Advertisement

The horror of orthodoxy: Christina Mirabilis, thirteenth-century ‘zombie’ saint

  • Alicia Spencer-Hall
Article

Abstract

In 1232, Thomas of Cantimpré wrote his Life of Christina Mirabilis (c. 1150–1224), an account of the miraculous life and three deaths of an unenclosed holy woman from the Low Countries. The text opens with an explicit vindication of Christina’s return(s) as divinely mandated. Yet, the narrative shows that her community struggles to deal with the revenant in their midst. Through her example, they must confront the terrifying mechanics of purgatory, resurrection, and the co-incidence of body and soul. A similar unease is found in modern scholarship, in which Christina is typically referred to dismissively in terms more commonly applied to cinematic monsters. I work with such dismissive language – specifically the term ‘zombie’ – to move beyond this heuristic roadblock. The terms of filmic zombie-ism provide new insight into the merging of orthodoxy and terror in Christina’s vita.

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author thanks Jane Gilbert and Katherine Ibbett for their guidance with early iterations of this article and the Arts and Humanities Research Council for funding. Her current research, and the production of this article, is generously supported by the Modern Humanities Research Association.

References

  1. Brown, J.N., ed. 2008. Introduction. In Three Women of Liège: A Critical Edition of and Commentary on the Middle English Lives of Elizabeth of Spalbeek, Christina Mirabilis, and Marie d’Oignies 1–25. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brussels, Bibliothèque des Bollandistes, MS 98.Google Scholar
  3. Bynum, C.W. 1991. Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  4. Bynum, C.W. 1995. The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200–1336. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bynum, C.W. 1998. Death and Resurrection in the Middle Ages: Some Modern Implications. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 142(4): 589–596.Google Scholar
  6. Campbell, E. 2008. Medieval Saints’ Lives: The Gift, Kinship and Community in Old French Hagiography. Cambridge, UK: Brewer.Google Scholar
  7. Cavell, S. 1979. The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cazelles, B. 1991. The Lady as Saint: A Collection of French Hagiographic Romances of the Thirteenth Century. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  9. Cowan, D.E. 2008. Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen, Kindle edition.. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cowan, D.E. 2012. Religion and Cinema Horror. In Understanding Religion and Popular Culture, eds. T.R. Clark and D.W. Clanton Jr 56–71. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Dendle, P. 2001. The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.Google Scholar
  12. Denifle, H., E. Chatelain, C. Samaran and E.M. Moe eds. 1889–1897. Chartularium Universitatis parisiensis, Vol. 1.. Paris, France: Delalain.Google Scholar
  13. Denzinger, H. ed. 2012. Enchiridion symbolorum definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum: Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press.Google Scholar
  14. De vener. Ida lovaniensi. In brabantia prope mechliniam. [1675] 1968. In Acta Sanctorum, 2 April, ed. D. Papebroeck, 157–189. Paris, France: Société des Bollandistes.Google Scholar
  15. Elliott, D. 2004. Proving Woman: Female Spirituality and Inquisitional Culture in the Later Middle Ages. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Foster, E.E., ed. 2004. Three Purgatory Poems: The Gast of Gy, Sir Owain, The Vision of Tundale. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications.Google Scholar
  17. Gervase of Tilbury. 2002. Otia Imperialia: Recreation for an Emperor, ed. and trans. S.E. Banks and J.W. Binns.. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Giglio, K.M. 1998. Spirituality and Self-Representation in The Life of Christina Mirabilis. Essays in Medieval Studies 15: 115–116.Google Scholar
  19. Grant, M. 2004. ‘Ultimate Formlessness’: Cinema, Horror, and the Limits of Meaning. In Horror Film and Psychoanalysis: Freud’s Worst Nightmare, ed. S.J. Schneider, 177–187. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Halperin, V., (dir.) 1932. White Zombie. United Artists.Google Scholar
  21. Jacques of Vitry. [1701] 1969. De b. Maria oigniacensi in namurcensis belgii dioecesi. In Acta Sanctorum, 4 June ed. D. Papebroeck, 636–666. Paris, France: Société des Bollandistes.Google Scholar
  22. Joynes, A. 2001. Medieval Ghost Stories: An Anthology of Miracles, Marvels, and Prodigies. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell and Brewer.Google Scholar
  23. Kay, G. 2008. Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press.Google Scholar
  24. King, M.H. 1987. The Sacramental Witness of Christina Mirabilis: The Mystic Growth of a Fool for Christ’s Sake. In Medieval Religious Women. Vol 2: Peaceweavers, eds. L.T. Shank and J.A. Nichols, 145–164. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications.Google Scholar
  25. Kneepens, C.H. 1995. Erasmus Ghoyee, Divi Gerlaci vita et miracula. In De kluizenaar in de eik: Gerlach van Houthem en zijn verering, ed. A.B. Mulder-Bakker, 148–214. Hilversum, The Netherlands: Verloren.Google Scholar
  26. Kurtz, P.D. 1988. Mary of Oignies, Christine the Marvelous, and Medieval Heresy. Mystics Quarterly 14(4): 186–196.Google Scholar
