[email@example.com: TMR 07.01.08 Maniura, Pilgrimage to Images (Kabala)]
- I'm forwarding this rather dense review because the book sounds
interesting. The Medieval Review is an excellent review publication to
which I subscribe.
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From: The Medieval Review <tmr-l@...>
Subject: TMR 07.01.08 Maniura, Pilgrimage to Images (Kabala)
Maniura, Robert. <i>Pilgrimage to Images in the Fifteenth Century:
The Origins of the Cult of Our Lady of Czestochowa</i>. Woodbridge,
Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2004. Pp. 248. $85.00. ISBN-10
1843830558, ISBN-13 9781843830559.
Reviewed by Irene Kabala
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Inextricably linked with Poland's religious and national identity, the
shrine on Jasna Gora in Czestochowa is one of the most popular
pilgrimage destinations in Eastern Europe. The heart of the
pilgrimage is a painting of the Hodegetria disfigured by slashes. Yet
the image of the scarred Mother of God is virtually unknown to non-
Polish speaking scholars. Robert Maniura's book bridges this gap.
Focusing on the confluence of image, miracle, and pilgrimage, Maniura
investigates the role visual experience played in the formulation of
the Czestochowa cult.
Six fifteenth- and sixteenth- century histories trace the picture's
translation. The earliest, the <i>Translatio tabulae Beatae Mariae
Virginis quam sanctus Lucas depinxit propriis manibus</i>, most likely
a copy of a manuscript produced in the 1430s by a Pauline monk in
1474, forms the narrative core of the other histories. Except for
minor variations, the legends relate the following events: Luke
painted a posthumous portrait of the Virgin on the dining room
belonging to the Holy Family. From Jerusalem, the image was
transported to Constantinople where it performed prodigious miracles.
A Russian prince named Leo moved the picture to his own country.
After many vicissitudes, including an attack on the painting by
Hussite Iconoclasts in 1430 which damaged the Virgin's face, Duke
Ladislaus translated the image to Jasna Gora and established the Order
of St. Paul the first Hermit in a new monastery to care for the
A critical analysis of these primary sources frames Maniura's
argument, which is divided into eight chapters and nine appendices.
Chapter One challenges the picture's eastern origin. Because of
numerous restorations, the painting's place of production is
impossible to identify precisely. Nonetheless, Maniura proposes the
following tentative genesis: the painting, perhaps a copy of an
eastern model, was made in thirteenth-century Italy. It was
substantially or wholly repainted in the fourteenth century in an
Italianate manner, if not in Italy, and was further modified in the
fifteenth century in northern Europe.
The exploitation of the painting's legendary eastern origin is the
subject of Chapters Two and Three. In Chapter Two, Maniura situates
the icon in the historical union between Poland and Lithuania
initiated in 1385 when the Polish Hedwig was offered to the pagan
grand duke of Lithuania, Jogaila (Wladyslaw Jagiello), in exchange for
the conversion of Lithuania, composed mostly of pagans and Orthdox
Christians. Perhaps a Slavic cult object, which was appropriated and
reused in a new context, the Czestochowa painting shared in the
culture of conversion, thus asserting the prominence of Latin
Chapter Three examines the distinctive marks on the Virgin's face in
light of the image's attribution to Luke and Hussite Iconoclastic
polemics. The legend of Luke's portrait, a true likeness painted
during the Virgin's lifetime, was widely disseminated. The
Czestochowa legend diverges from the ubiquitous form of the story. In
the Polish version, Luke painted a portrait of the Virgin from memory
after her assumption into heaven. Maniura suggests that this variant
avoided chronological contradictions in order to endow the painting
with Gospel authority. The authorship of the picture validated the
image against Iconoclastic attacks, made visible in the scars on the
surface of the painting itself.
Chapter four highlights the image's role in the origin and development
of devotional practices on Jasna Gora. Recent studies of pilgrimage
have described the phenomenon in a variety of ways: as travel to a
holy site, defined as a religious void to be filled with subjective
experience; as a coherent event, which seeks to establish
<i>communitas</i>; or as an experience of an orchestrated environment.
