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Sewn Without a Needle:
The Chasuble of St. Ildephonsus in the Milagros de Nuestra Señora

In the thirteenth century, it was believed that the chasuble worn by St. Ildephonsus, and portrayed in Gonzalo de Berceo’s first miracle of the Virgin Mary, had been preserved in a chest along with other relics. Pilgrims from the period wishing to venerate the canonized Bishop of Toledo could journey to the Cathedral of Oviedo, where the chest containing his ecclesiastical vestment had purportedly been safeguarded from Muslim invaders. This belief is recorded by a well-known contemporary of Berceo, Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, who writes: “it is said that in this church is that glorious vestment that the Blessed Virgin bestowed on the great Bishop Ildephonsus”.1 Later in the same century, Juan Gil Zamora records the same tradition, portraying the cloth preserved at Oviedo as “those most sacred garments with which the Mother of God adorned the Saint”.2 According to a legend that was still current during the sixteenth century, attempts by past bishops of Oviedo to open the chest and contemplate its contents had been punished with ill fortune and ended in all manner of disasters, including cases of sudden [End Page 281] blindness. Descriptions by Jesuits who dared to open this “arca” refer to the cloth’s color as a celestial blue, although somewhat faded by time, and–like Berceo–insist that the delicate fabric bore no sign of stitching or thread that was discernible by human eyes (Devoto 276). In the pages that follow, I will consider the meaning of Ildephonsus’s seamless chasuble in the Milagros de Nuestra Señora, as it relates to the hagiographic representations of Mary, the medieval legend of Christ’s tunic, and the typology of Berceo’s introduction.

Written during the second half of the thirteenth century, Berceo’s collection of miracles begins with an allegory in which the poet-pilgrim enters a locus amoenus or garden paradise, complete with shady fruit trees, a clear flowing spring, fragrant flowers, and birds singing heavenly music. We are then told that this setting represents the attributes of the Virgin and the truth of the Gospels, revealed–as E. Michael Gerli has shown–through a typological understanding of the Old Testament. Deploying a favorite metaphor for exegesis, Berceo urges listeners to extract the interior kernel of meaning from its exterior husk. In doing so, they will find that his introduction to the miracles represents the pilgrimage of life and the arrival of the soul in the eternal Spring of the afterlife, “nuestra romería estonz la acabamos, / quando a Paraíso las almas enviamos” (st. 18cd).3 This redemption was brought about through Christ’s birth to the Virgin Mary, whom Berceo allegorizes in his introductory landscape. In medieval religious tradition, Mary and Jesus were known as the New Adam and New Eve who made possible the return journey of humankind, first expelled from the Garden of Eden as a consequence of Original Sin (24). According to this doctrine, the first man and woman disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, inviting toil and death into the world. Their sin inaugurated a persistent discord between divine and human wills, and an imperfect relationship between signifier and [End Page 282] signified that led to the Confusion of Tongues. Shamed by the realization of their nakedness, Eve made the first clothing to cover human bodies, and later experienced the first birth pangs in a locus eremus or forbidding wilderness that lay outside the garden. This symbolic connection between covering and inborn sin is implicated in the image of clothing being shed, in a restored poetic space that represents the eternally verdant, virginal Mother of God and the Incarnation, “descargué mi ropiella … Esti prado fue siempre verde en onestat, / ca nunca ovo mácula la su virginidat, / post partum et in partu fue virgin de verdat, / illesa incorrupta en su entegredat … Madre plena de gracia” (sts. 6c, 20, 46c).4 Through the birth of Christ to Mary, the Word of God was clothed in flesh, making possible human redemption and immortality. This theological context, as Jill Ross has recently put it, provides a gendered “language of the maternal” to be “complicated by Berceo’s fusion of virginal body” and his textual representation of a natural space (108). Suggested by the imagery of his poetic vision, the Tree of Life in Genesis and the locus amoenus of the Song of Songs, with its sweet waters and ever-ripe fruits, served as types or prefigurements that were believed to be embodied in the womb of Mary. Berceo, in fact, alludes to this typological link to the Fall in Eden as Mary’s status as the New Eve:

si don Adám oviesse de tal fructo comido, de tan mala manera non serié decibido, ni tomarién tal danno Eva.