  27. Le Goff, J. 1984. The Birth of Purgatory, trans. A. Goldhammer.. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  28. Lemay, H.R., ed. 1992. Women’s Secrets: A Translation of Pseudo-Albertus Magnus’s ‘De secretis mulierum’ with Commentaries. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  29. Mann, R. 2012. The Church is Our Best Hope against the Zombies. Guardian [Online], 28 August, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2012/aug/28/church-best-hope-against-zombies.
  30. McGinn, B. 1998. The Flowering of Mysticism: Men and Women in the New Mysticism (1200–1350). New York: Crossroad.Google Scholar
  31. Mills, R. 2003. Jesus as Monster. In The Monstrous Middle Ages, eds. B. Bildhauer and R. Mills, 28–54. Cardiff, UK: University of Wales Press.Google Scholar
  32. Mulder-Bakker, A.B., ed. 2011. Holy Laywomen and Their Biographers in the Thirteenth Century. In Living Saints of the Thirteenth Century: The Lives of Yvette, Anchoress of Huy, Juliana of Cornillon, Inventor of the Corpus Christi Feast, Margaret the Lame, Anchoress of Magdeburg 1–42. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mulvey, L. 2006. Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image. London: Reaktion Books.Google Scholar
  34. Newman, B. 1999. Devout Women and Demoniacs in the World of Thomas of Cantimpré. In New Trends in Feminine Spirituality: The Holy Women of Liège and their Impact, eds. J. Dor, L. Johnson and J. Wogan-Browne 35–60. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Newman, B., ed. 2008. Introduction. In Thomas of Cantimpré: The Collected Saints’ Lives; Abbot John of Cantimpré, Christina the Astonishing, Margaret of Ypres, and Lutgard of Aywières 3–51. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Oxford, St. John’s College, MS 182.Google Scholar
  37. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 114.Google Scholar
  38. Paffenroth, K. 2006. Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Passenier, A.E. 2001. The Life of Christina Mirabilis: Miracles and the Construction of Marginality. In Women and Miracle Stories: A Multidisciplinary Exploration, ed. A.-M. Korte, 145–178. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.Google Scholar
  40. Psalter, Use of Sarum (the ‘St Omer Psalter’). London, British Library, MS Yates Thompson 14.Google Scholar
  41. Pseudo-Albertus Magnus. 1655. De secretis mulierum. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Iodocum Ianssonium.Google Scholar
  42. Romero, G.A., (dir.) 1968. Night of the Living Dead. The Walter Reade Organization.Google Scholar
  43. Romero, G.A., (dir.) 1978. Dawn of the Dead. United Film Distribution.Google Scholar
  44. Romero, G.A., (dir.) 1985. Day of the Dead. United Film Distribution.Google Scholar
  45. Romero, G.A., (dir.) 2005. Land of the Dead. Universal Pictures.Google Scholar
  46. Romero, G.A., (dir.) 2007. Diary of the Dead. The Weinstein Company.Google Scholar
  47. Romero, G.A., (dir.) 2009. Survival of the Dead. E1 Entertainment and Magnet Releasing.Google Scholar
  48. Shaviro, S. 1993. The Cinematic Body. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  49. Simons, W. 2001. Cities of Ladies: Beguine Communities in the Medieval Low Countries, 1200–1565. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sobchack, V.C. 1987. Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film, 2nd ed.. New York: Ungar.Google Scholar
  51. Spencer-Hall, A. 2012. Post-Mortem Projections: Medieval Mystical Resurrection and the Return of Tupac Shakur. MDCCCXXVI Opticon1826 13: 56–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sweetman, R. 1992. Christine of Saint-Trond’s Preaching Apostolate: Thomas of Cantimpré’s Hagiographical Method Revisited. Vox Benedictina 60(1): 67–97.Google Scholar
  53. Sweetman, R. 1997. Thomas of Cantimpré, Mulieres Religiosae, and Purgatorial Piety: Hagiographical Vitae and the Beguine ‘Voice’. In A Distinct Voice: Medieval Studies in Honor of Leonard E. Boyle, O.P., eds. J. Brown, W.P. Stoneman and L.E. Boyle, 606–628. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  54. Thomas Aquinas. 1859. Summa Theologica, Vol. 6, eds. T. Drioux, C.R. Billuart, F. Sylvius and J. Nicolai. Paris, France: Vivès.Google Scholar
  55. Thomas of Cantimpré. [1727] 1969. De s. Christina mirabili virg. Apud trudonopoli in belgio. In Acta Sanctorum, 5 July, ed. J. Pien, 650–660. Paris, France: Société des Bollandistes.Google Scholar
  56. Thomas of Cantimpré. 1973. Liber de natura rerum, ed. H. Boese. Berlin, Germany: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  57. Thomas of Cantimpré. 2008a. The Life of Christina the Astonishing,. trans. M.H. King and B. Newman. In Thomas of Cantimpré: The Collected Saints’ Lives; Abbot John of Cantimpré, Christina the Astonishing, Margaret of Ypres, and Lutgard of Aywières, ed. B. Newman 125–157. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols.Google Scholar
  58. Thomas of Cantimpré. 2008b. The Middle English Life of Christina Mirabilis.. In Three Women of Liège: A Critical Edition of and Commentary on the Middle English Lives of Elizabeth of Spalbeek, Christina Mirabilis, and Marie d’Oignies, ed. J.N. Brown, 51–84. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols.Google Scholar
  59. Varma, D.P. 1988. The Gothic Flame. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
  60. Wallin, J.J. 2014. Putrid Deadagogies: Zombie Life and the Rise of the Chaosmopolis. In Problematizing Public Pedagogy, eds. J. Burdick, J.A. Sandlin and M.P. O’Malley, 40–51. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alicia Spencer-Hall
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of French, Queen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations