Des beneuteux thent2 que avec leur juge Jhesu-Crist iront en Paradis ... la gloire que auront ces ben ois corps resusciteiz sera en accroissement de la beatitude precedant que les ames avoient, dont entre les autres gloires et joies en mettent .xii que ils figurent à une couronne d'autant de luis ans estoiles en lieu de pierres precieuses qui à un chascun comme roy et vittorieux sera mise sur son chief, (lines 1293-301)

Christine then proceeds to list in detail the twelve joys that the elect will experience: body and soul will be reunited; they will see God and Christ in majesty; they will find themselves 'light', powerful, rejuvenated, inhabiting a body of about 30 years of age (i.e. the approximate age of Christ at his death), freed from all imperfections; they will have perfect wisdom; they will see and recognize all members of their families who have been saved (and will rejoice at God's justice if this is not the case); they will be agile and weightless, able to pass through all obstacles and move freely from heaven to earth and earth to heaven; they will be living in the domain of all virtues; endowed with light and beauty, they will rejoice in each other's company; they will enjoy perfect peace, love, and union with God; they will be treated as the sons of God and as Christ's brothers; they will love and worship the Trinity; they will see the Trinity (lines 1302-459).

To date, the most important contribution to our understanding of this section of the text is an article published in 2000 by Josette Wisman,3 who perceptively rereads Christine's presentation of the resurrection in the light of (among others) Caroline W. Bynum's study The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336? Wisman shows in her article how Christine, conscious of the need to maximize the effect of her consolatory message on her grieving readers, presents an anthropological, aristocratic view of heaven, where the particularities of gender, class, and kinship aU reassuringly survive the passage from Ufe to death; she demonstrates too that, whilst drawing on the learned, patristic tradition of the dotes analysed by Bynum,5 that is the dowries bestowed on the glorified body (e.g. claritas, agilitas, subtilitas, impassibilitas),6 Christine dispenses with technical language and concentrates on deUvering a message to which her authence can easily relate. Comprehensive as Wis man's article is, there remain, however, three questions that merit further discussion. Given that Christine herself says that, in addition to using the 'Sains Es crips' (Une 1281) or the 'Sainte Escripture' (line 13 5o),7 she searched the 'livres des benois dotteurs de Sainte Eglise' (Unes 1161f.) for material for her last chapters, what was Christine's source for the crown of twelve stars? Why is it that she connects the twelve stars with the twelve joys of the resurrection? Finally, what do we know of the tradition of the twelve joys independently of Christine's work?

The answer to the first question must lie in the one scriptural mention of a crown of twelve stars (Rev. xii.i). Before discussing the twelve joys, Wisman touches briefly on this reference in the course of an analysis of Christine's imagery (including that of the crown), observing that '[t]he image of a crown of twelve stars is rarely used in scriptural writings, one exception being the figure of the woman in Rev. …

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