Publication details

The Throne of Wisdom of Beaulieu : The Silver Embodiment of the Triumphant Church

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Year of publication 2023
Type Chapter of a book
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The statue known as Virgin of Beaulieu from the first half of the twelfth century is kept in the treasury of the Abbey Church of St Peter in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region (France). The statue consists of a wooden core covered with silver and vermeil leaves and it represents a uniquely preserved example of the iconography of sedes sapientiae, the Throne of Wisdom, a phenomenon that occurred during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Statues of this type became the main actors in the popular liturgical drama Officium stellae, which took place on the feast of the Epiphany. Mary in a central role shows her son to the kings, just as the Church brings faith to the faithful. The figure of Mary is understood as the Church itself, as the pure Church, and with its Eucharistic emphasis the statues underscore the notion of reform, promoted by the Church at this time, as purifying itself. Given the popularity of the play and the starring role of the wooden statue of the Virgin as well as the popularity of infancy cycles and especially of Adoration of Magi in all media in the period, the article aims to identify the Virgin of Beaulieu with emerging ideas about the ideal societal order and about the purified (reforming) church of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. This statue has a great deal to tell us about the theological debates and social situation of Bas-Limousin in the first half of the twelfth century.
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