(st. 15b–d)5

What follows in the first miracle is an account of how St. Ildephonsus wrote [End Page 283] a treatise in defense of the Virgin against three infidels, and established the December feast of the Annunciation: “fizo d’ella un libro de dichos colorados / de su virginidat contra tres renegados … fízoli una fiesta … quando Gabrïel vino con la messagería, / quando sabrosamientre disso ‘Ave María’, / e díssoli por nuevas que parrié a Messía” (sts. 51cd, 52b, 53ab). Berceo next recounts how the Virgin appeared to the seventh-century Bishop in a vision. Holding his De perpetua virginitate Mariae contra tres infideles, she thanks him for writing this book and initiating a new feast in honor of her purity. As a reward for his service, Mary presents him with what is described as a seamless Bishop’s chasuble that appears to have been woven by angels: “sin aguja cosida; / obra era angélica, non de omen texida” (st. 60bc). As we have seen, this is the same garment that was preserved, according to legend, in a chest brought to Asturias following the Muslim invasion. In Berceo’s poem, the Virgin warns that the “casulla” can be worn only by Ildephonsus: “al tu cuerpo sennero es esto condonado; / de vestir esta alva … otro que la vistiere non será bien hallado” (st. 64b–d). The Latin source for the hagiographic miracle also specifies that the Bishop has received the vestment from Mary and Christ, “filii mei” (224). By omitting the reference to Jesus also bestowing the gift, Berceo amplifies the role of the Virgin whose preparation of the chasuble for Ildefonsus, as we will see, can be associated with her textile work in Marian legend.

Their exchange can be compared to models of gift-giving developed by anthropologists that have provided insight into medieval practices. Particularly relevant is the premodern notion that an essence of “spirit” resides in the gift, causing it to be “imbued with the personality of the partner who gave it” (Mauss 47).6 This can partially explain how the object comes to serve as an extension of Mary’s power to safeguard her devotees and punish her enemies. Punishment awaits anyone else who might attempt to don the heavenly fabric, in keeping with the legendary fate of later bishops of Oviedo who dared to open the reliquary containing the chasuble. Nevertheless, after [End Page 284] Ildephonsus attains celestial glory in the afterlife, an unworthy successor named Siagrius tries to replace the saint. The new bishop demands that the chasuble be brought to him, declaring that all human beings are equal, “todos somos equales enna umanidat,” and making other pronouncements described as foolhardy and mad (st. 69d). He then orders the clergy of Toledo to vest him with the “casulla” in the sacristy of the cathedral, and is suffocated by the miraculously contracting threads of the holy vestment:

mandó a los ministros la casulla traer por entrar en la Missa …. … ampla era la sancta vestidura, issióli a Siagrio angosta sin mesura prísole la garganta … fue luego enfogado por su grand locura.

(sts. 71ab, 72)

I have elsewhere related the characterization of Siagrius to Berceo’s overall preoccupation with the fallen language of sinners, along with reform efforts aimed at prohibiting the celebration of blasphemous, carnivalesque feasts during the month of December.7 An equally important issue that remains to be considered is the way in which the blessing of Ildephonsus and the deadly curse against Siagrius relate to the medieval legend of Mary as a spinner or weaver. In her study of Mary’s connection to textiles, Gail McMurray Gibson has traced these attributes of the Virgin back to the eighth-century apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, which is itself dependent on the older Proto-evangelium of James. This influential hagiographic tradition provides an account of the life of the Blessed Mother, as well as an imaginative retelling of the birth and infancy of Jesus. Pseudo-Matthew describes how, as a young girl, Mary was one of the virgins chosen to weave the temple veil over the Holy of Holies: “she remained in prayer … was occupied by her weaving … she did not retire from praying until there appeared to her the angel of the Lord” (Roberts 371). Images of the Virgin either using a distaff and spindle or working at the loom were not infrequent in visual art from the Middle Ages. A striking Iberian example appears on a twelfth-century Romanesque fresco preserved at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya [End Page 285]

Fig 1. Annunciation by the Master of Sorpe. Fresco from north wall of central nave at Sant Pere de Sorpe (Alt Àneu, Pallars Sobirà). No. 113144–001
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Fig 1.

Annunciation by the Master of Sorpe. Fresco from north wall of central nave at Sant Pere de Sorpe (Alt Àneu, Pallars Sobirà). No. 113144–001

[End Page 286]

(fig. 1). Characteristically, a mature Mary is shown drawing thread from a distaff to her spindle just as the angel Gabriel appears on her right. In the corner of the image another figure wearing a tunic with golden embroidery, who seems to represent Christ, emerges from behind a veiling curtain, in keeping with the Pseudo-Matthew account.

