Belting, Hans. Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art. Edmund Jephcott trans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
Belting discusses the Byzantine mantle of the Virgin and the meaning of textile relics. He says that it only appears at the Church of the Virgin at Blachernae during the reign of Leo I, and not much is known of its early history. The mantle was a palpable symbol of her role as mother and provided concrete evidence to support the legend of the empty tomb, in which the mantle had supposedly been left behind. Clothing relics, as could authentic portraits, could take the place of a missing body as evidence of a life. The mantle of Mary substituted for both her absent body and for her empty tomb, whose location was disputed. This absence of her body fostered universal veneration because it kept her presence from being claimed by one location. The Virgin was used by Constantinople as a protectress and almost as a warrior goddess against the Avars, the Persians, and Islam. The icon of the victorious Virgin was carried into war and for this reason the Crusaders were sure to seize it in 1203. Mary’s clothing relics turned churches into cult centers.
Boss, Sarah Jane. Empress and handmaid: on nature and gender in the cult of the Virgin Mary. London: Continuum International Publishing, Ltd., 2000.
Boss traces the dominant characterization of Mary throughout several centuries in Europe that are helpful in understanding the meaning of relics of the Virgin at the time of the production of the Marienschrein. Romanesque images of the Virgin often showed her in majesty. The Virgin in Majesty conveys a sense of divinity in the physical world. The material world was thought to be the bearer of divine essence or grace and the material object which is the supreme example of such God-bearing, is or course the body of the Virgin who carried the incarnate Lord. At the Carolingian court in the ninth century, an empress would be crowned as such only after giving birth to a child, thus making motherhood, and not marriage alone, the condition for the emperor’s wife to hold full imperial status. The rites of crowning for the empress made reference to Mary as queen in virtue of her motherhood. After the 13th century, Mary was seen less as a powerful queen and more as a tender mother. She is credited with the power to save souls from damnation and has an overriding influence on Christ’s judgment upon a soul.
Burns, E. Jane. “Saracen Silk and the Virgin’s Chemise: Cultural Crossings in Cloth.” Speculum 81 (2006): 365-397.
This article by Burns contains a lot of interesting ways of looking at textile relics of the Virgin and even textile relics in general. Burns situates the holy chemise at Chartres within the context of eastern and western textile exchange. Although this Marian relic was known to have come from the east, it had been represented throughout the Middle Ages as a simple Western linen garment. There were competing narratives circulating about the chemise being a western garment and a decorated, costly fabric from the Eastern Mediterranean. The reliquary was sealed until 1712, and when it was open no chemise was found; instead there were two white pieces of silk and a wrapping. The Virgin at Constantinople was thought to have a mantle of silk. Chartres’ treasury was full of silks and clothes from Byzantium and the East, received as gifts and as spoils of Crusade. She details Chartres history as a center of textile production and legends of the Virgin as a cloth maker. Burns characterizes the Virgin of Chartres as mix of both French and Saracen, and this mix is found in narratives about her sacred chemise.
Carroll, Michael P. The Cult of the Virgin Mary: Psychological Origins. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
Carroll gives a history of the origin and development of the cult of the Virgin in which Charlemagne’s interest in her relics and the construction of the Marienschrein can be situated. Popular devotion to Mary increased rapidly in the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries. The earliest Marian shrine was apparently a sanctuary near Constantinople, where there is a record that the veil of the Virgin was venerated from about the middle of the sixth century onward. The cult of the Virgin was most popular in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
Chaganti, Seeta. “The Medieval Poetics of the Reliquary: Enshrinement, Inscription, Performance.” New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
Chaganti explains the rise of the cult of Mary in the medieval period. In the early Christian East, meanwhile the cult of Marian relics comprised clothing and contact relics as an acknowledgement of her bodily absence. In Western Europe the cult of Mary gained prominence later because cults of the late antique and early medieval period depended so strongly on the presence of bodily relics. Marian pilgrimages began in the west in the 10th century.
Ciresi, Lisa Victoria. “Of Offerings and Kings: The Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne and the Aachen Karlsschrein and Marienschrein in Coronation Ritual.” Reliquiare im Mittelalter. Bruno Reudenbach and Gia Toussaint eds. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2005. 165-186.
