|and the literature there cited. See also Erwin Panofsky, "Imago Pietatis", in Festschrift für Max J. Friedlander, 1927, pp. 261—308.
Endlessly reproduced, both in the form of cheap block-prints to be pinned up in the houses of the poor, and as an illustration for Passion prayers and devotional poems such as Stephen Hawes's "See me, be kinde", the Image of Pity was an obvious and early candidate for inclusion in the Horae. There it took a variety of forms, sometimes depicting the Pope saying Mass with Christ as Man of Sorrows appearing above the altar, sometimes simply displaying the Image of Pity itself, detached from the Gregory legend. In both forms it normally had a rubric offering enormous indulgences (up to 32,755 years of pardon) for those who devoutly repeated before the image five Paters, five Aves, and a Creed.16 Any prayer accompanying the image, whatever its detailed content, became in effect a prayer to the Wounds which the Imago Pietatis so vividly presented. This assimilation of disparate material to the cult of the Wounds is clearly at work in the prayer which most often accompanied this image and indulgence, "Adoro te, Domine Jesu Christi!, in truce pendentem". This is a restrained and dignified prayer in seven short sections, each divided from the next by a Pater and an Ave, and ending with a collect.
I adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, hanging upon the Cross, and
bearing on your head a crown of thorns: I beseech you, Lord
Jesus Christ, that your cross may free me from the avenging
I adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, wounded upon the cross, drinking vinegar and gall: I beseech you, Lord Jesus Christ, that your wounds may he my remedy.
I adore you Lord Jesus, placed in the tomb, laid in myrrh and spices: I beseech you, Lord Jesus Christ, that your death may he my life.
I adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, descending into hell, liberating the captives: I beseech you, never let me enter there.
I adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, rising from the dead, ascending into heaven and sitting on the right hand of the Father: have mercy on me, I beseech you.
C) Lord Jesus Christ, the good shepherd, preserve the righteous, make righteous the sinners, have mercy on all the faithful: and be gracious to me, a sinner.
O Lord Jesus Christ, I ask you for the sake of that most bitter suffering which you bore for my sake upon the cross, and above all when your most noble soul left your most holy body: have mercy on my soul at its departing. Amen.
~`' Hoskins p. 112.
We adore you O Christ and we bless you,
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. Lord hear my prayer.
And let my cry come to you.
O most kindly Lord Jesus Christ: turn upon me, a miserable sinner, those eyes of mercy with which you beheld Peter in [Caiaphas'l court, and Mary Magdalene at the banquet, and the thief on the gibbet of the cross: and grant that with blessed Peter I may worthily lament my sins, with Mary Magdalene may perfectly serve you, and with the thief may behold you eternally in heaven. Who live and rein with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.
Despite their constant association in the Horac, this prayer was clearly not written for the Image of Pity, for in that image the body of Jesus is not "hanging upon the Cross", but resting on or in its tomb. Moreover, though the prayer alludes to Christ's sufferings, death and, burial, it also invokes his Resurrection and Ascension, and in evoking the Passion its focus is selective – the thirst of Christ, and his giving up the Ghost. It is not, therefore, designedly a prayer to the Wounds.
The prayer has in fact an immensely long devotional pedigree. It was probably compiled in ninth-century Britain, possibly in a northern English monastic setting with Celtic affiliations, for it is found as part of a prayer of fifteen invocations all beginning "Lord Jesus Christ, i adore you", in the Book of Cerne, a devotional collection compiled for Adeluald of Lichfield sometime before 830. In this, its earliest recorded form, our prayer consists of five of the last six invocations in a series of fifteen which begins with Christ's work in Creation, and progresses through his dealings as the Word of God with the patriarchs and ancient Israel, through the Incarnation and ministry, concluding with the second coming. in the original prayer, then, there is no particular emphasis on the Passion as such. But the sections of the prayer dealing with the Passion were soon detached from the rest of the invocation, and by the mid tenth century, when the Anglo-Saxon pontifical of Eghert was compiled, the fivefold invocation of Christ in his Passion which is the basis of the primer text was in use as a liturgical prayer by the celebrant at the solemn veneration of the cross on Good Friday. With slight variations, it was prescribed for similar use
" Hor. Ebor. pp. 81-2, my translation.
in the Good Friday liturgy given in the tenth-century monastic consuetudinary, the Regularis Concordia, and in a number of later liturgical books and missals. But the prayer also had a continuing existence as a devotional rather than a liturgical text, and it is this devotional tradition which is represented in the primer versions. t8
In the primers the prayer has been reshaped to late medieval devotional currents, its character subtly but decisively altered. In the original full text found in the Book of Cerne the overall emphasis of the prayer was on the eternal dignity and triumph of Christ as Incarnate God: the prayer emphasized his role in creation and redemption, his power to heal and save, his descent as King of Glory into the underworld to liberate the captive patriarchs, his coining in glory on Judgement Day. Even the invocation of Christ on the cross, crowned with thorns, portrayed the Crucifixion as the victorious action of Christ himself – "Domine lesu Christe, adoro to in cruce ascendentem". The same word, ascendentem, is used later in the invocation to celebrate the Ascension into Heaven, and behind its application to the Crucifixion is the theology found in such English vernacular texts as the Dream of the Rood, the Latin hymn "Pange Lingua Gloriosi" used in the modern Roman rite on Good Friday, and the early medieval Crucifixes which display the crucified not as an anguished and defeated figure, but as a tranquilly victorious king, robed and crowned. This triumphal theology of the cross remained in medieval liturgical use of the "Adoro Te", despite the isolation of the Crucifixion and post-Crucifixion invocations from the rest of the prayer. The substitution of the word pendent-cm for ascendentem occurs only in the later medieval devotional texts of the prayer, and it transforms its whole theological resonance. The Crucifixion is now something which happens to Christ, rather than his triumphal act: he does not ascend the cross, he hangs upon it, and the final section of the expanded version in the primers increases this understanding of the Passion as passive suffering by a loving victim by directing the devotee's attention to Christ's "bitter sufferings" and the moment of his death, emphases entirely absent in the original and its liturgical derivatives.
