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Miracles, Mimesis, and the Efficacy of Images Author(s): Peggy McCracken Source: Yale French Studies, No.

Miracles, Mimesis, and the Efficacy of Images Author(s): Peggy McCracken Source: Yale French Studies, No. 110, Meaning and Its Objects: Material Culture in Medieval and Renaissance France (2006), pp. 47-57 Published by: Yale University Press

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PEGGY

MCCRACKEN

Miracles,

Mimesis,

Efficacy

of Images

and

the

Miracle

stories

are

full

of portraits,

statues,

and

even

apparitions

of

the

Virgin

Mary,

and nowhere

more

than

in Gautier

de Coinci's

thirteenth

century

collection,

the Miracles

de Nostre

Dame.

Gautier's

stories

in

clude

many

images

of

the Virgin,

both

portraits

and

statues,

and

sev

eral

describe

miracles

accomplished

after

a petitioner

before

a

portrait

or

statue

of her:

the moment

of

intercession

prays is a moment

 

of

miraculous

mimesis.

 

God

performs

miracles

for

the

sake

of his

virgin

mother,

but

in Gautier's

collection,

God

also

performs

miracles

for her

"ymage,"

her

image,

a portrait

or a statue.

In one

of Gautier's

miracles,

a blind

Saracen

comes

to pray

for his

sight

before

a portrait

of

the Vir

gin

because

he

has

heard

"that

the

great

God

of

the Christians

who

is

lord and

father

of all, would

perform

great miracles

for the

image

of his

sweet

mother."1

He

asks

to

regain

his

sight,

and when

his

petition

is

granted

he

converts

to Christianity.

 

This

miracle

But where

to

suggests

is such

Mary

that

even

and

that

images

located?

the

Saracen?

of the

an

of

the

themselves

Does

image

who

Does

the

texts,

idolatry

have

Saracen

intercessory

pray

to

how

an

And

to worship

the

do

im

simply

misunder

Saracens

this

are of

character's

is replaced,

that

presence

that

the

image,

Saracen's

and

al

power.

image

power

whom

or

understand

the Virgin

the

fact

and

as

represents?

seems

he

image?

so

we

the petitioner

a blind

age

stand

ten

is a Saracen,

the meaning

represented

function

religious

French

suggest

He

important,

prays

idolaters

an

by

image

represents.

are

in Old

Most

willingness

prayers

to trust

the miracle,

to

the

image

image

may

an understanding

through

the Christian

spiritual

though,

the

effective.

before

1. Gautier

(Geneva:

Droz,

YFS 110, Meaning

Andrea Tarnowski,

de

Coinci,

1955-70),

and

?

Its

2006

Les

miracles

de Nostre

4: 396,11.

Objects,

by Yale

495-500.

ed. Margaret

University.

Dame,

Burland,

4

David

vols.,

ed.

Frederic

Koenig

LaGuardia,

and

47

48 Yale French Studies

a c l e - w o r k i n g p a i

acle-working

painting

iswhat

though

the miracle

is attributed

his

conversion.

to God,

drew

the

not

Saracen

to the

image

to the

itself,

shrine

the mir

and

led

to

The

of

of

story is a lesson

kind

the

to

blind

learn

Saracen's

the

conversion

efficacy

and

itself

of

and what

seen

the material

to

subtend

seems

to

suggest

that

there

tion

the difference

absence

this

and

about

the

of

images.

The

representa

its efficacy

seems

to question

 

it represents,

between

and

the

Gautier's

spiritual.

miracle

And

col

the miracle-working

between

presence,

of questioning

image

image

and between

can

be

lection.

the

Miracle

at the

living

stories

same

insist

on

time

that

the Virgin's

they

insist

absence

from

on her miraculous

the world

of

presence.

This

presence

through

ial

which

of

images

is

she

articulated

appears

the Virgin,

what

in

to her

the

petitioners,

apparitions

but

and

also

Gautier

calls

"ymages,"

dream

through

the

visions

mater

statues

and

portraits

of

representation

that

enact

miracles.

In other

words,

the miraculous

are

on

and

earth,

soul

into

body.

collection

were

of Gautier's

housed

along

with

an

is enacted

from

her

body.

the

is expressed

efficacy

a

to

af

by

the Virgin

Virgin

belief,

death;

at Vic,

is coterminous

of

did

with

mimesis?miracles

body

body

of her

enacted

according

heaven

the Virgin's

not

since

leave

she was

are

therefore

are featured

martyr

was

from

is later

not

body.

The

Catholic

ter her

a material

translated

no

in Gautier's

relics

whose

prior.

relics

In one

her

church

found

The

wish

will

to be

illicit

L?ocade

translation

that

sainted

onsus,

feast

the

there

relics

However,

in stories

mate

about

at the mona

stories,

image

Sainte

S a i n t e

of

the

and

rial bodies

Sainte L?ocade,

stery

L?ocade's

a virgin

is

Gautier

stolen

body

where

body

Virgin.

