Matthew Mills, Behold your mother : the Virgin Mary in English monasticism, c. 1050-c. 1200, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2016 (Université d’Oxford)
This thesis examines the place of the Virgin Mary in the intellectual culture of Benedictine and Cistercian monasticism in medieval England, between c. 1050 and c. 1200. Drawing high profile thinkers, including Anselm of Canterbury (d. 1109), into dialogue with lesser known figures, it reveals the richness of monastic contributions to Marian doctrine and devotion, in many cases for the first time. The shape of the analysis is provided by five key ‘moments’ from Mary’s life, unfolded consecutively across six chapters. Chapters 1 and 2, on Mary’s conception, reveal a confident and pioneering monastic culture which drove the evolution of an obscure Anglo-Saxon feast into a theological doctrine, despite fierce opposition at home and abroad. Chapter 3 explains how Mary’s virginity was adopted as a blueprint for the monastic life by Ælred of Rievaulx (d. 1167) and Baldwin of Forde (d. 1190), both of whom were inspired by its fruitfulness in the Incarnation of Christ. Chapter 4 brings to light the contributions made to exegesis of the Song of Songs as a poem about Mary’s humility by the mysterious Honorius Augustodunensis (d. 1140) and John of Forde (d. 1214). Chapter 5, on the divine maternity, demonstrates how English monastic theologians gave new life to understanding of Mary as Theotokos (‘God-bearer’) by drawing out its significance for their own spiritual maternity as leaders of religious communities. Chapter 6 shows how Mary was believed to have entered into the pain of the Crucifixion through her own spiritual martyrdom, and how monks sought to share the experience with her by a communion of charity. These and other insights offer a compelling glimpse into the culture of English monasticism between the demise of the Anglo-Saxons and the advent of the friars. Inspired by a desire to understand and ultimately to know Mary, Benedictine and Cistercian monks produced theological and spiritual works which were imaginative, often intimate and occasionally pioneering. Most of all, they were profoundly pastoral, composed in the belief that Mary could inspire and support those who had embarked upon the monastic via perfectionis.