|GLOSSARY: THE BOOK OF MARGERY
KEMPE © Stanbury/Raguin MMK
V. St. Margaret to York
See also over 150 images in
MMK Devotional Images Database, arranged alphabetically
Margaret St. Margaret of Antioch was the patron of pregnant
women. Although historically unverified, she was one of the most popular
female saints of the Middle Ages. According to legend, Margaret,
who was from Antioch in Asia Minor, was tortured and imprisoned when she
resisted becoming the wife of the Roman prefect Olybrius. While she
was in prison a devil in the form of a dragon devoured her. When she made
the sign of the cross, the dragon split open and she emerged unscathed;
hence her special popularity for pregnant women.
Margaret's Church Lynn’s central parish church, founded
in the 12th century, is dedicated to St. Margaret. In this large
church, only the nave areas were accessible to the citizens of the town.
The transepts and the long choir to the east were the exclusive domain
of the clergy who were dependent on the cathedral's priory of the Holy
Trinity in Norwich. Although historically unverified, Margaret of Antioch
was one of the most popular female saints of the Middle Ages. One
of the great virgin saints, she was nonetheless a special patron saint
of pregnant women; the name Margery is a derivation of Margaret. See MMK
Database Devotional Images
Margaret’s Eve St. Margaret’s Eve is the day before June 20th,
the feast day of St. Margaret of Antioch. The liturgical calendar
marked the great Christian feasts and seasons of preparation: Advent, Christmas,
Lent, Easter and Pentecost. Individual saints were honored with their
own days. These were either universal - marked by all Christian practice
- or local, simply honored by a region. For example, Hugh of Lincoln’s
feast was regional, St. Margaret's or St. Nicholas, on December 6, universal.
Mary of Egypt Mary of Egypt was frequently associated with Mary
Magdalene as an exemplar of a great penitent. Her legend was popular in
the west from at least the 13th century and it appears in stained glass
windows at Chartres, Bourges, and Auxerre cathedrals. Once a prostitute,
she converted after a visit to Jerusalem. She removed herself into the
desert across the Jordan and was befriended by a priest called Zozimas
who gave her Holy Communion, after which she died. Miraculously a
lion came to help dig her grave.
Mary Magdalene St. Mary Magdalene was a devoted follower of
Jesus during his public ministry. Tradition described her as a daughter
of a wealthy family, beset with temptations, specifically lust. According
to the biblical text the conversion of Mary occurred when she felt to the
feet of Jesus, cleaned them with her tears, wiped them dry with her hair,
and perfumed them with oils (Lk 7:36). The most commonly cited biblical
references of Mary are her presence at the Crucifixion alongside Jesus’
mother (Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; John 19:25) and as the first witness to the
empty tomb and resurrected Christ (Jn 20:1-2, 11-18). Following the
death of Jesus, legend places Mary Magdalene in the desert of southern
France living a life of solitude. Mary is traditionally portrayed
in Christian art as the weeping sinner at the feet of Jesus. She
also may be depicted as a long-haired woman carrying a vase containing
the oils she used on Jesus’ feet.
Nicholas Church, Lynn Margery Kempe shows vehement opposition
to the granting the privilege of baptism to the church of St. Nicholas
in Lynn, founded as a chapel of St. Margaret’s, her own parish church.
In 1374 and again in 1432, coinciding, it seems, with new building campaigns,
the parishioners of St. Nicholas sued to have a christening font, to conduct
marriages, and to perform the rite of purification after childbirth.
Kempe introduces this issue by an oblique statement, characteristic in
her work, that this dispute arose “in a worshepful town.” In reality,
her father, while mayor, had also been opposed to this innovation.
The mayor “John de Brunham” appears in the three lists of burgesses attesting
in 1378 to reasons to refuse privileges of the sacraments of marriage,
baptism, and purification to St. Nicholas. Brunham had been mayor in 1370,
then for two consecutive terms, 1377-8. The kind of font that the parishioners
of St. Nicholas would have commissioned can be seen in the font now in
St. Andrew's Church, Norton. (See MMK Parish and Cathedral) An early 15th
century form, it has room for painted armorials, invariably to be claimed
by the important families of the parish.