The

saint's

fell

to escape

from

her

dead

body:

she

she

ian

effectively

In a story

stories,

resists

about

the

desire

Gautier

Gautier recounts
Gautier recounts

recounts

c e l e b r a t e d

celebrated

sick

many

people

great

Sainte

who

nobles

rich mass.

the

the

dares

he

tomb

entire

to

sees

While

opens

in a river, where

of

removed

the

saint

of her

precedes

body

it intentionally

through

and

its captors.

does

the

Sainte

church,

collection

ofMar

more

explicitly.

of Toledo,

regularly

a great

number

of

of Spain

and

celebrates

a

the King

occurs:

for the

that Hildef

L?ocade's

are cured

by

join

the

he

and

prays

Sainte

and

a

is

the Archbishop

day

saint.

by

assembling

One

year

and

the

L?ocade's

is revealed.

fills

and

his

the

assembly,

at Sainte

L?ocade

sweet

embraces

slipping

odor

her

from

archbishop

tomb,

Her

air. Only

a miracle

beauty

the

illuminates

archbishop

When

he

church

touch

that

her?he

the

saint

sings

a song

arms

as

the

of praise.

tomb

closes,

cries

out

for a knife;

he

does

not want

to lose

the

saint

to her

tomb with

PEGGY MCCRACKEN

49

out

silver

keeping

some

thing

("aucune

152-59).

the miracle

him

brings

reaches

avoir"]

chose") In the midst

only

that he

of

can

the

encase

outcries

in gold

and

the

the

get"

and

songs

arch

tomb

["En

im

(Gautier

provoked

plea,

the

ce qu'en

encases

in his

narrative

context

of

2:11,11.

by

and he

archbishop

puet

of praise

bishop's

the King

he

off

2:12,1.173).

cuts

"what

of Spain

he

hears

Just as

the knife

in and

requests.

"what

The

of his

is closing,

trencha

mediately

and puts

This

in

terrogation

friend,"

the

body,

it

can

(Gautier

silver

with

devout

archbishop

friend"

(1.187),

but when

read

invite

he

a copy

had

an

in

of his

of

the

terms

it

is

is

a

a

and

it is. There

real,

how

getting

a relic,

the knife

are

Sainte

L?ocade's

in gold

treasury,

recounts

and

of

of

he had

along

the

the knife.

desire

for relics,

of Gautier's

the

status

Marian

the

of

the

body:

on

relics,

miracles,

miracles,

saint's

body.

it may

relic,

also

"what

body.

In

It

narrative

is not

archbishop's

the

or

as

a representation

even

of

a

the

rendering

saint's

corpus

perform

metonymy

vast

why

not

locked

its holy

its h o l y o r i g i n
its h o l y o r i g i n

origin

how

but

to know

t o k n o w

this

story

the

ends when

ends when

is what

i s w h a t

if

they're

i s a b o u t

is about

relic

relic

and

the

same

time,

though,

theological

they

about

up

can

using

in the

it: the narrative

it: the narrative

treasury.

At

miraculous

tomb.

body

is already

a relic,

of

if one

the

saint

of

that

are

is usually

of

the

unseen

tomb

inside

and

miracu

the

tomb

part

of

its

sight

lous,

of

and

permits

her

body

the

is

during

result

of

the miracle

lection,

tion

ies.

Gautier's

or silver"

is amimetic

in fact

of

The

story

emphasizes

body

that

the

opening

in

Sainte

presumably,

of

the

uncorrupted if the miraculous

the

archbishop

as a metonymy

of

of

the

of

themselves

L?ocade

effect

revelation

in her

to possess

the

body:

and,

to display

of

saint,

the material

the miracle

representation

re-presentation

the miracle

the

entire

this

saint

in the

story

of the body,

the miracle

enacts

or allows

the

en

in the visible

relic.

The

levels:

and

the

context

the

representation

representation

of Gautier's

of

col

the visible

ofmiracles

relic

"in

representa

and bod

of gold

a vessel

that

the container

statues

was

about

the place

Bernard

of Aurillac

of

as

as

the wor

the uncorrupted

and

at

of her

body

two

body,

it.

desire

In the

of

the

is mimetic,

in a fragment

story

points

and

that

recounts

to a devout

for

the coincidence

it emphasizes

to

the

although

of

targeted

display

worship.

statue

and

story

(2:11,159),

refers

and

one,

the

that was

display

it does

relics

not

in earlier

the

suggest

in representational

questioning

late

tenth

the

relics

what

a practice

images

in Christian

the

Jove or Mars,

In

that housed

century,

Anger

worthy

mocked

of

of Gerald

he

perceived

condemned

ship of idols:

50

Yale

For where

French

worship

is

evidently

c o p p e r ,

copper,

both

excepting

Studies

is rightly

wrong

the

and

crucifix

due only

to the

absurd

of

Our

to make

Lord.

true,

statues

For

it

supreme

is

of

stone,

customary

godhead,

wood

every

it

or

where

in

order

when

book

to

be

in the Holy

it

or

that

we

comes

their

shown.

be

church

moved

to a visible

to have His

of

to

image

either

Our

carved

Lord's

true

are all

or moulded,

Passion.

