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"EN MEMORIA DE TU ENCARNACIÓN E PASIÓN": THE REPRESENTATION OF MARY AND CHRIST IN THE PRAYERBOOK BY SOR CONSTANZA DE CASTILLA Constance L. Wilkins Miami University According to the numbers and distribution of manuscripts in medieval Europe, narratives on the Passion of Christ were the "best-sellers " of the thirteenth through the fifteenth centuries. Religious literature, such as theological treatises, sermon collections, meditations and devotional texts, forms an important part of the written record of this highly theocentric, religiously oriented period, playing an influential role not only in religion but in the historical and cultural contexts of its time as well.1 The Libro de devocionesy oficios written by the fifteenth-century Spanish Dominican Sor Constanza de Castilla forms a part of this important body of popular literature even though it was not written for wide public dissemination. Like many medieval religious works, it defies strict definition. The descriptive title given to the unique manuscript in the catalogue of the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid accurately indicates that it is both a devotional work and a manual of religious offices. The codex contains a considerable variety of material in Spanish or in Latin that could be used for private or group meditations, for example the complete text of several psalms, the Athanasian Creed, a Marian litany, the joys and sorrows of the Virgin, the Magnificat with liturgical responses, prayers, hymns and 1 I am indebted to Thomas K. Bestul for his superlative study of Latin Passion narratives in his book Texts ofthe Passion; see especially pp. 5-7 on the importance ofthis literature in medieval times. U CORoNICA 31.2 (Spring, 2003): 217-35 218Constance L. WilkinsLa coránica 31.2, 2003 personal supplications. Three liturgies, the Office for Advent, the Christmas Mass and the Office in Commemoration of the Nails of the Passion of Christ, represent nearly half of the text, some forty-four of the 102 folios. The Office for Advent and the Christmas Mass are exclusively in Latin, but the Latin Office of the Nails is followed by a complete Spanish translation in which only the incipits to the psalms are maintained in Latin. In addition to their appropriateness for communal worship, these offices, especially the Spanish version of the Office of the Nails, could also be used for private devotional purposes. Invocations , liturgical phrases and short prayers in Latin appear commonly throughout the text. While macaronic or parallel bilingual religious texts are not uncommon in this period, the coexistence of Latin and the vernacular in nearly equal proportions in this prayer book reflects the monastic life of the author and her way of thinking. It is likely that the prayer book was written late in Constanza's long life, (d. 1478), after many decades of service as prioress of the monastery of Santo Domingo el Real in Madrid. While the multiple purposes of the book embrace both devotional and didactic aims, like other authors of devotional texts, Sor Constanza is surely concerned with self-examination , with the inner life and, ultimately, with eternal life. In their book Cultures ofPiety, Anne Clark Bartlett and Thomas H. Bestul consider a number of English devotional works, seeking to remedy their neglect and exclusion from the medieval literary canon. Moreover, they strive to avoid the common practice of choosing sections of texts for their appeal to modern sensibilities or for their resemblance to better-known secular works. Bartlett and Bestul insist that: "While purple passages undoubtedly have their appeal, we think that such a procedure is ultimately self-defeating. It diverts the reader from facing the text on its own terms, and attempts to ground appreciation in what the texts are not instead of in what they are and do" (3). With a similar goal in mind, I intend to consider Constanza's work on its own terms as a book of prayers, holy offices and other devotional material, situating it in the context of other works that deal with the same topic, rather than stressing Constanza's familial ties to King Pedro I and Castilian royalty or pursuing the currently seductive topic of women's writing as an effort to establish their own position as subject and agent...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 217-235
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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