Paul St. Paul, along with St. Peter, was one of the most frequently
cited spiritual authorities in the Middle Ages. To St. Thomas Aquinas
in the 13th century, Paul was simply “the Apostle.” Paul’s life and
conversion are described in the Acts of the Apostles. As a Romanized
Jew, Paul, then named Saul, witnessed the death of St. Stephen (Acts 7:58)
and then took part in the persecution of the Early Church. While
traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus, he was blinded by a light from heaven
and a voice called, “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?” (Acts 9:4).
Paul was converted to the Christian faith; he regained his sight and became
the great preacher of the Early Church. The major portion of the
Bible after Acts are given to the Epistles - or letters - that Paul
was believed to have written to the churches he visited on his extensive
travels. These letters were read as part of the ritual of the Mass
since the 9th century. Paul was martyred by being beheaded (the death accorded
a Roman citizen). His depiction in art shows a standard physiognomy
of long face and nose, long beard, and balding head, as well as the attribute
of the sword.
Peter St. Peter was accepted in the Middle Ages as the first
pope and the person to whom Christ had given his primary spiritual authority.
This is based on the Gospel event when Jesus asked Peter who he was.
Peter answered, "Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God," to which
Christ replied,"Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and I will give thee
the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 16:16-19). Because
of his denials of Christ immediately after his arrest (Matt.26:69-75),
Peter was seen as a great penitent, a model that was very popular in the
late Middle Ages. Peter, like St. Paul, was executed by Roman authorities,
Peter crucified head downwards because legend has it that he told his executioners
that he was not worthy to receive the same death as Christ. Constantine
built a great basilica, St. Peter's, over the grave of the saint in 320-32.
Peter is evoked as the symbol of the Roman pontiff and both the spiritual
and temporal power of the Christian church, since the popes claimed temporal
authority over a large area on central Italy. The saint is depicted in
art as a having a short curly beard and curly hair with a balding cranium
and invariably holding a great set of keys.
Peter’s church St. Peter’s basilica is built over the grave
of St. Peter (died c. 64 AD) the leader of the Apostles and the first pope.
Constructed c. 320-27 by the Emperor Constantine, it was one of the largest
buildings in the world and the most important pilgrim shrine in Europe.
After the popes of Avignon returned to Rome in 1377, they made the Vatican
hill and St. Peter’s their place of residence, though the basilica of St.
John Lateran remained the pope’s official seat in Rome. During the latter
Middle Ages, especially during the 14th century when the popes were either
absent from Rome or challenged by anti-popes, the Early Christian building
that consisted of a very long nave and open atrium or courtyard fell into
disrepair. This is the church visited by Margery Kempe.
Vitalis St. Vitalis (Feast Day, April 28) was the father of
saints Gervais and Protase, and among the Roman martyrs much honored by
the universal church, noted in the Golden Legend of Jacobus of Voragine.
He was tortured and executed in Ravenna under the persecution of the Emperor
Nero about 62 A.D. There is a church dedicated to him in Rome and
the great church, San Vitale in Ravenna, is one of the great wonders of
architectural form and mosaic embellishment of the Early Christian era.
William’s shrine, Cathedral of York St. William’s
Shrine is that of William Fitzherbert, Archbishop of York (d. 1154); miracles
were reported at his tomb in the Minster, and he was canonized in 1227.
His relics were moved to a new shrine in 1281. There was a strong cult
of the saint at York.