testimony

But

of a

that ought

be

commemorate

record

of the saints,

upon

should

the

shadowy

For

images

figures

the

painted

saints

the wall

under

no

circumstances

permitted,

except

in

the

case

of

an

abuse

of

ancient

date

and

a

deep

rooted

and

unalterable

custom.2

Here

olina

and

going

ment

Bernard

which

echoes

rejects

the

views

the

veneration

of

the

of

late

images

eighth-century

except

that

Libri

the

of

relics.3

He

is skeptical

about

so

and

far as

to call

promotes

promotes

the

the

statue

an

l e g i t i m a c y

legitimacy

the

efficacy

of reliquary

idol,

of

though

the

local

he

later

custom

statues,

revises

his

of making

Car

cross

even

judg

stat

ues

of

the

saints,

claiming

that

such

practices

do not

subvert

proper

re

ligious

practices.4

 
 

In their m?tonymie

and mimetic

representations

of

the

saint,

relics

establish

an association

between

images

and

the

spiritual.5

That

asso

ciation

is fully

present

in Gautier

de Coinci's

of

the Virgin

stories

miracle

collection,

where

the

spiritual

efficacy

of

images

is promoted

 

in many

sto

ries. Moreover,

in Gautier's

the moment

of

the miracle

 

is

in

fact

amoment

inwhich

attention

is called

tomimesis.

 

That

is,

the mo

ment

of the miracle

corresponds

to an action

by or upon

an

image

of

the

Virgin.

 
 

In Gautier's

miracles

 

the

difference

between

the

image

and

the per

son

it represents

is not

always

clear,

as in the miracle

inwhich

the blind

2.

Bernard

of Anger,

Liber

Miraculorum,

cited

and

translated

by

Ellert

Dahl,

"Heav

enly

Images:

The

Statue

of St.

Foy

of Conques

and

the

Signification

of

the Medieval

 

'Cult

Image'

in

the West,"

Acta

ad

archaeologiam

et

artium

historiam

pertinentia

8

(1978):

177.

 

3.

Peter

Brown,

"A Dark

Age

Crisis:

Aspects

of

the

Iconoclastic

Controversy,"

 

in

Society

and

the Holy

in Late

Antiquity

(Berkeley

and

Los

Angeles:

University

of Cali

fornia

Press,

1982),

251-301,

esp.

259-62;

Jean Wirth,

L'image

m?di?vale:

naissance

et

d?veloppements,

185-88.

4.

Jean Taralon,

VI-XVe

si?cle

"La majest?

(Paris:

d'or

de

Klinksieck,

Sainte-Foy

1989),

du

tr?sor

111-54,

and

de Conques,

on

Sainte

" Revue

de

Foy,

l'art

40-41

(1978): 10.

( 1991

5. Carlo

): 1226.

Ginzburg,

See

also

Poetizing

count

of

were

made

of

the

the

Body,"

to

rhetorical

signify

"Repr?sentation:

Cox

Miller,

of Early

"

The

Christian

poetic

figures,

le mot,

l'id?e,

Blue

la

chose,"

Flower

8/2

(2000):

Annales

is Red':

E.S.C

and

for

an

relics

46

the

ac

Patricia

Journal

and

Little

Relics

Studies

213-46,

particularly

ekphrasis,

through

which

in early

Christianity.

PEGGY

MCCRACKEN

51

Saracen

prays

 

to an

image

of the Virgin

Mary

because

he has

heard

"that

the

great

God

of

the Christians

would

perform

great

miracles

for

the

image

of his

sweet

Mother."

This

miracle

is recounted

as part

of

a

long

narrative

("De

l'ymage

Nostre

Dame

de

Sardanei")

about

a

wealthy

woman

who

retires

from

the world

and becomes

celebrated

for

the

retreat

she

founds

outside

of Damascus.

A monk

from

Constan

 

tinople

visits

her

on his way

to Jerusalem,

and

the nun

asks

him

to bring

back

an

image

of

the Virgin

Mary

for her

to venerate.

The

monk

forgets

this

back

errand,

and

but

as he

images,

The

is

a picture

leaving

of

Jerusalem,

the Virgin.

He

a small

one

"often

gazes

Lord

180-83).

and will

a storm

the monk

takes

a voice

goes

because

protects

on

reminds

to a market

him

to

go

purchase

it

is easy

him

from

where

to carry,

bandits

image.

of

sake

He

this

cannot

to Constan

give

and when

from

after

dan

all.

It

in the

done

4: 392,

11.

to stay

already

and

powers, it. The mirac

there

and

on

sees

image"

up

tinople.

the

are many

leaves

his

and

chooses

image miraculously

the

journey,

city.

and

understands

(Gautier

the monk

that Our

picture,

journey

and he

the wooden

for

that

the

he

itwith

him

ship,

his rescue

to the nun

his

had

(Gautier

does miracles

He

decides

take

4: 384-5,11.

sea

the waters,

the miracle-working

During

calms

his

threatens

interprets

image

of God

image"

image ger as a divine