Later miniatures in prayer books from the fourteenth century continue to link the appearance of the angel at the Temple, where Mary is pictured with distaff, loom, or shuttle, with the Gospel Annunciation of Gabriel. These representations emphasize how the Virgin’s textile work for the inner sanctuary housing the Ark of the Covenant functions as a rehearsal for her divine maternity. Lesley K. Twomey has examined the portrayal of Mary’s weaving and sewing of cloth for the Temple in the fourteenth-century Vida de Jesucrist of Francesc Eiximenis. According to this Catalan hagiographer, the Virgin’s unsurpassed skill at producing textiles exceeded that of other, more experienced girls–in a seeming, metaphorical prefiguration of the Gospel salutation that signals her exceptionality: “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Twomey 119; Luke 1:42).8 Some pictorial variations of the motif include a tree suggestive of the Fall or the spinning of Eve covering the shame of Original Sin.9 Such Edenic imagery was included together with depictions of clothing being produced by the Virgin Mother as means of illustrating the doctrine of Felix culpa, or what is referred to in Alfonso X’s Cantigas de Santa Maria as “Ave-Eva” (no. 60). In fact, the stages of spinning and weaving in the production of textiles [End Page 287] can appear interchangeably or are, in some cases, reinterpreted as scenes of embroidery or knitting in medieval representations of the Annunciation (McMurray Gibson 46).

When Pseudo-Matthew tells how young Mary was chosen as one of the maidens tasked with spinning delicate purple threads for the weaving of the Temple veil, this location for the Old Covenant and Law of Moses soon to be renewed not only foreshadows the childhood experience of Jesus teaching at his Father’s house, but also the moment when Christ gives up his spirit on the Cross, as told in the Gospel of Luke, “the veil of the Temple was rent in two from the top even to the bottom” (23:44). As McMurray Gibson observes, the color of this fabric symbolizes not only the kingship of David and later descendants identified as the ancestors of Christ in the Gospel’s genealogy, but also the blood that would spill from the Son of Mary during the Passion. For this reason, Pseudo-Matthew identifies her as royalty: “they began to call her queen of virgins … the angel of the Lord appeared in the midst of them saying: these words … will be a prophecy most true” (Roberts 373). As evidenced by the earlier-mentioned Romanesque fresco preserved in Barcelona, medieval iconography drew specifically on these parts of the Pseudo-Matthew legend to portray the moment when Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel, while working with wool or thread. In this way, the announcement that Mary will give birth to the Son of God, bringing the new law of Christianity into the world, has been associated with the angelic encounter at the temple where she was selected to help prepare a veil to cover–or vest, as it were–the law received by Moses. Considering the centrality of textile work to the life of Mary in the medieval imaginary, it comes as no surprise that Berceo’s allegory of her redemptive motherhood is followed by an account of the Virgin producing another sacred fabric.

In the latter part of the thirteenth century, visual artists in France were beginning to combine these attributes with scenes of the Virgin at study, and on occasion visibly pregnant, as she sits in front of lectern or holds a book.10 Such images of Mary as both a spinner and reader derive from the [End Page 288] age-old belief that the Annunciation came as she was engaged in studying the Hebrew Bible, and in particular verses that Christians interpreted as prefigurements of the Incarnation. An earlier, literary example can be found in a ninth-century rhymed gospel of Otfrid of Weissenburg: “she had finished reading her Psalter and had taken up her work: she was fashioning a work of beautiful cloth and costly threads” (McMurray Gibson 48). This association of textual and textile work with the angelic Annunciation might have influenced the Ildephonsus miracle in Berceo’s collection, as well as its Latin source. According to Alan Deyermond, it is possible that this popular Marian visual motif influenced French and even Portuguese lyrics from the period that feature spinning, weaving, or sewing ladies.11 He also notes how, “en los últimos siglos de la Edad Media, la imagen de María ocupada en el telar es sustituida por la de María leyendo cuando llega el ángel” (74).

