IMC 2013: Sessions

Session 722: The Pleasures of Family Life in Medieval Times: St Anne and Her Vita

Tuesday 2 July 2013, 14.15-15.45

Organiser:Elena Ene D-Vasilescu, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
Moderator/Chair:Louise Nelstrop, Sarum College, Salisbury / University of Oxford
Paper 722-aThe Pleasure of Child Nursing: St Anne and the Infant Mary
(Language: English)
Elena Ene D-Vasilescu, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
Index terms: Art History - General, Byzantine Studies
Paper 722-bForbidden Pleasure: St Anne's Vita in the Ecclesiastical Environment - the Teleki, Kazinczy, and Érdy Codices
(Language: English)
Emöke Nagy, Faculty of Medieval History, Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest
Index terms: Ecclesiastical History, Hagiography
Paper 722-cThe Holy Breast of St Anne and the Virgin Mary: The Pleasure of Touching
(Language: English)
Dana Stehlíková, Národní Muzeum, Praha

After waiting for decades to become a mother and escaping the risk of losing the child very early (some apocryphal sources affirm that Mary was born prematurely at seven months) there could be no doubt that Saint Anne would take great pleasure in bringing up her child. Among other authors, Romanos the Melode (c. 490-556) celebrates, in his kontakion on the Nativity of Mary, the miracle of the saint overcoming her sterility as described in the Infancy Gospel, in the hymn joyfully addressed by her to God:

Who hath visited me and taken away from me the
reproach of mine enemies, and the Lord hath given me
a fruit of his righteousness […]
Hearken, hearken, ye twelve tribes of Israel that
Anne giveth suck.

Some of the characteristics that will dominate Saint Anne’s cult appeared in the early Byzantine period when the first textual sources referring to her are documented. Both these and the various vitae and works of art that were produced in Western Europe in the Middle Ages represent Anne’s happy and harmonious family life. In the scenes in which she is being breast fed and in which she takes her first (‘seven’) steps, it seems that the little Mary brought many delights to her parents, Anne and Joachim. This exemplary family went together to the temple where they offered either a half or a third of their wealth (according to different sources), prayed, and at home they played together. The late 15th and early 16th-century Western European lives of Saint Anne amplify this picture with an abundance of material on the physical environment of family life, on ideas about what constituted appropriate ways to bring up daughters, along with information on social class and on relationships between husbands and wives. The papers to be given at this workshop will address various aspects of Anne’s family life as it appears in the Byzantine and Western European textual and iconographic traditions.