Imbedded in the latter interpretation is a dichotomy between those who
orchestrate, presumably religious authorities, and those who passively
absorb the experience, pilgrims. But the very nature of pilgrimage
involves activity. Therefore, Maniura suggests that pilgrim
performance is complementary to rather than opposed to or derived from
imposed authoritative structures of behaviour.
These performances are potentially recoverable through a scrutiny of
miracle narratives related to the image and shrine. In Chapter Five
Maniura examines surviving sixteenth-century miracles, recorded in the
monastery's <i>Miracle Book</i>. The few narratives explicitly
mentioning the image divide Maniura's analysis into three parts: the
vow, the votive offering, and the miracle. Verbal equivalents of
votive offerings, miracle stories recorded vows and verified their
fulfillment at the holy site. However, the miracles themselves were
not necessarily generated at the shrine. Indeed, most of the miracles
listed in the <i>Miracle Book</i> occurred at a distance from Jasna
Gora. Only the fulfillment of a vow, witnessed by the votive
offerings, necessitated a pilgrim's presence before the image. In the
documentary material, the picture is not the instrument that produced
miracles; the various stages of pilgrims' performances created them.
Chapter Six examines the role of the image in the formation of the
cult at Czestochowa. Maniura highlights the picture's powerful visual
attraction, specifically the Virgin's scarred face, which marks her as
Christ's co-sufferer. The raw emotive power of the slashes resonates
with the surviving miracle accounts, which contain a litany of
physical illnesses Maniura describes as a "carnival of misery" (132).
Suffering incarnate, so to speak, the wounds focused pilgrim
performances of misery in a constructive way. Adding to the picture's
appeal is its ambiguity; the picture does not articulate a "coherent
visual message," (134) and is therefore open to subjective responses.
Chapter Seven answers the question: how physically accessible was the
icon in its monastic setting? By the sixteenth century, the Pauline
community controlled access to the icon. Yet pilgrims also helped
construct the painting's display. The picture was an inseparable
component of a visually saturated experience linked to liturgical
performance. This environment was not programmatic. After all, the
images and objects swarming over and framing the icon were individual
acts of devotion. Maniura concludes that the holy space was not an
inert space orchestrated by an authority but was a cumulative
"landscape of images" (161) generated both by the Pauline brothers and
the faithful over a period of time.
The last chapter agues that miraculous images were not constrained by
local and geographical boundaries. During their travels, pilgrims
encountered many images that resonated with the cult site at the end
of their journey. The saint's shrine focused the faithful's
relationship with the saint without necessarily confining the saint to
a specific location. Pilgrims did not identify pictures of saints
with the saints themselves; they were physically absent, but visible.
Images revealed what was not there; they revealed the living saint.
Maniura's case study is a prodigious scholarly investigation into the
seminal role of images in shaping cult practices. Often regarded as
aesthetically unappealing, unrefined, and iconographically elusive,
cult paintings are marginalized in art historical studies. In
contrast, Maniura's book situates pictorial ambiguity at the very
heart of religious experience. At Czestochowa the monastic setting
and votive offerings that veiled the details of the painting further
enhanced the image's ambiguity. These physical and visual limitations
confirm Maniura's implied argument that the appearance of the cult
image was not the catalyst for devotion; rather the elusive and
uncircumscribable presence imbedded in the miracle-working painting
invited personal interaction with the prototype. A visually saturated
environment partially constructed by the faithful, the shrine at
Czestochowa established a corollary relationship between image and
devotee. Pilgrim performance activated the power of the image to
By privileging the symbiotic relationship between image and viewer in
the formation of pilgrimage, Maniura offers an alternative approach to
the analysis of legends, miracles and other narratives related to cult
sites and performance. Rather than directing the development of a
cult or merely promoting the special sanctity of a shrine, tales of
the miraculous are stories told by pilgrims and therefore are traces
of pilgrim performances. Implicit in Maniura's conclusion is the
eradication of the traditional polarity between "popular practice" and
"religious authority." Indivisible components of pilgrimage
experience, miracle stories, image and shrine are "enmeshed in a
network of human behaviour" (86). Maniura's multifaceted approach to
the Czestochowa Hodegetria, which serves as a paradigm for cult images
in general, provides a fruitful direction for future studies devoted
to icons and pilgrimage.
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"History doesn't always repeat itself. Sometimes it screams
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