Ciresi’s dissertation is an excellent resource on the topic of the Marienschrein. She gives information on Charlemagne’s policies and reforms of the Church that related to relics and on the construction of the chapel of the Virgin at Aachen. Frederick II decided to give a quarter of the revenues of an offering to the chapter for repairs of damaged furnishings, with the stipulation that work be done on the Marienschrein. Frederick II was also ruling during the completion of the Karlsschrein in 1215. It is not known if the Marienschrein was under production before this. Ciresi raises the question of why the relics were exposed for a year before being housed in their new shrine. She details the rituals of the Heiligtumsfahrt pilgrimage. She notes the rivalry between the Aachen and Chartres, who both claimed to have a textile relic of the Virgin. Ciresi gives detailed descriptions of the iconography of the Marienschrein and relates it to the program of the Karlsschrein. The architecture of the Marienschrein sets it apart from earlier sarcophagus-shaped shrines (epitomized by the Karlsschrein). Stylistic parallels exist between the figures on the Marienschrein and monumental French Gothic prototypes, including Chartres and Reims Cathedrals.
Cottrell, Donna M. “Unraveling the Mystery of Jan van Eyck’s Cloths of Honor: The Ghent Altarpiece.” Encountering Medieval Textiles and Dress: Objects, Texts, and Images. Désirée G. Koslin and Janet E. Snyder eds. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.
Cottrell argues generally that sumptuous textiles were associated with the divine in the Middle Ages. A cloth of honor is a curtain of precious fabric suspended behind a saint or the Virgin as a sign of veneration. Reverence was bestowed upon luxurious textiles in the Middle Ages, which initially seems to have been the result of contact with Byzantium. Because the clergy adapted these luxury textiles into ecclesiastical garments and because relics were wrapped in costly silks, majestic textiles “became inseparably associated with Christ, the saints, sacred events, and sacred places” (175). Exotic textiles were thought to contain special properties of light. Textiles were connected to the divine in apocryphal and biblical stories of special cloths. Mary was said to have clothed Christ in her womb and to have been a curtain revealing the divine. Special textiles could be used to enhance the divine right to rule. Displays of cloth became symbols of divine kingship.
Cunningham, Lawrence S. and John J. Reich. Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities. Florence, Kentucky: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2002.
Cunningham discusses relics at Aachen in the time of Charlemagne. The most important relic of the kingdom at the time was the cape of Saint Martin of Tours, a textile relic. Charlemagne’s throne was on the second floor of the cathedral, opposite the Savior chapel and at the same time could view the Virgin chapel with its rich collection of relics, already associating Charlemagne to the relics of the Virgin.
Gabriele, Matthew and Jace Stuckey, eds. The Legend of Charlemagne in the Middle Ages: Power, Faith, and Crusade. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
This book consists of essays examining aspects of the legend of Charlemagne throughout history and so contains much valuable material. Immediately following his reign, Charlemagne was criticized for political and personal reasons and was considered to be suffering punishment in purgatory for his licentiousness and for a supposed incestuous relationship with his sister. Charlemagne’s reputation gradually began to assume a positive light following Einhard’s Vita Karoli, written in 820s. In 887 Notker the Stammerer of St Gall wrote the Gesta Karoli Magni which showed Charlemagne as a priest-king. In the 1020s Ademar of Chabannes wrote an account of the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher by al-Hakim in 1009. The destruction of the church holding the True Cross was widely interpreted as a sign of the Last Days. He identifies al-Hakim as the Antichrist and Charlemagne as the Last Emperor whose role is to defend Christendom before the Apocalypse. When Otto III opened Charlemagne’s tomb at Aachen in 1000, he supposedly found the body uncorrupted and seated upright, ready to rise from the dead as the Last Emperor. Reticence about Charlemagne’s canonization and his reputation for sinfulness and the Charlemagne window at Chartres are discussed by Elizabeth Pastan. She interprets Charlemagne’s presence in such a prominent window as being related to his legendary gift of the Veil of the Virgin to Chartres.
Geary, Patrick J. Phantoms of Remembrance: Memory and Oblivion at the End of the First Millennium. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.
Geary discusses examples of monasteries, including Montmajour monastery, that incorporated Charlemagne into their founding myths many years after his death. He says that by claiming to have been founded by Charlemagne these communities attempted to return to a “mythic world, that of the Carolingian age.” Often places founded by Charlemagne’s descendants would later be credited to Charlemagne and subsumed into his legend. His descendants often used Charlemagne’s acts as models for their own.
Gem, Richard. “Towards an Iconography of Anglo-Saxon Architecture.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 46 (1983): 1-18.