Santiago de Compostela , or St. James, of Compostela is a pilgrimage shrine
in northwestern Spain. Since the 9th century it was believed to be
the site of the burial of the body of the Apostle James. The great
basilica built over the spot that became the most important European pilgrimage
site after Rome. The church that was visited by Margery Kempe was
substantially completed from 1070 to 1210. A description of the church
is present in the Latin text of the Pilgrim's Guide written by an anonymous
Frenchman in the 1130s. The building was quite large, listed
as "in length fifty-three times the stature of a man." The portals
were carefully described, including the Puerta de las Platerias with its
images of the Lord blessing Adam and Eve. Most attention was given
to the body and altar of St. James, and the furnishings such as the altar
frontal, ciborium, as well as a description of the clergy and authority
of the church. In 1188 the Portico de la Gloria was built with three-dimensional
statue columns of prophets and apostles and a colossal Christ showing his
wounds on the tympanum. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries English
pilgrims usually went overland after travelling to Paris. In Kempe's
time (spring , 1417) a ship took her from Bristol to Compostela.
An English pilgrim's guide was written in the 14th-century.
Saracen is a term used in the Middle Ages to describe any person (Arab,
Turkish, etc.) who followed the religion of Islam. During the time of Roman
domination, the term had referred specifically to an Arab tribe living
in the Sinai Peninsula. Later, Christians used the term to apply to all
or preaching Today, the sermon is usually a part of a church
service, but during the Middle Ages it was held separate from the service,
often even given outside of the church in a town square. Sermons, called
preaching, were public performances. Popular preachers, like St. Bernardino
of Siena (1380-1444), whose sermons lasted 3-4 hours, attracted huge public
followings. The sermon was often characterized as more important than the
mass itself because the sermon provided the people with practical advice
for their daily lives. The popularity of the sermon spread through
the efforts of the Preaching Friars (Dominicans) and the Friars Minor (Franciscans).
(see Preaching Friars and Friars Minor )
In 1415 Henry V founded a Carthusian monastery at Sheen called the House
of Jesus of Bethlehem of Sheen on the south bank of the Thames. Across
the river he founded a Bridgettine house, the monastery of St. Savior and
St. Bridget of Syon (known as Mount Syon of Sheen). Sheen is now
a part of greater London called Richmond on Thames, the site of Hampton
Court Palace. The founding of the house is linked to royal marriage.
Philippa, Henry's sister, had married King Eric of Denmark and Sweden in
1406. Swedish Bridgettine nuns traveled through Lynn on their visits
to Syon abbey. David Knowles, The Religious Orders in England. Vol.
2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955 rep. 1979: 175-81.
To be shriven is to be confessed and be pardoned for one’s sins.
One of the seven sacraments of the church, penance is the forgiveness of
sins committed after baptism. During the sacrament, one is sorrowful
for the sins and confesses those sins to a priest. The priest then
gives absolution in Christ’s name. In the late Middle Ages, frequent confession,
even to two a three times a day, was a goal of intense spirituality.
Slits (slashes) were often cut into fine garments so that the material
worn under them could puff out through the slits. This created a multicolored
effect, most often around the sleeves for clothing of both genders and
also in the pantaloons of men.
Stations of Rome As early as the third century, there was a practice of celebrating a pontifical Mass (an unusually elaborate ritual) at an appointed church within the diocese (the community of parish churches under the authority of a bishop). A set schedule of days was established so that all the parish churches would be visited at some point during the year. On penitential days (traditionally Wednesday and Friday) the faithful would gather at a church close to the appointed one and process together behind a wooden cross to the church at which the Mass was to be held.
Pope Gregory I (590-604) reorganized
the schedule of Roman stations, his ordering has remained largely unchanged
throughout the centuries. The popularity of this devotion plummeted
when the popes took up residence in Avignon in 1305. Upon their return
in 1377, the practice was renewed, although it never again experienced
comparable popularity. During Kempe's visit from August of 1414 through
April of 1415, she would have been exposed to these traditions. The
fact that she remained in Rome though the Lenten season, when the indulgences
for the Stationary Churches were viable, would argue that she would have
fulfilled the obligations. John Capgrave, an Austin Friar from Lynn,
Kempe’s own town, visited Rome between 1447 and 1452 (about 35 years after
Kempe). Capgrave records the order of the Stations in his book.