The well-known treatise of Ildephonsus, in fact, serves a similar purpose as the biblical text traditionally studied by Mary at this moment, since De perpetua virginitate Mariae contra tres infideles frequently cites passages from the Psalms and the Books of Isaiah and Ezekiel were understood as typological prophecies of the coming of the Savior, born of a virgin. Ildephonsus also condemns and curses Jews and heretics who foolishly deny the doctrine of Christ’s miraculous birth in ways that are reminiscent of the fate that will await Siagrius.12 The first miracle can be seen in the context of the Bishop of Toledo’s curse in De perpetua virginitate on anyone who would seek to put Mary on the level of other mortal women. In keeping with the punishment of the doomed successor in Berceo’s miracle who contends that “todos somos equales enna umanidat,” Ildephonsus starkly warns that the hearts of heretics who in any way challenge Mary’s chosen status as the [End Page 289] virgin mother of God will “dry up” (st. 69d; Gambero 30). The prideful statement of Siagrius challenges the power of Mary to enforce her warning that no other man should dare to vest himself in a chasuble that only she could create.

We have seen how, at the time of the Annunciation, the Mary of medieval legend weaves wool for the same veil that will be torn at the crucifixion. Fabric and text are thus iconographically and exegetically linked through her simultaneous reading of Old Testament passages such as the verse from Isaiah: “my life is cut off as by a weaver: whilst I was yet but beginning, he cut me off from morning even to night thou will make an end of me” (38:12). McMurray Gibson has posited that the textile work of Mary and other temple maidens can also be understood as a christianizing allegoresis of the myth of the Fates or Parcae winding the past, weaving the present, and cutting the thread of life in the future. These figures were known in the Middle Ages primarily through Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae and the Mitologiae of Fulgentius, prior to the writing of later mythographies such as Pierre Bersuire’s Ovidius Moralizatus.13 McMurray Gibson finds visual evidence of a possible association with Mary’s weaving in Psalter illuminations and an important manuscript of Pseudo-Bonaventure’s Meditationes Vitae Christi (ca. 1300) that shows the Blessed Mother as one of three women engaged in textile work.

She rightly points out that the Parcae were similarly depicted throughout the Middle Ages with a distaff and spindle, measuring and cutting the thread of life. This suggests that the first Fate’s representation of the summons of birth, and the sisters’ collective symbolization of the passage of time could be allegorized to point to Mary’s role in sacred history and relationship with other temple virgins in the Pseudo-Matthew legend. There can be no doubt that medieval Christians saw the spinning, weaving Virgin as, in the words of McMurray Gibson, holding “in her hands the thread that will tear at the moment of her son’s death and which, therefore, contains the promise of [End Page 290] ultimate Redemption for humankind” (49). In this sense, the cult of Mary could be interpreted as revealing the true, salvific meaning of the Fates spinning and measuring the vital threads, reinterpreted as “the three phases of Christ’s terrestrial Life: his Incarnation and Nativity, his public Life, and his Passion” (McMurray Gibson 51). According to myth, the threading of the third sister, Morta, was said to summon the Furies, three vengeful beings from the Plutonian underworld who personified the anger of the dead, as well as the force of conscience and the performative language of oaths to curse, punish, and destroy. This notion of the Furies representing “bad words, thoughts, and actions” has been passed on to the Middle Ages through the writings of Fulgentius (Chance 412). Mary, on the other hand, clothes the Verbum Dei in flesh, through her motherhood and figurative needlework, as a means of redeeming the world. The tearing of the veil woven for the temple and representative of the old Law of Moses comes to symbolize the new covenant of Christianity ushered in by her son’s conquest of death. As a consequence of the sinfulness of Siagrius, the Marian loom is used to produce an instrument of punishment in Berceo’s hagiographic tale: the Virgin delivers a fabric “sin aguja cosida” that blesses and sanctifies Ildephonsus, then cuts down a new bishop who proves to be unworthy of the blessings of the Incarnate Word, and whose speech–or “palavras locas” and “palavras de muy grand liviandat”–can be related to the dangers of pride and excesses of fallen and potentially heretical language in the miracle collection as a whole (sts. 68c, 69a).