'Phis preoccupation with the moment of Christ's death, and with his sufferings, pervades the prayer as reshaped in late medieval piety
I' L. Gjerlow, Adoratio Crucis, 1961, pp. 13—28 and references there cited; H. M. J. Ranting (ed.), Two Anglo-Saxon Pontificals, Henry Bradshaw Society, 1989, pp. xxix—xxxii, 142; T. Symons (ed.), Regularis Concordia, 1953, pp. 41-5. The Good Friday observances of the Concordia, with the text of the "Adoro Te" prayers, are discussed in K. Young, The Drama of the Medieval Church, 1962, I pp. 112—48.
242 PRAYERS AND SPELLS THE DEVOTIONS OF THE PRIMERS 243
and included in the primers. The reference to the avenging angel, the prayer's play on the opposites of death and life, its plea for delivery from Hell, and its invocation of Christ at the moment at which he gave up his soul, all combine to focus the energy of the prayer on death and judgement. In its primer versions it has become a prayer for deliverance in articulo mortis. The striking and slightly odd reference to Peter, Mary, and the penitent thief confirms this. This is no arbitrary grouping, for all three in fact occur together in the Ars Moriendi, the standard late medieval handbook on how to die a Christian death. In its discussion of despair, the second temptation a dying Christian faces, the Ars Moriendi cites as an antidote from scripture and pious legend a series of great sinners who had repented and were now among the saints. In reducing this part of the Ars Moriendi to a picture for a mass audience, the popular block-books derived from the fuller text singled out the most readily identifiable figures: Peter with the cockerel which crowed when he denied Jesus, Mary Magdalene with her jar of ointment, and Dismas, the penitent thief, tied to his cross. One can hardly doubt that this picture reflects the route by which Peter, Mary Magdalene, and Dismas have found their way together into the primer versions of the "Adoro Te" prayer (Pl. 97).19 That section of the Ars Moriendi follows immediately an eloquent appeal to the appearance of the crucified Jesus as the source of the sinner's hope, a passage which draws directly on one of the classical topoi of late medieval devotion, St Bernard's famous evocation of the posture of the crucified:"Take heed & see his heed inclyned to salve the, his mouthe to kysse the, his armes I-spred to be-clyp the, his bondes I-thrilled to yeve the, his syde opened to love the."2u This is clearly a meditation on the Crucifix, not the Image of Pity, but its lingering attention to Christ's wounded body as a hieroglyph of love has an obvious appropriateness to the Image of Pity, designed to serve precisely that function. Prayer and image have come together by a network of association in which the crucified and wounded Christ features as the guarantor of the dying Christian's hope. What began as a quasi-liturgical devotion to the Passion becomes a deeply personal plea for redemption at the moment of death. The combination of the image of the crucified Jesus and deathbed concern is entirely characteristic of the religious ethos of the fifteenth century. And obviously the stupendous indulgences attached to the use of the prayer in conjunction with
On the Ars Moriendi see below, chapter 9, "Last Things" pp. XXX
20 Text from "The book of the craft of dying" in Horstmann, Yorkshire Writers, II p. 410. On the passage from St Bernard see Bennett, Poetry of the Passion, p. 71.
the image had a special and urgent attraction to someone facing their own imminent death and the prospect of Purgatory.'
All this might seem to have little to do with the devotion to the Wounds of Christ as such, of which the Image of Pity is an expression. In fact there is more reference to the cult of the Wounds than at first appears. The prayer from its earliest adaptation for use in the Good Friday liturgy was selected, as we have seen, from the final six invocations of the prayer as found in the Book of Cerne. But the invocations selected from the final group of six vary from source to source: what is constant is that five invocations are used. There is here a clear reference to the wounds, and this use of fivefold symbolism in connection with the Passion was to become a very striking feature of medieval English piety. Although in the primer versions of the prayer its fivefold structure has been obscured by the addition of the two invocations beginning "O Lord Jesus Christ, the good shepherd" and "O Lord Jesus Christ I ask you", its original fivefold character remained a prominent feature of the indulgence rubric which accompanied the prayer, which explicitly states that two petitions were added by Pope Sixtus IV (who also doubled the indulgence!). And there is a further link in the prayer with the votive Mass of the Five Wounds of Jesus. This was one of the most popular votive Masses of the late Middle Ages and was prefaced in the missal by a legend in which the Archangel Raphael, the angel of healing, appeared to Pope Boniface I, promising deliverance from all earthly evil to anyone who procured the saying of five Masses of the Wounds, and deliverance from Purgatory for any soul for whom five Masses of the Wounds were celebrated. The Gospel prescribed for the Mass was the section of St John's Passion narrative which describes Christ's thirst, his drinking of vinegar and gall, and his giving up the Ghost. Since Christ's drinking of vinegar and gall, and his giving up of the Ghost are both referred to in the prayer, and are indeed the only biblical incidents from the Passion which feature there, it seems likely that users of the prayer would naturally associate it with the Mass of the Five Wounds. The prayer's emphasis on the Christian's plight in articulo mortis can only have strengthened this association: the Mass of the Five Wounds is one of the votive Masses most
In fact, although the "Adoro Te" is illustrated by an Image of Pity in Hoskins no. 7 (1494) RSTC 15875, no. 37 (1510) RSTC 15909, and by the more elaborate Mass of Pope Gregory in no. 81 (1527) RSTC 15955, in some books the Image of Pity is replaced by a conventional Crucifix or Calvary scene, as in no. 68 (1525) RSTC 15940 and no. 98 (1531) RSTC 15973, thereby bringing the prayer closer to being a general devotion to the Passion.