Stimulus Amoris see Prick of Love
(rat gnaws the stockfish) The stockfish, codfish cured and dried,
was a standard commodity in Lynn, a major seaport. In this quote
Kempe likens her suffering to the perpetual gnawing of a rat on a fish
that cannot easily be eaten. The homey reference bespeaks the associations
of Kempe’s society, one of merchant exchange.
Stralsund is a major port on the Baltic coast, in northeastern Germany
(Mecklenburg). The city was chartered in 1234 and was an important
member of the Hanseatic League. Its church of St. Mary and town hall
date from the 13th century.
even at Christ’s breast This expression "sucking" echoes a central
concept in the Revelations of Julian of Norwich, an anchoress who Kempe
visited: The human mother will suckle her child with her own milk,
but our beloved Mother, Jesus, feeds us with himself, and with the most
tender courtesy does it by means of the Blessed Sacrament, the precious
food of all true life (Revelations Chapter 60).
This construction emphasizes that Kempe is receiving her thoughts directly
from Jesus, who is in essence is directly feeding her soul and spirituality.
Imagery that transcends gender boundaries is often a part of medieval spiritual
Knights For the protection of Christian pilgrims in the Holy
Land several groups of crusading knights organized themselves into military
orders during the 12th century: the Knights Templar, mostly French, the
Knights Hospitaler, mostly Italian, and the Teutonic knights, mostly German.
These knights took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The
Teutonic Knights began with a pilgrims' hospital in Jerusalem. During
the 13th century they were enlisted in the conquest the remaining pagan
tribes of Europe, the Prussians and the Lithuanians. By the 14th century
the order had become a powerful force in the Baltic region and its headquarters
in Marienburg was the largest castle in Europe. During Kempe's visit,
1433, the Knights were in serious dispute with English. The English
had failed to pay a tax that had been agreed to since1407. In 1429
the English King Edward III had declared the tax invalid. In retaliation
the Knights exacted heavy tribute from English merchants and hindered visits
by English citizens.
kings with their gifts Three kings with their gifts, also called
the wise men or magi, followed the star to Bethlehem to find the infant
Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12). The Gospel simply mentions wise men, but
because three gifts are described of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, their
number was set at three since their first representations. By the
end of the Middle Ages, the kings became associated with three human stages
of youth, prime of life, and old age.
According to traditional Christian belief, God is triune, composed of the
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three persons possessing a single, divine
nature. The Father (Pater ) is the creative principle, the
Son (Filius), Jesus Christ, the redemptive principle, and the Holy
Ghost or (Spirit) Sanctus Spiritus serves as the unifying love between
the two as well as the connective principle between God and humanity.
Christians took Christ's injunction in the Gospel text (Matt. 28:18-20)
"teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Ghost" as a formula for the ritual of baptism.
The Trinity was a major devotional focus in the later Middle Ages, with
many churches, including the cathedral of Norwich being dedicated to the
Trinity. The Lollards, a significant political and spiritual movement
in central England in the 14th and 15th centuries, challenged the belief.
See Richard Rolle, The Fire of Love for a 14th-century defense of
Sunday Trinity Sunday is the feast day honoring the Holy Trinity.
The doctrine of the Trinity dates from the early years of Christian tradition,
but popular devotion to this aspect of God reached its peak in the later
Middle Ages. A solemn feast day celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost
(usually falling in the month of June) was extended to the universal church
in 1334 by Pope John XXI. The gifts of the Holy Ghost are Wisdom, Understanding,
Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord. In the
octave (8 days of commemoration) after Trinity Sunday, these gifts are
evoked in a succession of daily masses of great solemnity.
Underlaid refers to the fashion practice of slashing garments to expose
the material worn under them. A decorative fabric would be underlaid allowing
it to be exposed through the slashes.
Venice is sometimes called the "Queen of the Adriatic." A cluster of islands
connected by bridges in the lagoon of Venice offered ideal protection as
a port. Its location linking Western Europe with the East is unparalleled.