The description of the chasuble as appearing to have been sewn without a needle immediately brings to mind the tunic of Christ. In the Gospel of John, Roman soldiers cast lots for a garment woven in one piece that belonged to the crucified Savior: the “tunica inconsutilis” that was “without a seam, woven from the top throughout” (18:23). After the taking of the tunic, the Resurrected Christ was sometimes imagined as a pilgrim wearing a rough cloak, bringing to mind the poet’s redemptive Marian “romería,” made possible through her Son’s conquest of death.14 As Mary Dzon notes, [End Page 291] the tunic itself was often painted blue in medieval visual imagery. Bringing to mind earlier-mentioned descriptions of the chasuble relic, this color would have been suggestive of the heavenly power and glory of its owner, in keeping with the sapphire throne of God envisioned in the Book of Ezekiel (10:1). Such connotations apparently extended to the handiwork of angels in later descriptions of the intense blue of the chasuble relic in Oviedo, which seemed to have no stitching (Devoto 276). In the legends surrounding Mary and the infant Jesus, recorded for example in the early thirteenth-century Vita beatae Mariae rhythmica, and the even more influential Vita Christi of Ludolph of Saxony written a century later, the Virgin is said to have made the seamless tunic for her son when he was still a child. The otherworldly cloth thereafter grew along with his body into adulthood, and is identified as the same textile that soldiers could not divide. Late medieval illustrations studied by Dzon sometimes show the Virgin knitting this garment for her child, who either waits to don the material that will clothe him during the Passion, or enters into the scene from the background. In this way the supernatural integrity of the new tunic, in contrast to the tearing veil of the temple, is equated to the virginal clothing of flesh that Christ receives from the Holy Mother who is characterized in Berceo’s introduction as without “mácula la su virginidat, / post partum et in partu” and “incorrupta en su entegredat” (st. 20bcd). Her figurative stitching can also be related to the kind of musical “punto” from the heavens that is heard in the lead up to the miracle of Ildephonsus (st. 8b).

As a gift imbued with the spiritual essence of the giver, the saint’s chasuble is described as another seamless tunic, insofar as bishops serve under Christ’s authority and lead their flocks in His name. In contrast to the expansion of the tunica inconsutilis over the course of the Redeemer’s life, the blasphemous Siagrius dons a stitch-less fabric whose threads contract and suffocate him, sending his soul to Hell (reminiscent of the Furies ushering spirits to the Plutonian underworld). The power attributed to this Marian article of clothing anticipates later miracles, such as the tale of a woman spared of labor pains after the Virgin appears as a divine midwife, protecting [End Page 292] the new mother with her sleeve of her cloak (no. 19).15 In a later miracle, a sacrilegious thief is trapped by the fine wimple that he attempts to steal from a statue of Mary (no. 25). The full meaning of his punishment becomes clear when we turn to a popular liturgical text during the Middle Ages, William Durandus’ 1295 Rationale divinorum officiorum. This treatise compares the sacristy where clerics vest themselves to “the womb of the most blessed Mary in which Christ clothed Himself with the sacred vestment of His flesh” (21).16 The same idea can be found in De laudibus beatae Mariae Virginis, written earlier in the thirteenth century by a theologian at the University of Paris. Interpreting an image of the tabernacle from the Psalms, he writes: “the clothes chest of this chamber … is the properly virginal womb in which the highest pontiff donned the garment of purest flesh”.17 Siagrius is an intruder in this sacred place and symbolic matrix of Mary, and by extension the Church, or what Paul describes in his Letter to the Galatians as the suffering of a mother who awaits Christ being born within her sons and daughters (4:19). Similarly, the Gospel of John and the Apocalypse of John of Patmos describe the process of saving the elect and the destruction of the wicked as being initiated by labor pains (16:21, 12:1). Instead of imagery suggesting rebirth and redemption, the successor of Ildefonsus is crushed by a constricting vestment spun by the Virgin: “Pero que ampla era la sancta vestidura, / issióli a Siagrio angosta sin mesura” (st. 72ab). In the first miracle and introduction to Berceo’s collection, the gifted chasuble of Ildephonsus is figured as the maternal enclosure that fatally expels the unworthy Siagrius, while offering hope of rebirth and renewal to Berceo and faithful Christian audiences.18 [End Page 294]

