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[tmr-l@wmich.edu: TMR 07.01.08 Maniura, Pilgrimage to Images (Kabala)]

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  • Jadwiga Zajaczkowa / Jenne Heise
    I m forwarding this rather dense review because the book sounds interesting. The Medieval Review is an excellent review publication to which I subscribe. ...
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 9, 2007
      I'm forwarding this rather dense review because the book sounds
      interesting. The Medieval Review is an excellent review publication to
      which I subscribe.

      ----- Forwarded message from The Medieval Review <tmr-l@...> -----

      From: The Medieval Review <tmr-l@...>
      Subject: TMR 07.01.08 Maniura, Pilgrimage to Images (Kabala)
      To: TMR-L@...
      Reply-to: tmr-l@...

      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
      produce miracles.

      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.

      ----- End forwarded message -----

      -- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Knowledge Pika jenne@...
      "History doesn't always repeat itself. Sometimes it screams
      'Why don't you ever listen to me?' and lets fly with a club."
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