22 Hor. Ebor. p. 80: the rubric erroneously identifies the added petitions as numbers 4 and 5, but the main point stands.
74. The Lady altar at Ranworth: from left to right, St Mary Salome with her sons James (kneeling) and John: the Blessed Virgin and Christ: St Mary Cleophas with Simon and Jude, _loses, and James: St Margaret.
ommonly specified in obit provisions, and Five-Wounds brasses were common on graves.23
Devotion to the Wounds of Jesus was expressed more straight-forwardly within the Horae in such prayers as the "Ave Manus dextera Christi", a simple invocation of each of the Wounds in turn, concluding with a collect asking that the Wounds of Jesus should inflame the hearts of Christians to love of God." This notion was elaborated in many of the moralized devotions to the Wounds found in the collections of prayers circulating among both clergy and laity in late medieval England, which often make use of the notion that the Wounds of Jesus are caused by particular sins, or, more commonly, that they act as antidotes to particular vices (Pl. 98).
O Blissful Ihesu for the wounde of your lefte hand kepe me from the synne of envy and yeve me grace . . . to have this verytu of bounte that of all myn even crysten welfare & profit bodely & gostely therof to he as of myn owyn. In honour of thys peyne
Gracious Ihesu for the wound of your ryght foot kepe me from the synne of covctysc that I desire no mailer thynge that is contrary to your wylle & yf nac grace to have allwey the vertu of freness in dissescioun. In honoure of thys peyne Pater Noster.2s
The side Wound of Christ had a particular fascination and devotional power, for it gave access to his heart, and thereby became a symbol of refuge in his love. Julian of Norwich was shown in her tenth revelation the Wound in Christ's side, and saw there "a feyer and delectable place, and large jnow for alle mankynde that simile be savyd and rest in pees and in love". Much the same notion is embodied in the fifteenth-century tag attached to a crude drawing of the wounded Christ displaying his heart:
1 lave in thy mimic My Passion smert, And thou shalt finde Me full kinds —
Lo! here my hert.26
Northants Wills II p. 249.
24 Hoskins no. 137 and p. 124.
Cambridge University Library MS Ii.vi. 43 fol. 23r.
E. Colledge and J. Walsh (eds), A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich, 1978, II pp. 394-5.
111. The danse macabre from the borders of a Sarum primer.
10. The "Measure of the Nails" and the Wounds of Jesus with miraculous promises: from a prayer roll once owned by the young Henry VIII, now at Ushaw College, Duham.
1 HE UEVI) I IONS l)r 1 HE V RIMERS '47
As might be expected, the side Wound acquired its own separate indulgenced devotions, and although printers of Horae for England seem not to have included the very common icon of it as a well or chalice of life, often found in such books on the Continent, lay people could and did stick such images into their Horae, alongside devotions such as the hymn "Salve plaga lateris nostri Redemptoris". These drawings or prints were part of a cult of the "mensura vulneris", in which indulgences and other benefits were attached to devotional acts such as kissing or carrying about with one the drawing or measure of the side Wound."
The cult of the Wounds was, therefore, one of the most important and far-reaching in late medieval England, and it found expression not only in the Horae but in countless vernacular sermons, prayers, and verses.
Jesus woundes so wide
Ben welles of life to the goode, Namely the stronde of his syde That ran ful breme on the rode. Yif thee list to drinke
To fie fro the fendes of helle Bowe thu dour to the brinke And mekely taste of the welle.'s
That image of the Wounds as wells of grace recurs again and again in medieval English devotion, even finding its way onto jewelry, such as the ring, now in the British Museum, inscribed with an image of Christ surrounded by the Instruments of the Passion, in which the side Wound is labelled "the well of everlasting lyffe", and those in hands and feet "the well of comfort", "the well of Bracy", "the well of pitty", and "the well of merci", with the inscription "Vulnera quingque dei suet mcdicina mci."`")
The symbolism of the Wounds, and their importance in the late medieval religious imagination, is everywhere evident in the wills of the laity, as in that of the York metalworker in 1516 who stipulated that "I wit to be done for my saull and all Cristyn saulles the day of my beryall v masses of the v woundes of our Lord
' W. Sparrow Simpson, "On the Measure of the Wound in the Side of the Redeemer", Journal or the British Archaeological Association, XXX, 1874, pp. 357—74; 1) Gray "The Five Wounds of Our Lord", Notes and Queries, CCVIII, 1963, pp. 50—1, 82—9, 127—34, 163—8.
" Gray, "Chemes and Images, pp. 131, 134.
Joan Evans, Magical Jewels in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, particularly in England, 1922, p. 127; and cf. John Longland, A Serrnond ... 1535 fol. R v "The wounde in the syde and harte of Jesu Christe, is the wele of mercy, the welle of Tiffe, the well of plentyfull redemptyon."