Overland routes from German and France pass through Switzerland and the
rich farmland of Northern Italy. Venice emerged from the Fourth Crusade
(1202-04) with an empire that included Crete and other Greek Islands; with
the defeat of Genoa in 1381 it gained more land and commercial hegemony
in the Eastern Mediterranean. Venice was a republic ruled by a council
of prominent citizens headed by a Doge. Their cultural patronage
made Venice one of the most richly embellished cities of the late Middle
of St. Stephen's Kempe refers to Richard of Caister (d. 1420)
of St. Stephen's in Norwich who in addition to providing Margery Kempe
with spiritual support, was credited with writing a popular devotional
lyric entitled “Jesu, Lorde, that madest me.” Kempe mentions him
in both Chapters 17 and 43. The parish church of St. Stephen's is
now a large, late-Gothic building with splendid hammer beam roof, tall
aisles, and clerestory dating to the late 15th century. Its foundation
dates to charters confirmed by Henry II between 1096, when the cathedral
was founded, to 1135. It was probably one of the 15 churches listed
in the Doomsday book (1086) and one of the 60 churches of the city known
in 1300. The oldest parts, tower base and southern doorway, of the
present church date to the mid 14th century. There are extant brasses,
in particular a woman about 1410 with two small pilgrims (with staves)
saying their beads (rosary) at her feet.
After Canterbury, Walsingham was the site most frequently by English Pilgrims.
Located at less than 5 miles from the sea and 15 miles north-east from
King's Lynn, Walsingham offered unusual ways to honor the Virgin.
It housed a shrine of the Incarnation, believed to have been a miraculous
replica of the room where Gabriel appeared to the Virgin to announce that
she would become the mother of Christ (after the holy house at Loretto,
Italy, transported by angels from the Holy Land). A miracle-working
image of the Virgin and a relic of the Virgin's milk further intensified
the site as one where the most intimate connection to the Mother of God
could be accomplished. Close to the church was a well where pilgrims
bathed in hope of cures. The Slipper Chapel, where pilgrims removed
their shoes before entering the priory, is still extant, but much restored.
The rest of the site is almost entirely destroyed.
Whit Sunday see Pentecost
white clothes For medieval society, as in most traditional societies, dress marked the status of individuals. In the time of Margery Kempe, a consecrated virgin was allowed to wear white and was considered to be among the holiest of individuals, free to devote her life and love entirely to God. Although Kempe was clearly not a virgin, she wished to acquire the virtues of consecrated virginity; to accomplish this she must gain the privilege of wearing of all white clothing. In Chapter 15, Kempe has a vision in which the Lord proclaims to her, “And, daughter, I say to you that I want you to wear all white clothes and no other color, for you shall dress according to my will.”
White was hard to come by
in a world with only natural bleaches. The starkness of white denotes
a much stronger connotation than simple impracticality in the work place;
it also symbolizes adherence to spiritual values. This association
can be documented in Matthew 26, in which all of the inhabitants of heaven
are clothed in white, indicating purity and goodness. The reader
is provided with evidence that Kempe knew and understood the link between
white and holiness. In Chapter 6 Kempe has a vision of the Virgin
Mary as a child in which she is clad in, “fair white clothing and white
kerchiefs.” In Chapter 21, Kempe reveals that in her vision from the Lord,
he tells her, “For though the state of maidenhood be more perfect and more
holy than the state of widowhood, and the state of widowhood more perfect
than the state of wedlock, yet I love you, daughter, as much as any maiden
in the world.” Therefore, although she did not fit the technical
definition of a virgin, she believed that God saw her as a maiden, and
thus she had a right to conduct herself as such. Hope Emily Allen, pp.
116 and 124n, also notes that in 1399 Richard II issued a proclamation
forbidding entrance to England of members of a religious sect (the Flagellants),
who wore white, “Blanche Vestûre,” The Book of Margery Kempe.