Ryan D. Giles
Indiana University

Works Cited

Alfonso X. Cantigas de Santa María. Ed. Walter Mettmann. 2 vols. Vigo: Xerais de Galicia, 1981.
Berceo, Gonzalo. Milagros de Nuestra Señora. Ed. E. Michael Gerli. 8th ed. Madrid: Cátedra, 1996.
———. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Obras completas. 2 vols. London: Tamesis, 1980.
Bersuire, Pierre. Metamorphosis Ovidiana moraliter [Ovidius moralizatus]. Ed. Stephen Orgel. New York: Garland, 1979.
Bible. Douay-Rheims Version. New York: Benziger Brothers, 1941.
Bijsterveld, Arnaud-Jan A. “The Medieval Gift as Agent of Social Bonding and Political Power: A Comparative Approach.” Medieval Transformations: Texts, Power, and Gifts in Context. Leiden: Brill, 2001. 123–56.
Campbell, Emma. Medieval Saints’ Lives: The Gift, Kinship and Community in Old French Hagiography. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2008.
Chance, Jane. Medieval Mytholography. vol. 1. 2 vols. Gainesville, FL: UP of Florida, 1994.
Curtius, Ernst Robert. European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1953.
Devoto, Daniel. “Tres notas sobre Berceo y la historia eclesiástica española.” Bulletin Hispanique 70.3 (1968): 261–99.
Deyermond, Alan. “El tejido en el texto, el texto tejido: las chansons de toile y poemas análogos.” Estudios Románicos 11 (1999): 71–104.
Drayson, Elizabeth. “Some Possible Sources for the Introduction to Berceo’s Milagros de Nuestra Señora.” Medium Ævum 50 (1981): 274–83.
Durandus, William. The Rationale Divinorum Officiorum . Trans. Timothy M. Thibodeau. Columbia: Columbia UP, 2010.
Dzon, Mary. “Birgitta of Sweden and Christ’s Clothing.” The Christ Child in Medieval Culture: “Alpha Es Et O!” Eds. Mary Dzon and Teresa M. Kenney. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2012. 117–44.
Flórez de Setién y Huidobro, Enrique, et al. España Sagrada. Vol. 37. 51 vols. Madrid: Blas Román, 1809.
Gambero, Luigi. Mary in the Middle Ages: The Blessed Virgin Mary in the Thought of Medieval Latin Theologians. Milan: Ignatius, 2000.
Gerli, E. Michael. “La tipología bíblica y la Introducción de los Milagros de Nuestra Señora.” Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 62 (1985): 7–14.
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Godelier, Maurice. The Enigma of the Gift. Trans. Nora Scott. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999.
Ildephonsus of Toledo. La perfecta virginidad de María [De virginitate Sanctae Mariae]. Ed. and trans. Jaime Colomina Torner. Toledo: Instituto Teológico San Ildefonso, 2007.
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Linehan, Peter. Historia e historiadores de la España medieval. Trans. Ana Sáez Hidalgo. Salamanca: U of Salamanca P, 1993.
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Mauss, Marcel. The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. Trans. Ian Cunnison. New York: W. W. Norton, 1967.
McMurray Gibson, Gail. “The Thread of Life in the Hand of the Virgin.” Equally in God’s Image: Women in the Middle Ages. Ed. Julia Bolton Holloway et al. New York: Peter Lang, 1990. 46–54.
Norris, Richard A. The Song of Songs Interpreted by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman, 2003.
Pearsall, Derek and Elizabeth Salter. Landscapes and Seasons of the Medieval World. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1973.
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White, Stephen D. “The Politics of Exchange: Gifts, Fiefs, and Feudalism.” Medieval Transformations: Texts, Power, and Gifts in Context. Leiden: Brill, 2001. 169–88.
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Footnotes

1. “Et in eadem ecclesia dicitur esse vestis illa gloriosissima quam beata Virgo contulit glorioso pontifici Ildefonso” (Linehan 90).

2. “Vestem illam sacratissimam, qua Dei mater B. Ildephonsum decoraverat” (Flórez 289).

3. Citations of Berceo’s work and his Latin source material are from the edition of E. Michael Gerli. Rhetorical connections between medieval landscape description and the classical locus amoenus have been studied by Ernst Robert Curtius (192–200). On how this relates to biblical imagery, see also the work of Pearsall and Salter (56–118). A particular source for Berceo’s introduction has yet to be identified. As Jill Ross notes (242), scholars have speculated that the poet must have consulted a source, although it is no longer present in extant manuscripts (namely Ms. Thott 128, see the edition of Brian Dutton), and linked Berceo’s Marian landscape to imagery found in the writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter Damian (Drayson).