Jhesu. "30 A Greenwich widow in 1496 asked her parish priest to say "V masses of the V woonds V days to yeder a fore the hie aulter and every masse wyle V smale candells brenyng"31 and a London mercer desired five poor men to kneel every feast day at his tomb and repeat five Paters and Aves "in honor of the five woondes of our Lord Jesus Chryste".32 The fivefold symbolism of the wounds was ubiquitous, even where the link with them was not made explicit, as in the Somerset will of 1471 which instructed the executors to give "to 5 poore men 5 gownes, and also every friday by an hoole yore next ensuying my decease 5d".33 Such fivefold doles were often specifically associated with Friday, and above all with Good Friday, to underline the symbolism of the Wounds.34
The devotion to the Wounds developed its own extraordinary iconography, notably the Arms of the Passion images, in which the hands, feet, and side-hole or pierced heart of Jesus were heraldically displayed against the cross. This emblem was carved on bench-ends, painted in glass, cast in brass or carved in slate to be placed on graves. It was also distributed, in the form of cheap woodcuts, by the Charterhouses (Pl. 99). But the devotion to the Wounds was not simply a Passion devotion. Its prominence in wills suggests that the link between this cult and prayer for delivery in death, which is evident in the "Adoro Te" prayer in the Horae, is no coincidence. Devotion to the Five Wounds was specially linked to intercession for the dead and deliverance from Purgatory, as, indeed, the legend attached to the votive Mass might anyway suggest.
It is not immediately obvious why this should be so, till one considers the ambiguity of the Image of Pity itself. In many versions of the image a prominent feature is the ostentatio vulnerum, the gesture or pose by which Christ displays his Wounds to the beholder. This is a gesture derived not from the iconography of the Passion, but from that of the Last Judgement, for it was believed that when Christ came as Judge he would display his Wounds (Pl. 100), to the elect as pledges of his love for them, to sinners as bitter reproach — "they shall look on him whom they have pierced."' Thus the very image which spoke of Christ's tenderness and compassion for the sinner could become a terrifying indictment of the impenitent. Bosch's extraordinary tabletop depiction of the
3° ''est. 12,or. V p. 79
L. L. Duncan "Parishes of West Kent" (Alls Fischer), p. 270. -3' Sussex Wills, III p. 281.
Somerset Wills, I p. 221.
" Lincoln Diocese Documents, p. 157.
ss Early Netherlandish Painting, 1971, I pp. 123-5.
Seven Deadly Sins, now in the Prado in Madrid, captures this sense of menace perfectly. In the four corners are vignettes of the Four Last Things — Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell. Between these, the Seven Deadly Sins are depicted in a circular frieze, making the iris of an eye, the pupil of which is a representation of the Man of Sorrows, pierced anew by the sins of mankind, and displaying his Wounds. Underneath him, and underlining the eye symbolism of the picture, are the terrifying words "Cave Cave Deus Vidit".36
This link between the sins of mankind and the Wounds of Jesus was familiar in England.37 John Mirk, urging his congregation to come to confession in Lent, told how Christ had appeared to a sick man "with blody wondys stondyng before the seke manys bode", urging him to be shriven. When the sick man refused, "Cryst toke out of hys wounde yn hys syde his hond full of blod and sayde: `Thu fendys-chyld, thys schall be redy token bytwyx me and the yn the day of dome, that I wold have don the mercy and thou woldest not.' And therwyth cast the blod ynto hys face, and therwyth anon thys seke man cryed and sayd: `Alas! Alas! I am dampnest for ay!' and so deyd. "3"
The convictions behind this macabre story were given resonant expression in the York play ofJudgement, where Christ, surrounded by angels bearing the Instruments of the Passion in a tableau vivant immediately recalling the Image of Pity, confronts humanity:
Here may ye see my woondes wide, The whilke 1 tholed for youre mysdede Thurgh harte and heed, foote, hande and hide, Nought for my gilte, butt for youre nede. Beholdis both body, bak, and side, How dere I bought youre brotherhede. Thcs bittir pcynes I wolde abide
To bye you blisse, thus wolde I bleede. Thus was I light thi sorrowe to slake: Manne, thus behoved the to borowed be. In all my woo toke I no wrake;
Mi will itt was for the love of the. Man, sore aught the for to quake, This dredfull day this sight to see. All this I suffered for thi sake;
Say, man, what suffered thou for me?"
' Reproduced iu M. J. Friedlander, From t'a,, Eyck to Brueghel, fig. 145.
M. W. Bloomfield, The Seven Deadly Sins, 1952, pp. 167-8, 189, 2(13, 205, 224. " Festial, pp. 9(1-2.
Happe, English Mystery Plays, pp. 641-2.
This passage comes immediately before Christ, re-enacting the story of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25, judges mankind on the basis of their response to the plight of the naked, the hungry, the sorrowful, and the sick. The ostentatio vulnerum is also an ostentatio pauperum: the wounds of Christ are the sufferings of the poor, the outcast, and the unfortunate. Margery Kempe was articulating this entirely conventional insight when she declared that she hardly dared behold "a lazer er an-other seke man, specialy [yfJ he had any wowndes aperyng on hym" because it was as if "sehe had sen owr Lord Ihesu Crist wyth hys wowndes bledyng".40 It was for this reason that the cult of the Five Wounds in England repeatedly expressed itself in acts of charity as well as Masses and prayers, and especially by acts of charity in multiples of fives, bestowed on Fridays and above all on Good Friday. By such actual and symbolic charity one could turn the Wounds of Judgement into Wounds of Mercy, forestalling the condemnation threatened in Matthew 25 by attending, while there was still time, to Christ's wounded members, the poor.
hnto what appears to be a simple affective devotion to the Passion, there was compressed the essence of the practical soteriology of late medieval religion. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the symbol of the Five Wounds should have been chosen by the Pilgrims of Grace as the emblem of their loyalty to the whole medieval Catholic system. Bishop Latimer was not the only one in England who deduced from the attack on the monasteries that Purgatory itself, and the doctrinal, devotional, and liturgical system which went with it, had been called in question.
