Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Miracles of Our Lady of Rocamadour: Analysis and Translation

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Miracles of Our Lady of Rocamadour: Analysis and Translation

Article excerpt

The Miracles of Our Lady of Rocamadour: Analysis and Translation. By Marcus Bull. (Rochester, NewYork: The Boydell Press. 1999. Pp. xi, 223. $75.00.)

While its origins remain obscure, the shrine to the Virgin Mary at Rocamadour achieved quite substantial importance by the second half of the twelfth century. Located in a spectacular gorge on the Alzou River in Quercy, it survived the vicissitudes of the wars of religion to become, and remain today, one of the most popular Marian shrines in modern France. Despite its importance, the monastic community which tended the shrine during the Middle Ages remained a priory dependent on the abbey of Tulle, in part because it was, in the words of Robert of Torigny, horribly remote" (p. 71). Even its connection to the Virgin was distant: its patron saint, Amator, was, according to legend, a member of Mary's household staff who came to Gaul late in life as an evangelist. His relics were allegedly rediscovered in 1166. While this event may have been important in publicizing the site, the saint's relics always remained peripheral, in all ways except name, to the Rocamadour pilgrimage. Yet, unlike such shrines as Chartres and Laon, the priory did not claim to possess any physical relics of the Virgin.

In the years 1172 and 1173, one (or perhaps more) of the priory's monks compiled a collection of 126 miracle stories. These tales of pilgrimages, cures, and chastisements contain rich anecdotal evidence for religious life and social practice in the twelfth-century Midi. The prominence of knights (milites) and their families in the stories provides intriguing evidence about the role of both piety and violence in the lives of the military aristocracy. This is territory well known to Bull, the author of a distinguished monograph on Knightly Piety and the Lay Response to the First Crusade (Oxford, 1993). Bull's translation is a good and readable one, annotated by a sensible number of useful notes. His work serves pedagogy well, not simply because it makes this text itself available to a wide audience, but more importantly because few miracle collections are available in English translation. …

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