Female devotion and the bleeding heart

This hybrid manuscript of devotions from the Netherlands contains a number of different texts based around ‘stations’ or holy places. It includes a calendar of indulgences, prayers relating to the seven principal churches or ‘stations’ of Rome, and stations of the holy places in the Holy Land. The book interleaves manuscript, sometimes on vellum and sometimes on paper, with printed text on paper, all in early forms of Dutch. A rough vernacular note suggests female ownership in the sixteenth century by Helena Swterynck. The later seventeenth-century calf binding has small brass clasps. Everything about the book suggests use over time and in many situations. Unlike a book of hours, which is linked to the liturgy and organised in a familiar pattern, this book is idiosyncratic, ready to hand for improvised acts of personal devotion. It is also clearly a mnemonic book, aiding the memory with aggregated prayers and images. These images are more like aids to bodily reflection than illustrations as such: the illuminations of churches and holy places spur the body to meditation on specific spaces and things. The last item in the book is a printed work on the stations of the Cross, intermingled with manuscript text in three different hands, and including a number of illustrations of the Passion of Christ. Here we see a simple Eucharistic image of a bleeding heart, with hands and feet with stigmata, and a chalice. BC

Eyn Devoit Boichelgyn der Cruitzgenge uns Heren van Stacien 30 Steden (Cologne: n.p., [c.1515]), fo. 60r.

Binding with clasps.

CUL: MS Add. 2694

Further Reading

Caroline Walker Bynum, Wonderful Blood: Theology and Practice in Late Medieval Northern Germany and Beyond (Philadelphia, 2007).

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