'1'lte Seven Words on tlle Cross
Affective meditation on the Passion provided much of the rationale behind the flowering of the cult of the Wounds; it also encouraged a similar devotional elaboration of the Words of Jesus on the Cross. These were conventionally divided into seven, and prayers and meditations on them nlultiplied.41 The one most commonly used in the Horae was generally attributed to St Bede, and carried with it the promise that "whos ever seith this preyor folowyng every day knelyng on his knees, the Jule no noon file man shall not have no power to nyc hym, no he shall not dye with out confession, and xxx dayes afore his deth he shall seen oure lady aperying to
aO The Book of Margery Kempe, p. 176.
il The seven words are listed, with the standard interpretations, in Nicholas Love, The Mirror of the Blessed Life ofJesu Christ, 1926, pp. 235—7.
hym. '42 Almost inevitably, the prayer explicitly invokes the Seven Words of Jesus as remedies for the seven deadly sins, but its main thrust is the very straightforward application of Jesus' words to the devotee's own behaviour. The opening petitions are enough to illustrate this
Lord Jesus Christ, who spoke Seven Words hanging on the Cross on the last day of your life, and wished us always to have those words in remembrance: I beseech you, by the power of those Seven Words forgive me all that I have done or sinned concerning the Seven Deadly Sins, namely Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Luxury, Avarice and Gluttony.
Lord, as you said, "Father, forgive those who crucify me": grant that for love of you I may forgive all those who do me wrong.
Lord, as you said to the thief, "This day you will be with me in Paradise": make me so to live that in the hour of my death you may say to me "This day you will be with me in Paradise."
This rather pedestrian prayer no doubt owed much of its immense popularity to its accompanying promises of miraculous preservation from evil, and of Our Lady's assistance as death drew near, but its somewhat fiat-footed moralizing of the Seven Words was congenial to an age which poured much energy into promoting a version of the Christian life structured round teaching on the seven sins, seven virtues, Ten Commandments, and five bodily wits:
Kepe well X & flee from seveyn; Spend well V, & cum to hevyn.43
The most powerful prayers structured round the Seven Words, however, are very far removed from such prosiness. The "Fifteen Oes of St Bridget", found in both Books of Hours and private devotional collections, were quite certainly the most distinctive, and probably the most popular, of all prayers in late medieval England. They are English in origin, probably composed either in the devotional world of the Yorkshire hermitages associated with figures like Richard Rolle and his disciples, or in the circle of the English Brigittines.44 In sheer comprehensiveness and eloquence
' nor. Idiot. p. 14): the rubric is normally in I.atm, but I have quoted it from Bodleian MS Lycll 31) fol. 49v; see also Wormald, "Revelation of the loll Paternosters" p. 168, and British Library MS Lansdowne 379 Cols 74v—76r fix an English version of the whole prayer.
41 Balliol MS 354 fol. 213v. See above, chapter 2, "How the Plowman Learned his Paternoster", p. 77.
44 A. Wilmart, "Lc grand poème Bonaventurien sur les sept Paroles du Christ en Croix", Revue Bénédictine, XLVII, 1935, pp. 274—8; Nicholas Rogers, "About the 15 ()es, the Brigittines and Syon Abbey". St Ansgar's Bulletin, LXXX, 1984, pp. 29—3(1.
they present an unrivalled epitome of late medieval English religion at its most symbolically resonant. Despite their immense popularity these are learned prayers, with roots in Patristic and early medieval theology, as well as the writings of Rolle and the affective tradition. The central thread running through the collection is reflection on the Words from the Cross, a fact easy to miss because of the fifteenfold, rather than sevenfold, arrangement of the prayers, but they also explore the range of imagery associated with the cult of the Wounds and of the Passion in general.
All fifteen of the "Oes" are conceived as pleas for mercy to a merciful Saviour whose understanding of the human condition is guaranteed by the fact that he took flesh and suffered for us, and whose suffering forms an enduring bond of endearment and tenderness between him and suffering humanity. Jesus in these prayers, as in the affective tradition in general, is loving, tender, brotherly:
O Jesu, endles swetnes of lovynge soules: O Jesu, ghostly joy passynge and excedynge all gladnes and desyres: O Jesu, helthe and tender lover of repentaunt synners, that lykest for to duuelle as thou sayd thiselfe with the chyldren of men. For that was the cause why thou wast incarnate, and made man in the ende of the worlde 1"in fine temporum"1."
But, true to the Anselmian origin of such a theological emphasis, the Jesus of the "Des" is also emphatically God incarnate, whose actions are of overwhelming significance because they are the expression of the mind of the Trinity. His human anguish in the Passion was the product not merely or primarily of human evil, but "in divino corde ab eterno preordinata", eternally preordained in the heart of God. Thus, Christ dying on the cross between two thieves is hailed as "speculum claritatis divine", a mirror of divine clarity or omniscience, by virtue of which divine sight he sees "in the mirror of his most serene majesty" all the names and numbers of the elect, predestined to salvation, and equally "the reprobation of the wicked in the multitude of the damned". In the light of that double foreknowledge, moved to profound sorrow "in the abyss of his mercy" for "lost and despairing sinners", Jesus turns to the penitent thief and says "this day you will be with me in paradise." The "Des" never lose sight of the dialectic between the human and the divine in the Incarnation, and though their systematic progress
" In translating, I have followed the text in Hor. lihor., pp. 76—80; where the quotation is given in Middle English, I have taken it from the one printed in Hoskins no. 67, RSTC 15939, fols cxlv(r)—cxlix(r).
through the details of the Passion signals their indebtedness to the affective tradition, they never slip into mere emotionalism by slackening the theological tension which gives them their distinctive power.