Ed. Hope Emily Allen and Sanford Brown Meech. London: EETS, 1940. See MMK
In 1383 the church of Wilsnack and its village, burned. In the aftermath
a priest discovered three hosts (Eucharist) unharmed but spotted with blood,
preserved in the church's tabernacle. The news soon attracted numerous
pilgrims, although scholarly opinion, even during Kempe's time, challenged
the authenticity of the phenomenon. The same sparing of the host from fire
that initiated the pilgrimage to Wilsnach was recorded in Lincolnshire.
Philip Repyngdon, Bishop of Lincoln, from whom Kempe received permission
for a chaste marriage (Ch. 15), authenticates the event. In
1405 he granted a 14 days indulgence for persons contributing to the rebuilding
of the Yarborough Parish Church in Lincolnshire what had been destroyed
by fire. He explains that the cause had been blessed by a miracle.
The fabric wrapping the host had been untouched by the flames while the
ivory and copper elements of its receptacle had been burned: the furious
blaze burnt everything that it could find on the altar, even the double
conical pyx of ivory within and without, containing with great care this
vital bread . . . and only that bread enclosed within a little silken
compartment which could not have withstood such a fury remained miraculously
whole. Miri Rubin. Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval
Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 124-25.
who was taken in adulteryIn the Gospels (John 8:3-10), Christ
is confronted by Scribes and Pharisees who wish to test him by bringing
a woman caught in adultery, knowing that Mosaic law would punish her with
death by stoning. Christ "stooping down, began to write with his
finger on the ground," presumably common sins. He replied, "Let him who
is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her." One
by one, they departed until none were left who had accused the woman.
Christ then told her to go and sin no more. The story is invariably
presented as a rebuke against hypocrisy and a demonstration of God's eternal
forgiveness of repentant sinners.
In the Olde Lawe, as the lettre telleth, was the lawe of Jewes,[Chapter 27] [II: Chapter 10]
Great Yarmouth (Norfolk), often shortened to Yarmouth, is town on the North
Sea at the mouth of the river Yare. It was a chartered and walled
town, as was Lynn, from the 13th century. The church of St. Nichols,
is probably the church mentioned by Margery Kempe, as where she "offered
at an image of our lady." St. Nicholas was destroyed in World War
I but has been rebuilt. Its dedication to St. Nicholas (of Bari)
for a seaport would be understandable since St. Nicholas was the patron
saint of sailors. In one of his most popular miracles he rescued
a ship foundering in a storm and in another restored to life a boy who
had fallen overboard.
The city of York is one of the most ancient in England, The medieval chronicler,
Geoffry of Monmouth, believed that its foundation dated from the time that
“king David ruled in Judea.” The Romans named the city Eboracum,
fortifying it during the early second century; it became the chief military
town of the British Isles. In 314, during the Council of Arles, three bishops
were named from the British Isles; first from York, then London, and presumably
Lincoln. After the Saxon defeat at Hastings in 1066, the archbishop
of York swore allegiance to William and was the prelate who crowned him
at Westminster. After Norman retaliation for a series of rebellions
by the local townspeople and nobility, the city began to rebuilt and Thomas
of Bayeux became the first Norman bishop. It was from this time that
Canterbury gradually emerged as the more important archbishopric and York
lost its religious preeminence. Kempe says that the Archbishop of
York doubted her (Ch. 55) because she "didn't have my Lord of Canterbury's
letter and seal." As well as controlling the bishopric of Durham,
the archbishop of York was also the principle landholder of the region.
The see was invariably subject to pressures by the King to insure that
the office was held by individuals favorable to the monarchy. The
cathedral as it stands today dates primarily from the 13th and 14th centuries.
During the time of Margery Kempe, York also supported 50 parish churches,
20 of which survive today. Given Kempe's proclivity to visit churches,
there is every reason to assume that she visited the most prominent ones
during her visits to York, documented in her Book to 1413 and 1417.
Until her death, presumably around 1440, she may very well have made additional
visits. See MMK York home page.
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