Richard writes that the rotunda form of chapel construction was associated with chapels dedicated to the Virgin. He notes the architectural relations between the chapel at Aachen where her relic was housed, the church at Blachernae where her mantle was kept, and the church outside Jerusalem that sheltered her empty tomb where the robe was left. All of these were rotundas. (11)
Hayes, Dawn Marie. Body and Sacred Place in Medieval Europe, 1100-1389. Oxford: Taylor and Francis Ltd., 2009.
Hayes gives the provenance of the Veil of the Virgin at Chartres: Irene of Constantinople sent it as a gift to Charlemagne, whose grandson, Charles the Bald, donated it to the Chartres Cathedral in 876. She recounts miracles performed by the Veil at Chartres. Hayes writes that Veil functions as evidence of the birth of Jesus and as invoking the image of Mary as flesh-giver. She argues that the presence of the Veil makes Chartres into a place of the body. She specifics that it is clear that touching the body of Mary was enough to sanctify the tunic and that the residual fluids from the birth were not necessary to give the relic value.
Heller, Sarah Grace. “Fashion in French Crusade Literature: Desiring Infidel Textiles.” Encountering Medieval Textiles and Dress: Objects, Texts, and Images. Désirée G. Koslin and Janet E. Snyder eds. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.
Heller writes on the place of eastern textiles in the western imagination by focusing on descriptions of textiles given in crusade literature. Exposure to eastern textiles has widely been cited as the source for the development of western fashion but Heller argues that fashion systems already present in Europe laid the groundwork for the desire of the new eastern textiles. Dazzling descriptions of textiles are found in conjunction with descriptions of booty.
Kisch, Herbert. “Growth Deterrents of a Medieval Heritage: The Aachen-area Woolen Trades before 1790.” The Journal of Economic History 24.4 (Dec., 1964): 517-537.
Aachen was the Rhineland’s main center of wool and textile production, with a tradition supposedly reaching back to the time of Charlemagne. The city was situated at the crossroads of a Roman-built east-west road system and thus was an important center of trade of fabrics from all over. During the twelfth century, Aachen cloth was already being sold as far north as the fairs of Osnabrfick and Hildesheim. During the next three centuries, Aachen’s woolen trades achieved international stature. I found the knowledge that Aachen had been a center of textile production especially interesting given the fact that it has four textiles as its Four Great Relics. Chartres was also a major center of textile production and also had as its primary relic a piece of the Virgin’s clothing.
Klein, Holger A. “Eastern Objects and Western Desires: Relics and Reliquaries between Byzantium and the West.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 58 (2004): 283-314.
Besides investigating the movement of Byzantine holy objects into Western Europe, as we talked about in class, Klein specifically mentions the passage westward of textile relics that appear to be the ones that come to rest at Aachen. He notes that the swaddling clothes of Jesus, the linen with which he girded himself at the last supper, and the girdle of the Virgin were sent to Henry of Hainault’s brother Philip of Namur, in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade. They had formerly been kept in the Boulokleon palace in Constantinople.
Koslin, Désirée G. “Value-Added Stuffs and Shifts in Meaning: An Overview and Case Study of Medieval Textile Paradigms.” Encountering Medieval Textiles and Dress: Objects, Texts, and Images. Désirée G. Koslin and Janet E. Snyder eds. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.
In medieval Europe, the textile industry was the lifeblood of the economic system and the industry around which large cities grew up. Many levels of society were involved in textile production. Koslin considers the finishes, colors, and design novelty that brought value to fabrics and the meaning of specific types of dress. The majority of medieval fabrics were woolen. Different colors had symbolic spiritual significance and orders of monks would have specific types of garments. Koslin mentions the eleventh-century Aachen Elephant Silk, woven in the Imperial Looms of Constantinople, was found in the tomb of Charlemagne (d. 814). This piece epitomizes the technical sophistication of polychrome silks woven in Byzantium.
Le Goff, Jacques and Janet Lloyd. The Birth of Europe: 400-1500. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006.
The part of this large text in which I am interested is the section on the importance and rise of the cult of the Virgin in Europe. The cult rose between the 11th and 13th centuries, though the cult had been prominent during the Carolingian period. After the 11th century, the cult of the Virgin was at the center of Church reforms. It was linked to an increasing devotion to Christ and to the Eucharist. Mary began to assume a more important role as intercessor between humans and Christ. The Virgin acquired a quite exceptional status, almost becoming “a fourth element in the Trinity” (76). Mary was known to be especially merciful and forgiving of sins, and this is interesting in the context of the narrative of Charlemagne’s ‘sin’ needing to be redeemed before he could achieve sainthood.
