Oil flowed from the image of our Lady – University of Copenhagen

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10 November 2017

Oil flowed from the image of our Lady

Miracle of the Week

Each week we will publish one miracle from the collection of Marian miracles preserved in the manuscript AM 634-635 4to - one of the largest collections of miracles in a European vernacular language. This week we bring you a popular story of a miraculous portrait of the Virgin Mary.

“Oleum flaut af líkneski vorrar frú” (Oil flowed from the image of our Lady) marks the beginning of this week's miracle. (Click on the picture for a larger version.)

The story of this week's miracle, known internationally as ”Sardenay” of “The Image of Sardenay” (Poncelet nr. 554) is well-known in Latin, French and various other vernacular traditions. In most of these the story is slightly different, and more complicated, than that presented here. A noble lady living in a hermitage near Damascus asks a passing monk from Constantinople who is on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to bring her back from Jerusalem an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He pledges to do so, but when leaving Jerusalem forgets his pledge. He is commanded by a heavenly voice to turn back, however, which he does, and in Jerusalem he buys a beautiful tablet depicting the virgin. On his return journey the tablet saves his life on three separate occasions. Having discovered the image’s magic powers, he decides to keep it for himself, but the image prevents this from happening through further interventions. Having little choice, he leaves the tablet in the possession of the hermitess, whereupon an oil of miraculous virtue proceeds to flow from it.

In Old Norse-Icelandic it is only found in our manuscript, AM 635 4to, pp. 316-317, where it has the rubic “Oleum flaut af líkneski vorrar frú” (Oil flowed from the image of our Lady).

The normalised text is as follows:

A facsimile transcription of the text. (Click on the picture for a larger version.)

Nær átta milur frá Damasco er sá staðr sem heitir Sardenay. Á einu fjalli þar er kirkja sællar jungfrú MARIE. Þar eru tólf nunnur ok átta munkar. Í þessi kirkju er skrifat á einni tabula líkneski sællar Guðs móður MARIE á þann hátt sem vant er at skrifa í Constantinopoli. Var þessi tabula í Jherusalem áðr patriarcha gaf hana einni abbadísi, en hún flutti til fyrsagðs staðar. Af þessi líkneskju rennr þat oleum sem sætara er en balsamus, af hverju sjúkir menn verða heilir ef þeir eru smurðir með. Kristnir menn varðveita þetta oleum. Sjá sami staðr er mjök vegsamaðr af saracenis. Sækja margir af þeim saracenis er þar byggja nær tveim sinnum á hverju ári, á hátíð uppnumningar várar frú, ok hennar burðardegi. Þeim sem þreifa um þessa líkneskju kennizt at hún hafi kjöt ok líkam sem lifandi maðr um brjóstin ok upp þaðan.

Which, rendered into English, would be:

About eight miles from Damascus there is a place called Sardenay. On a mountain there is the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There are twelve nuns and eight monks there. In this church the image of God’s blessed mother Mary is depicted on a tablet in the manner it is customary to make depictions in Constantinople. This tablet was in Jerusalem, before the patriarch gave it to an abbess, who moved to the aforementioned place. From this image there flows an oil that is sweeter than balsam, from which the sick are healed if they are smeared with this. Christians look after this oil. This same place is also greatly revered by Saracens, and many of these Saracens, who live nearby, seek this place twice a year for the celebrations of our Lady’s ascension and her birthday. Those who touch this image can feel that she has flesh and a body like a living human around her bosom and upwards from there.