Our PhD student Joanka van der Laan presented her research at the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies, organised by the Medieval Institute of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo MI, from 9 to 12 May 2019.
‘Climbing Mount Calvary: Middle-Dutch printed meditations on the life and passion of Christ’
Joanka van der Laan
In the early decades of the sixteenth century printing presses in the Low Countries produced both vernacular devotional texts already popular in manuscript form, but also many new titles. With these works, printers catered to the unwavering demand of both religious and lay audiences for these texts. Especially the number and variety of meditations on the life and passion of Christ is vast. This paper will consider a selection of these meditational texts, zooming in on the strategies they include for readers to enact a meditative, spiritual performance of pilgrimage to mount Calvary. The two examples are firstly the Devote Meditacie op die Passie ons Heren [a devout meditation on the Passion of our Lord], and secondly the Geestelicke boemgaert der vruchten daer die devote siel haer versadicht vanden vruchten der passie Christi [a spiritual orchard of fruits where the devout soul is satiated by the fruits of the Passion of Christ]. Although these booklets are very different in form and scope, they both offer their readers opportunities for intense reflection of Christ’s Passion by allowing them to virtually travel to Jerusalem and Mount Calvary. Both these booklets include specific features requiring the active participation of the reader in the reading process. Whether by explicitly inviting the reader to move and use the body while meditating or by stressing the role of bodily sensations and emotions in the performance of reading, the texts under discussion aim to stimulate the reader to actively make connections between the life and passion of Christ and his/her own experiences. The works educate their readers, not only in textual literacy, but also in religious skills, habits and responses they would then be able to use in other religious practices. Through their access to this type of literature lay readers were able to be active members of their religious communities.