Maines, Clark. “The Charlemagne Window at Chartres Cathedral: New Considerations on Text and Image.” Speculum 52.4 (Oct., 1977): 801-823.
Maines provides a detailed explanation of the iconography of the Charlemagne window at Chartres, panel by panel, and argues for their relationship to certain textual sources. First cycle of six panels draws upon the probably late eleventh-century Desctiptio qualiter Karolus Magnus clavum et coronam Domini a Constantinopoli Aquisgrani detulerit, a chronicle of Charlemagne’s legendary Jerusalem crusade. Charlemagne is shown delivering Jerusalem from the Saracens. Panel 6 shows Charlemagne refusing any reward from Constantine except relics. Panel 7 closes Jerusalem cycle and shows Charlemagne offering a crown reliquary to his chapel at Aachen. The three-gabled reliquary incorporated into the architectural motif above the altar is similar to one depicted in the preceding panel. Panel 22 depicts the Mass of St Giles through which, according to the Vita sancti Aegidii, Charlemagne was forgiven by saintly intervention for a “sin too terrible to confess.”
McKitterick, Rosamond. Charlemagne: The Formation of a European Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
McKitterick discusses the importance of Aachen for the generations following the reign of Charlemagne and the role of relics in Charlemagne’s rule. Charles the Bald evoked his grandfather as model when he founded the new church dedicated to the Virgin Mary at his palace of Compiegne. Aachen was originally created by Charlemagne as a sacred site, enhanced by the relics of the Virgin. It formed the principal focus of the king’s sacred itinerary, symbolized in the growing use of the church at Aachen for the royal celebration of Christmas and Easter. The reign of Charlemagne was a period of liturgical experimentation, especially at the chapel dedicated to Virgin at Aachen. McKitterick outlines an interesting strategy of the Carolingian rulers for enhancing the reputation of Frankish saints: the association of Frankish saints with Roman and Gallo-Roman saints in the relic collections and church dedications increased the status of the Frankish saints.
Morrissey, Robert. Charlemagne and France: A Thousand Years of Mythology. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003.
Morrissey’s book considers the religious, political, and national mythologies of Charlemagne from the time of his death up to the time of Napoleon. The first half of the book focuses on the myths of Charlemagne up to the end of the Middle Ages. He writes on the transformation of Charlemagne’s image through the development of chansons de geste. Philippe Mousket’s Chronicle creates an image of a Christ-like Charlemagne. Charlemagne was in some cases a synthetic figure combining many different Charleses (Charles Martel, Charles the Bald). The symbolic image of Charlemagne as a knight defending Christendom against the infidels was used well into the sixteenth century.
Nickell, Joe. Relics of the Christ. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2007.
Nickell writes on the distribution and history of Christological relics throughout Europe. Charles the Bald, grandson of Charlemagne, presented a shroud of Jesus in 877 to St Cornelius Abbey in Compiegne France, where it was venerated as the Holy Shroud of Compiegne for nine centuries. It perished in the French Revolution. Textile relics of Christ were extremely popular as relics: there were forty-three True Shrouds of Christ in medieval Europe alone.
Rickard, Marcia R. “The Iconography of the Virgin Portal at Amiens.” Gesta 22.2 (1983): 147-157.
The figures of Mary and John the Baptist, both of whose relics were included in the Marienschrein and who were included in the iconography decorating it, were both symbols of purity. John was not conceived without sin but was born without it. St Bernard says “the burning and shining light who was lit with a heavenly fire even before his birth.”
Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Crusades: A History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.
I am interested here in the history of the crusades leading up to the production of the Marienschrein (commissioned 1220, finished 1239). This text discusses the popular crusades, the children’s crusade and the Albigensian Crusade; enthusiasm for crusading prevailed at every level of society. Fifth Crusade, (1213-1221, embarked 1217). Pope Innocent’s mind turned to the idea of a crusade to the East once the truce made there in 1211 ended in 1217. He proclaimed his intentions in 1213 and went preaching for support. Innocent died in 1216, and was succeeded by Honorius III, who continued his intentions to crusade. German troops arrived in the Holy Land in May 1221. The crusade of Frederick II, the new Holy Roman Emperor, who styled himself as based on antiquity, and who used Charlemagne as a model, follows.