Many of the prayers turn on the paradox of the divine nature concealed in a form of suffering which exactly inverts some divine attribute. Jesus, the "well of endlesse pity" (prayer vii), calls out "I thirst," Jesus, "swetnes of hertes and goostly hony of soules" (prayer viii) drinks bitter vinegar and gall, Jesus, the maker of all, whom nothing can measure or contain and who holds the earth in the hollow of his hand (prayer iii) is savagely measured out on the Cross and nailed through hands and feet, Jesus, the heavenly physician (prayer iv), has not a single limb nor a single inch of skin left whole and healthy.
The "Oes" also employ in a distinctive and vital way much of the conventional imagery of the cult of the Wounds. The interest in the measure of Christ's wound which we have already noticed is taken up and developed in two of the "Oes":
O Jesus, Beginning and End, and life and strength in all that comes between: remember that, for our sake, from the crown of your head to the sole of your foot you were plunged deep beneath the water of your Passion. For the sake of the breadth and depth of your wounds, teach me, who am drowned deep in sin, by true charity to keep your broad commandment.
O Jesus, most profound abyss of mercy: I beseech you by the depth of your wounds, which pierced your flesh to the heart and very marrow of your bones, draw me out from the depths of sill into which I have sunk, and hide me deep in the holes of your wounds from the face of your anger, Lord, until the judgement is past.
The twists and turns of the metaphors of measurement here — beginning, end, middle, height, depth, breadth, submersion and concealment — are very striking. The prayers also rework other conventional Passion imagery. The drying out and discolouring of Christ's body as he dies on the cross, associated with the saying "I thirst," fascinated the English religious imagination, and feature prominently in Julian of Norwich's revelations.' In the fifteenth and final prayer of the "Oes" this drying is linked with the Eucharistic imagery of Christ's blood as the fruit of the mystic
46 A Book of Showings, pp. 357—65.
252 PRAYERS ANI) SPELLS
vine, crushed to quench the spiritual thirst of mankind:
O Jesu, true and fruitful vine, remember the overflowing and abundant outpouring of your blood, which you shed copiously, as though squeezed from a cluster of grapes, when on the Cross you trod the wine-press alone. And [remember how] when pierced with the soldier's spear, you gave us from your side both water and blood to drink, so that little or nothing remained in you, and at last you hung on high like a bundle of myrrh, and your delicate flesh changed its colour, and the moisture of your vitals was dried up, and the marrow of your bones vanished away. By that most bitter passion of yours, and by the shedding of your most precious blood, o sweet Jesu, wound my heart, that tears of penitence and love may be my bread both night and day: and convert nee wholly to you, that my heart may ever be a dwelling place for you, and my behaviour may be always pleasing and acceptable to you, and the end of my life so praiseworthy, that I may be found worthy to praise you with all your saints for ever and ever. Amen.
This is a complex prayer, drawing on scriptural, patristic, and liturgical sources, as well as on the Bonaventuran tradition of affective meditation. The central image of Christ as the mystic vine, shedding his blood to quench our thirst, is derived not only from Jolin 15, but from Isaiah 63, with its vision of -a saviour robed red as Christ was robed in his own blood on the cross, and who declares that "i have trodden the wine-press alone," a passage applied in the liturgy of I loly Week directly to Christ's Passion. At the sanie Mass in which this passage was read, the Gospel reading was the Passion according to St Luke, in which Jesus at the Last Supper says over the cup not "this is my blood," but "take and share it amongst yourselves, for I shall not drink of the fruit of- the vine till the kingdom of God has come."' In an inversion characteristic of the "Oes" as a whole, the piercing of Christ receives its mirror image in the piercing of the sinner's heart by remorse, and the pouring out of Christ's blood and the drying of his body is matched by the moistening of the sinner's heart by tears of penitence and love. In a similar inversion, the prayer takes the conventional notion of the Wound in Christ's side as a refuge for the sinner, a conceit which is explored in the tenth and eleventh "Ors", but turns it round. Pierced by sorrow and repentance, the sinner's heart is to be Christ's dwelling-place, an image which receives its full burden of meaning from the overall Eucharistic
'° Luke 22: Missale, cols 286, 29 (Wednesday in Holy Week).
metaphor of the prayer: the bread of tears and the bloody fruit of Christ the vine are the Eucharist, and it is thus that he will dwell within us. Finally, the apparent clumsiness of the mismatch between the imagery of drinking sustained in the first half of the prayer and the description of the penitent's tears as "bread" in the second half is only apparent, for this is a quotation from Psalm 42, "As the hart panteth for the water-brooks," well-known to the laity from its inclusion in the "Dirige", and the verse before that used here runs "my soul thirsteth for God, for the living God," so that the literary resonance stays firmly within the language of thirst and drinking, while enriching the Eucharistic reference of the prayer by introducing the word "bread".
