Cover image for From judgment to passion : devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200
From judgment to passion : devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200
Fulton, Rachel.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Columbia University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvi, 676 pages ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1840 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
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BT590.C85 F85 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Devotion to the crucified Christ is one of the most familiar, yet most disconcerting artifacts of medieval European civilization. How and why did the images of the dying God-man and his grieving mother achieve such prominence, inspiring unparalleled religious creativity as well such imitative extremes as celibacy and self-flagellation? To answer this question, Rachel Fulton ranges over developments in liturgical performance, private prayer, doctrine, and art. She considers the fear occasioned by the disappointed hopes of medieval Christians convinced that the apocalypse would come soon, the revulsion of medieval Jews at being baptized in the name of God born from a woman, the reform of the Church in light of a new European money economy, the eroticism of the Marian exegesis of the Song of Songs, and much more.
Devotion to the crucified Christ is one of the most familiar yet disconcerting artifacts of medieval European civilization. How and why did the images of the dying God-man and his grieving mother achieve such prominence, inspiring unparalleled religious creativity and emotional artistry even as they fostered such imitative extremes as celibacy, crusade, and self-flagellation?

Magisterial in style and comprehensive in scope, From Judgment to Passion is the first systematic attempt to explain the origins and initial development of European devotion to Christ in his suffering humanity and Mary in her compassionate grief. Rachel Fulton examines liturgical performance, doctrine, private prayer, scriptural exegesis, and art in order to illuminate and explain the powerful desire shared by medieval women and men to identify with the crucified Christ and his mother.

The book begins with the Carolingian campaign to convert the newly conquered pagan Saxons, in particular with the effort to explain for these new converts the mystery of the Eucharist, the miraculous presence of Christ's body at the Mass. Moving on to the early eleventh century, when Christ's failure to return on the millennium of his Passion (A.D. 1033) necessitated for believers a radical revision of Christian history, Fulton examines the novel liturgies and devotions that arose amid this apocalyptic disappointment. The book turns finally to the twelfth century when, in the wake of the capture of Jerusalem in the First Crusade, there occurred the full flowering of a new, more emotional sensibility of faith, epitomized by the eroticism of the Marian exegesis of the Song of Songs and by the artistic and architectural innovations we have come to think of as quintessentially high medieval.

In addition to its concern with explaining devotional change, From Judgment to Passion presses a second, crucial question: How is it possible for modern historians to understand not only the social and cultural functions but also the experience of faith--the impulsive engagement with the emotions, sometimes ineffable, of prayer and devotion? The answer, magnificently exemplified throughout this book's narrative, lies in imaginative empathy, the same incorporation of self into story that lay at the heart of the medieval effort to identify with Christ and Mary in their love and pain.

Author Notes

Rachel Fulton is associate professor of history at the University of Chicago. She has held fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Lilly Endowment and has been a fellow at the National Humanities Center.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this intellectual tour de force, Fulton, an associate professor of history at the University of Chicago, examines the development of a central feature of medieval Christianity: the devotion to the crucified Christ and to the Virgin Mary. Using hermeneutic theory, textual exegesis, and historiography, she probes the "thoughts, ideals, anxieties, ambitions, and dreams that the men and women of the Middle Ages brought to... their imaginings about God." The fixation on divine suffering grew out of sentiments of pity and tenderness during these centuries, and artists, writers and theologians expressed their empathy in poems, treatises, paintings and prayers. Fulton begins her story in the ninth century, when devotion to Christ was expressed primarily in the sacrament of the Eucharist. After 1000, when Christ failed to return to earth as many Christians had thought he would, the character of devotion changed. During the 11th century, Fulton notes, Christians expressed their piety in great holy pilgrimages to Jerusalem; in the popular use of crucifixes; in grammatical debates over the Eucharistic formula, "Here is my body"; and in greater efforts to become unified with Christ through ascetic practices and prayer. By the 12th century, theologians used commentaries on the Song of Songs to construct Mary as a compassionate mother who suffers her son's pain vicariously. Fulton's argument is sometimes obscured by jargon, but she paints in breathtaking strokes a gorgeous tapestry of the loyal devotion to the Man of Sorrows and the Mater Dolorosa. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This enormous tome (468 pages without the nearly 200 pages of abbreviations, endnotes, and 15 introductory pages) is dedicated to the seemingly simple task of understanding medieval religious fervor for Christ. Thus, Fulton (history, Univ. of Chicago) investigates Christian piety, especially as evidenced in the Eucharist and by Anselmian devotion to images of judgment, redemption, and heroic self-punishment. She argues that the 800s-1200s saw a rise in devotion to the suffering of Christ, while at the same time the church evidenced a new emotionalism, focused around the interior suffering of Mary. Concentrating on clerical piety rather than popular or miracle stories, Fulton plumbs these parallel medieval developments in Christianity. A student of the great medievalist Caroline Walker Bynum, Fulton is part of the "continuing effort to remake medieval intellectual history as a history of persons and communities rather than of impersonal concepts." The book offers remarkable depth as well as breadth in a most commendable manner, though the sheer size makes this a daunting undertaking for the reader. Recommended for scholarly history and religion collections.-Sandra Collins, Duquesne Univ. Lib., Pittsburgh (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Fulton traces the origins of the medieval European devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, beginning with the Carolingian conversion of the Saxons in the late eighth century. Using key texts from the medieval monastic tradition, Fulton (history, Univ. of Chicago) persuasively argues that Apocalyptic disappointment after Christ failed to return at the millennium of his passion in 1033 caused the 11th-century surge of pious devotion. Connected to this are the eremitic movements of the 11th century, themselves in imitation of Christ's suffering; the Peace of God was an impetus for innovation and reform. A more emotional vision of Christian spirituality followed in the 12th century, after the capture of Jerusalem in the first crusade. Fulton's sophisticated analysis of medieval prayer and liturgy reexamines the medieval conceptions of judgment, passion, and salvation, and presents valuable new insights into the development of the cult of the suffering Jesus and the compassionate Virgin Mary. This is truly an important book. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, researchers, and faculty in medieval studies, literature, religion, history, and art history. J. M. B. Porter Butler University

Table of Contents

Part 1 "Christus Patiens"
1 History, Conversion, and the Saxon Christ
2 Apocalypse, Reform, and the Suffering Savior
3 Praying to the Crucified Christ
Part 2 "Maria Compatiens"
4 Praying to the Mother of the Crucified Judge
5 The Seal of the Mother Bride
6 The Voice of My Beloved, Knocking
7 Once Upon a Time...
8 "Commortua, Commoriens, Consepulta"