Mother of Mercy, Bane of the Jews explores a key moment in the rise of the cult of the Virgin Mary and the way the Jews became central to her story. Benedictine monks in England at the turn of the twelfth century developed many innovative ways to venerate Mary as the most powerful saintly intercessor. They sought her mercy on a weekly and daily basis with extensive liturgical practices, commemorated additional moments of her life on special feast days, and praised her above all other human beings with new doctrines that claimed her Immaculate Conception and bodily Assumption. They also collected hundreds of stories about the miracles Mary performed for her followers in what became one of the most popular devotional literary genres of the Middle Ages.
In all these sources, but especially the miracle stories, the figure of the Jew appears in an important role as Mary's enemy. Drawing from theological and legendary traditions dating back to early Christianity, monks revived the idea that Jews violently opposed the virgin mother of God; the goal of the monks was to contrast the veneration they thought Mary deserved with the resistance of the Jews. Kati Ihnat argues that the imagined antagonism of the Jews toward Mary came to serve an essential purpose in encouraging Christian devotion to her as merciful mother and heavenly Queen.
Through an examination of miracles, sermons, liturgy, and theology, Mother of Mercy, Bane of the Jews reveals how English monks helped to establish an enduring rivalry between Mary and the Jews, in consolidating her as the most popular saint of the Middle Ages and in making devotion to her a foundational marker of Christian identity.
Kati Ihnat is lecturer in medieval history at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
"Kati Ihnat offers a careful exploration of the way in which 11th- and 12th-century monks painstakingly developed the cult of the Virgin Mary, in part by casting the Jewish people as her prototypical enemy. . . . This a study that has much to offer not only for medievalists but also, more generally, for scholars with an interest in religion, culture and the ways that hatred of minorities can be fostered."--Rachel Moss, Times Higher Education
"Kati Ihnat's book is an eloquent and important contribution to our understanding of the cult of the Virgin Mary, medieval anti-Jewish polemics, and the role of the liturgy in medieval cultural politics. It is an exemplary study of how religious stories are created, and is essential reading for anyone interested in cultural politics, the power of imagery, and the ramifications of monastic thought in the Middle Ages."--Anthony Bale, Birkbeck College, London
"In Mother of Mercy, Bane of the Jews, Kati Ihnat achieves a great deal, exploring liturgy, miracle tales, chronicles, and images with equal authority and insight. She links the rise of the Virgin Mary to the rhythms of monastic liturgical life, and demonstrates the use made of Jews in the efforts to imagine Mary anew. Here is a book that will offer all medievalists a new chapter in European religion, and a great deal of pleasure."--Miri Rubin, author of Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary
"This book argues persuasively that the foundations for the expansion in the role accorded Mary in the medieval Latin church were established in English monastic communities by the middle of the twelfth century. Ihnat looks at new liturgical forms and theological treatises that praised Mary, and delves into how these texts developed a threatening image of the Jew to affirm Mary's ability to rescue Christians from misdeeds and evil."--Irven M. Resnick, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations ix
1 Praising Mary: Liturgy and Prayer 16
2 Understanding Mary: Theological Treatises 59
3 Hagiographies of Mary: Miracle Collections 100
4 Enemies of Mary: Jews in Miracle Stories 138