Despite their enormous popularity, or perhaps as a direct con-sequence of it, the sophistication and learning of these prayers must have been lost on all but a minority of those who used then), and some elements in them were actually unwelcome. The interest in predestination evident in the first and sixth prayers, which was so characteristic of fourteenth-century English theology, was suspect after the condemnation of Lollardy; all of the fifteenth-century English versions of the "Oes" therefore omitted or drastically modified the predestinarian passages." The liturgical and scriptural references were also coarsened or lost in the process of translation. The passage in the fifteenth prayer on the crucified Christ "treading the wine-press alone", with its direct reference to Isaiah and the Holy Week liturgy, becomes "Whan they pressed thy blessyd body as a rype clustre upon the pressoure of the crosse". This is a clear example of scriptural and liturgical theology giving way to devotional fashion. Though the imagery of the vine had long been applied to Christ and his blood-shedding, the fifteenth century had seen the emergence into new prominence in art and piety of the literalistic image of the cross as mystical wine-press, in which Christ was grotesquely portrayed being pressed or screwed down under the beans of the cross while his blood ran into a wine-vat or a set of barrels. This conceit, in which Christ is a passive victim, was allowed to shape the fifteenth prayer, in place of the original reference to Isaiah, with its overtones of action and triumph. '
Yet, at whatever cost in terms of coarsening, the "Oes" were popular, and were used by men and women of such lowly status and learning as Robert Reynes of Acle, and as exalted as the Earl of Suffolk or the Lady Margaret Beaufort. Lydgate rhymed them, and
s" Cf. C. Meier-Ewart, "A Middle English Version of the Fifteen ()es", Modern Philology, I XVIII, 1971, pp. 355-61, and note 50 below. Male, Religious Art, pp. 11(1-14.
THE DEVOTIONS OF THE PRIMERS 255
at least two English prose versions circulated in manuscript. In 1491 Caxton printed a collection of English and Latin prayers dominated by a new translation of the "Oes", and thereafter they were a regular element in printed editions of the Horae.50 Their popularity is easy to understand. The prayers took the devotee through the whole history of the Passion with considerable economy of phrasing, yet with all the vividness of imagery and the warmth and urgency of tone which is so much a feature of late medieval religious sensibility. Drawing many details from the classic sources of affective meditation on the Passion, such as Rolle's Meditations, the Golden Legend, and the Meditationes Vitae Christi, the "Oes" nevertheless gave to familiar themes such as the Wounds or Words of Jesus a depth and resonance lacking in less learned prayers like the "Adoro Te" or the prayer of St Bede. Yet where originality would have been inappropriate, as in the benefits petitioned for at the end of each prayer, the "Oes" settled for conventionality. Like so many other popular prayers of the period, the "Oes" ask for mercy, forgiveness, protection from the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the Devil in the hour of death, devout reception of Christ in the Sacrament, and "plenary remyssyon and forgyvenesse" of sins. Though the prayers professedly originate from the devotions of a "woman, solitary and recluse", there is no sign in them at all of that growing gulf between individual and official religion which some historians have held to be characteristic of the period. They are resolutely churchly in tone, and presuppose the Church's sacramental and penitential system, a presupposition spelled out in the very first prayer, with its concluding plc.:"For mynde of thys blessyd passoon, I beseche the, benygne Jesus, grauste nie afore my dethe very contrycyon, true confession, and satysf iccyon, and of all my synnes Ilene renlyssyon. Amen."
Indeed, it is iii the quest for "clene renlyssyon", a phrase redolent of the late Middle Ages' preoccupation with Purgatory and the system of indulgences, that we touch what was probably the principal reason for the widespread use at every social level of these prayers. Many of the prayers circulating among the laity had accompanying indulgences or legends, designed to impress on the devotee the particular benefits of that devotion. The "Oes" had one of the most striking and circumstantial of all. 'though the legend varied in details and degree of particularity, its overall features remain consistent. "A woman solitary and recluse", often identified
''' J. C. Hirsch, "A Middle English Version of the Fifteen Ocs from Bodleian Add MS Ii 66" Neuephilolgt'ische Mitteiluven, LXXV, 1974, pp. 98—114: H. White, The Tudor Books of Private Devotion, 1951, pp. 216—29.
with St Bridget of Sweden, desired to know the exact number of Christ's Wounds in the course of his Passion. At last Christ told her that if she recited each day fifteen Paters and fifteen Aves, at the end of one year "thou shalt have worshypped every wounde and fulfylled the nombre of the same." Christ then revealed to her the "Fifteen Oes", promising that if recited each day for a whole year they would effect the release from Purgatory of fifteen of the devotee's kinsmen, and would keep fifteen of his or her living kin in grace. Those who recited the prayers would be granted "bitter contrition of alle his olde synnes", and fifteen days before their death "schall see myn holy body and it receyve . . . And I shall yeve him drynk of myn blood that he shall never thyrst. And I shall put before him the sygne of my victoryous passoun . . . and before his deth I shall come with my dere Moder and take his soul and lede it into everlastyng joye . . . and whatsoever he ask rightfully of me or of my Moder it schall not be denyed." Every recitation would bring forty days of pardon, those due to die would have their lives lengthened, those in danger of damnation would have their sentence commuted to Purgatory, those in danger of the worst pains of Purgatory would endure only the pains of this world, and have Heaven at last. Wherefore, Christ urged, let "every lettered man and woman read eche day these orisones of my bytter passion for his sowlen medicine".51
These extraordinary promises, restrainedly characterized by Fr Wilmart as très indiscrets, are a curious amalgam of pietism, presumption, and insecurity. Much in them simply picks up the themes and even the very language of the prayers themselves, as in the promises of drinking Christ's blood so as never to thirst again, or the theme of the soul's medicine, echoing the "Jesu, heavenly physician" of the fourth prayer. Such promises could readily enough be accommodated as an emphatic way of reiterating the prayers themselves. But the circumstantial guarantees of pardon and deliverance for souls in danger of damnation were a different matter, and much less easy to accommodate within even the wide bounds of fifteenth-century orthodoxy. Yet they were clearly immensely attractive to lay people. Though the legend was usually drastically pruned in the printed Horae, the promise of delivery to the souls of fifteen kindred in Purgatory was a constant, as was the promise to grant any request made of God "yf it be to the
Latin text in Leroquais, Livres d'Heures, II pp. 97—9: translation in Bodleian Tanner MS 407, fois 42r—43v; Reynes Commonplace, pp. 264—8; another version in Lyell MS 30, fols 42r—43r; Latin version in Cambridge University Library MS Ii.vi. 43 fols 100v—103r.