Rubin, Miri. Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.
Rubin includes a section on the history of Mary’s robe at Constantinople and its miracles. She also details the history of the girdle of the Virgin supposedly dropped during the Assumption of Mary. She recounts the legend of the two veils of the Virgin, one of which became Constantinople’s protective relic. One version of the story claims the veil bore breast milk stains. Rubin also discusses the symbolism of textile relics of Mary: she says that the theology of Mary’s bearing of the Son of God has been images in metaphors of clothing. In a Hymn on Paradise Mary weaves a new robe for Adam, symbolizing the flesh with which she clothed her son. This way it was symbolized that she undid the harm caused by her older sister Eve. (38)
Shortell, Ellen M. “Dismembering Saint Quentin: Gothic Architecture and the Display of Relics.” Gesta 36.1 (1997): 32-47.
Shortell writes on the practice, common in the decades around 1200, of translating existing relics out of underground crypts up to new sanctuaries inside the church. Relics were moved to places of honor in which they were both displayed and at the same time concealed within reliquaries behind choir screens. Architectural historians have long looked to relic translations as possible clues for dating a building. St Quentin’s relics were elevated in 1228 from their tomb, and exposed in their new containers until construction on the church finished in 1257. They were moved up to establish superiority for that chapter in the context of an ecclesiastical political struggle. The great relics at Aachen were exposed for one year prior to being re-housed (1239) in a way that links to the general practice of translating relics in the first half of the thirteenth century outlined by Shortell.
Smith, Julia M. H. “Rulers and Relics c. 750-c. 950: Treasure on Earth, Treasure in Heaven.” Past and Present Supplement 5 (2010): 73-96.
Smith discusses the relationship between rulers of the Carolingian dynasty and relics, the politic function of relics in this dynasty, and the association of specific rulers with specific saints. After 888, relics functioned as tokens of legitimacy for claims to empire and were redolent of Charlemagne. Charlemagne’s father Pippin was known to have dedicated Prüm to Christ and Mary and to have donated to it the sandals of Christ and unspecified (likely textile) relics of the Virgin. Because Charlemagne’s diplomatic reach stretched to Constantinople, Baghdad, and Jerusalem, he was included in a vast network of political communication through which diplomatic gifts and relics circulated.
Charlemagne’s legendary reputation as a donor of fabulous relics far exceeds knowledge about his actual gifts. Already in the time of his grandson Charles the Bald, Charlemagne was believed to have stockpiled a massive relic collection. After 881, Charles the Fat commissioned a grand and lavish architectural shrine, meant to be a miniature Aachen, to house Aachen’s greatest relics after they were rescued from Viking raiders. I have not seen mention of this shrine elsewhere, and it is an interesting precedent to the architectural form of the Marienschrein.
Sullivan, Richard E. Aix-la-Chapelle In the Age of Charlemagne. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963.
Sullivan writes an interpretation of the symbolic role of Aachen or Aix-la-Chapelle in identity and thought during the reign of Charlemagne (764-814). Aix-la-Chapelle was a center of events that changed course of western European civilization. It was the site of encounters between two segments of European society: the French/Gallic/Latin and the German/Germanic/Teutonic. It was conceived of both as a second Rome and a New Jerusalem. Aix-la-Chapelle.
Winston, Richard. Charlemagne: From the Hammer to the Cross. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company Inc., 1954.
Charlemagne reinvigorated contacts with the East – Constantinople, Bagdad, and the Holy Land – and East-West trade. Winston traces the development of mythology surrounding Charlemagne in the years after his death. He looks at popular ballads in which Charles performs miracles and prophesies. Charlemagne was transformed into a mythic figure symbolizing an ideal Crusader during subsequent Crusades. He explains how Charlemagne became associated with relics from and deeds in the Holy Land that were stretches of the truth. When Christianity set out to rescue the Holy Sepulcher from the hands of the infidel, the idea came about that Charlemagne must have once ruled over the Holy Land. Out of the few brief references in Einhard to Charlemagne’s cordial relations with Harun al-Rashid and the Patriarch of Jerusalem was fashioned the image of a crusading emperor who had himself visited the Holy City. Winston also outlines the obstacles to, problems with, and irregularities in Charlemagne’s sainthood. Charlemagne had a reputation for licentiousness. He was only canonized in 1165 and his cult was never widely popular.