Laments of the Virgin Mary represent a devotional genre that offered its clerical and lay audiences of the High and Late Middle Ages a deeply inspiring, yet at the same time ambiguous, religious experience. Through the deeply emotional and markedly animated representation of the Passion, seen as if through the eyes of the mother of God, audiences and performers were not only reminded of the redemptive power of the Cross, but encouraged to experience Christ’s sacrifice in a more personal and intimate manner. In the pious practice of imitatio Mariae, believers mirrored the sorrow of the mother through their own bodies in order to develop a kind of visceral empathy towards, and hence a deeper understanding of, the divine.
Introduction: The Suffering of the Virgin as an Inner Drama
Chapter One: Marian Lament and Medieval Piety
Chapter Two: Genre, Mediality, and Aesthetics
Chapter Three: Modes of Performance
Chapter Four: Bohemian Laments: Feeling Like a Woman, Thinking Like a Man. Or Not?
Appendix: Bohemian Laments—Excerpts