256 PRAYERS AND SPELLS
salvacyon of your soule".52 This latter phrase is an anodyne and harmless formula, an escape clause which commits the divine guarantor to nothing. It is the promise of benefit to deceased kindred, therefore, which seems closest to the nub of the matter. We are confronted with a paradox. These beautiful and complex prayers were certainly valued for their content. The circulation of a range of translations and the inclusion of such vernacular versions in the printed Horae, which were otherwise largely confined to Latin prayers, testifies to this. Equally clearly, the "Oes" were valued at least as much for their simple instrumental effectiveness in releasing the souls of the devotee's kinsfolk from the pains of Purgatory. There is no easy resolution of this contradiction between devout interiority of devotion on the one hand, and an apparently crudely mechanical view of the power of "good words" on the other. Indeed, as we shall see, that paradox lies close to the heart of late medieval English religion.
Devotions to tile Virgin
Given the development of the Book of Hours round the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, it would not be difficult to argue that the whole of the primer was in sonic sense a Marian prayer-book. Devotions to Mary proliferated in late medieval England as elsewhere in Christian Europe, and indeed Englishmen were encouraged to think of their country as being in a special way "Mary's Dowry" a notion propagated, for example, by the custodians of the shrine at Walsingham. Her cult came second only to that of Christ himself, and towered above that of all other saints. This is amply reflected iii the Horae, which reflect a range of attitudes and responses to the figure of the Virgin. It was the Nativity which offered the most accessible context for the celebration of the Madonna, and in modern perceptions of the fifteenth century these devotions are perhaps most often associated with the awe and tenderness of Nativity poems, like the exquisite fifteenth-century meditation on the Incarnation "1 syng of a mayden". For all its delicacy of touch and deep personal feeling, that poem was firmly rooted in the worship and teaching of the Church about Mary, and had behind it a battery of "learned" imagery, such as Odeon's Fleece, on which the dew fell when all the ground was dry, often used as a symbol of Mary, and the Advent responsary, "Borate Coeli" — "Drop down your dew, ye heavens, from above" (Pl. 101).
52 Hor. Ebor., p. 76 n.2.
THE DEVOTIONS OF THE PRIMERS 257
I syng of a m[a]yden that is makeles. kyng of alle kynges to here sone the Ches. he cam also stylle there his moder was as dew in aprylle, that fallyt on the gras. He cam also stylle to his moderes bowr as dew in aprille, that fallyt on the flour. He cam also stylle ther his moder lay as dew in aprille, that fallyt on the spray. Moder & mayden was never non but the — wel may swych a lady godes moder be.53
But the prayers to the Virgin that made their way into the Horae were mostly in Latin, and less personal than "I syng of a mayden". Some of them simply elaborate the prayers to Mary used in the liturgy, such as the "Salve Regina" or the "Ave Maria". Others celebrated her exalted status and titles and her virtues, such as purity and tenderness towards sinners.54 Some are invocations to her quite specifically as protectress against disease or danger: the frequently recurring hymn "Stella Celi extirpavit" explores the "Eva/Ave" idea of Mary's reversal of the evils brought by our first parents — specifically here disease — and invariably appears with a rubric explaining that it was effective "contra pestem". Its popularity is attested by the fact that the shepherds in the N—Town plays sing it as they travel to Bethlehem, and it was singled out for reforming attack in the I530s.ss A favourite form of Marian piety was the use of prayers and meditations on her joys and Sorrows. The Joys of Mary, most commonly in England counted as five — Annunciation, Nativity, the Resurrection, Ascension, and her own Coronation in Heaven — were f hmiliar to every man, woman, and child from their endless reproduction in carving, painting, and glass. "l'hey were central to the great cycles of Corpus Christi plays and, with the opportunities they offered for tenderness and devotional elaboration, were a natural theme for carols and other verses. As one might expect, therefore, they formed the basis for a number of prayers in the Horne, most characteristically the hymn "Laude Virgo Mater Christi". Marian piety lent itself naturally to vernacular elaboration for devotional purposes, and Latin poems
'° Carleton Brown, Rel(0ous Lyrics o/ the .\'l' Century, 1939, p. 11').
5a For an example of the elaboration of familiar prayers, sec the "Golden" prayer, "Ave Rosa sine spinis", Her. Ebor., p. 136, which is based on the Ave Maria; for examples of the celebration of Mary's titles and virtues sec "Gaude Flore Virginali" Her. Ebor., pp. 64—6, and the "Ave Maria, Ancilla Sancte Trinitatis", ibid. p. 137.
55 Her. Eher., p. 69; Block (ed.), Ludus Coventriae, p. 148; Hoskins, pp. 165, 169—70. Rosemary Woolf saw its presence in the N-Town play as evidence of the learned ambience of the original, thereby, in my view, missing the essential point — Woolf, Mystery Plays, p. 183.