4. Mary, as the new, redeeming Eve, was believed to have given birth without pain, to the amazement of midwives whom Joseph summoned to assist with the birth of Jesus in Pseudo-Matthew’s retelling of the Nativity (chap. 14). Accordingly, Berceo tells how the Virgin enables pregnant women in two separate miracles (nos. 19, 21) to give birth without pain (sts. 449a, 533b). In the medieval imaginary, it was not until the Passion of her Son that the Virgin experienced maternal pains, prophesied in the Gospel as a sword piercing her soul and Christ’s warning that the end will come like the onset of labor pains (Luke 2:35). This can be seen in Berceo’s story of Mary appearing once again to Christians at Ildephonsus’s Cathedral of Toledo (no. 18), where she reminds them of the Virgin Birth and reveals that local Jews are causing her pains to return (st. 419b) by reenacting the Crucifixion with what turns out to be a wax effigy of her Son. When this is discovered the culprits are killed.

5. Biblical commentaries in the Middle Ages made the connection between ripened fruit in the Song of Songs and the Corpus Christi hanging on the Cross and conquering death (see Norris 75–76, 107, 185).

6. Aspects of the theory of Marcel Mauss were further developed by Maurice Godelier. For examples of how anthropological studies have been applied in different ways to medieval gifting, see the studies of Wilson Clay, Bijsterveld, and White. Scholars working on the premodern period have also considered the gendering of gifts, notably, Campbell.

7. For more information on the relationship between Berceo’s miracles and efforts to reform the Spanish clergy, see the study by Sánchez Jiménez.

8. Twomey has analyzed how the treatment of Mary’s craft in Eiximenis relates to and differs from the later fifteenth-century Vita Christi of Isabel de Villena. Interestingly, she points out that Isabel I apparently made a veil to cover the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem (120). In doing so, the Queen could have appeared to be imitating the textile work that Mary produced for the Temple sanctuary according to hagiographic legend.

9. Images featuring looms become more common at the end of the Middle Ages when tapestry production increased. The Morgan Library houses a book of hours (M. 144, fol. 23r) in which the Virgin is shown with a book at the Annunciation, and also in the Temple behind a loom, holding a batten and shuttle. In the same illumination, Eve is pictured being seduced by the serpent. A comparable painting from the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC was reproduced in Gerli’s edition of the Milagros. In this image, the early fifteenth-century Italian painter Giovanni di Paolo also combines the Annunciation with a scene of Eve’s expulsion from the garden.

10. An example can be found in the New York Public Library (MA 4, fol. 6r). A French illustrated Bible (ca. 1275) accompanies the creation story with an Annunciation scene in which Mary appears with a book (and the angel Gabriel a scroll), and an image of Eve being drawn by Christ as Logos from the body of Adam positioned next to a tree.

11. Deyermond’s study builds on the work of Lewis. It is a comparative study that examines, in particular, the chansons de toile and comparable imagery from the Galician-Portuguese cantigas de amigo. He also mentions the thirteenth-century visual example of a stained glass representation of the Annunciation at the Cathedral of León.

12. See the recent edition of Torner. As Julian Weiss has recently reminded us, Jews in particular are “the most problematic witnesses” in Berceo’s miracle collection (29).

13. Fulgentius’s work has been edited by Leslie George Whitbread. The sisters were also interpreted as symbolizing the three powers of the sensitive soul. In another study, I have more fully discussed medieval allegorizations of these figures (“El Triunfo”).

14. In this way, medievals interpreted the identification of the risen Christ as a peregrinus or stranger before He breaks bread with His disciples and is then recognized by them (Luke 24:13–35).

15. The Virgin similarly plays the role of a miraculous midwife in the tale of a pregnant abbess (no. 21).

16. “Sacrarium sine locus in quo sacra reponuntur sive in quo sacerdos sacras vestes induit uterum sacratissime marie significat: in quo christus se sacra veste carnis induit. Sacerdos a loco in quo vestes induit ad publicum procedit quod christus ex utero precedens in mundum venit” (McMurray Gibson 54).

17. “Vestiarium hujus thalami … uterus proprie virginalis, in quo summus pontifex induit vestes mundissimae carnis” (Ross 110). I have borrowed the English translation from the earlier-cited study of Ross.

18. In the Gospel, another comparison between death and rebirth is made when Christ famously tells Mary and His beloved apostle John, “behold thy son … behold thy mother” (John 19:26–27).