Impressions of Marie’s Audrey

Some random impressions on just finishing Marie de France’s Life of Saint Audrey:

Overall, it was a sweet portrayal of Audrey. I think Marie cares much more about the story and virtues of Audrey than accuracy of her material. She is also clearly taking on Audrey’s legend from the point of view of a married (or at least mature) woman who asks questions that monks would avoid, such as how did she manage to keep her husband at bay for 12 years. Inquiring wives want to know! Marie has some interesting opinions on that.

The history is dreadful. I haven’t had a chance to carefully compare her information with the Liber Eliensis but it seems to be even worse. I will get around to comparing that history and I do think that Marie has made some intentional changes (and perhaps some unintentional mistakes).

There are way too many miracle stories in the final section for my enjoyment. I know that this was probably in fashion at the time but it today its just a long litany of miracles of the type that the later reformers would object to. I’m really not sure of what their purpose is supposed to be. Some of them have obvious lessons; some pertain to Marie’s overall theme of Audrey as patron and founder, setting up a role model for contemporary behavior. Others, just seem pointless. I guess part of the point may be to simply show that Audrey’s miracles continue up to Marie’s time and some of them, which seem like pointless miracles to me, may have been well known as near contemporary miracles to Marie’s audience.

A fair number of the miracles do refer to pilgrimages to Ely. They seem to pretty overtly support pilgrimage to Ely from the entire surrounding countryside. This shores up the idea that this text really isn’t intended for a monastic audience, who wouldn’t need encouragement to go on pilgrimage. It makes me wonder if there wasn’t an established pilgrims trail heading to Ely in Marie’s time. This would have only increased in later years, as Blanton pointed out in her recent book, Ely was en route to Walsingham from London. England’s virgin queen’s shrine would have been an obvious stopping point along the trail to the Marian shrine at Walsingham.

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