Our Lady gives a woman back her sanity – University of Copenhagen

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29 September 2017

Our Lady gives a woman back her sanity

Miracle of the Week

We continue our series of Marian Miracles as transcribed by the Master Class of this year's Arnamagnæan Summer School. This week we feature a well-known story of Murieldis whom the Devil caused to lose her senses, which were then restored by the Virgin Mary.

“Vár frú gaf konu aptr vit sitt” (Our Lady gives a woman back her sanity) marks the beginning of this week's miracle. (Click on the photo for a larger version.)

Unlike previous “Miracles of the week”, this week’s miracle is found in several other Old Norse manuscripts and is well known internationally, with versions in Latin, French and several other vernacular languages. The name of the poor afflicted woman is not mentioned in the text as preserved in our manuscript (though that of her husband, generally not included, is), but it is given as “Murieldis” in e.g. AM 232 fol. and in most of the other versions of the story – and indeed, “Murieldis” is the name by which the story is generally known in Marian miracle scholarship. It is the last in a group of 17 miracles often found together in manuscripts to which the polyglot scholar Adolfo Mussafia gave the designation “HM” (“Hildefonus-Murieldis”), from the names of the first and last miracles in the series. Mussafia assigned the miracles to the 11th century and thought them likely to represent the oldest collection of Marian miracles still in its original order.

The miracle is found in AM 635 4to, the second of the two volumes, on pp. 291-293. The rubric reads “Vár frú gaf konu aptr vit sitt” (Our Lady gives a woman back her sanity). The Master Class encoded the text using TEI-conformant XML, which can be displayed in a variety of ways, for example as a facsimile transcription (see it here), i.e. a letter-by-letter transcription of the text in the manuscript with no changes, a diplomatic transcription (see it here), i.e. a letter-by-letter transcription of the text with a few palaeographic features and the expansion of abbreviations, and finally a normalized transcription, i.e. a transcription in which the orthography has been normalized with no scribal errors or abbreviations. The normalized version is as follows:The normalized version is as follows: 

Ein kona, húsfrú riddara þess er Rotergarus hét, dreymði þann draum at hún þóttisk bera eitt merki svo rautt sem blóð. Hún var þá ólétt at sveinbarni. Sem hún vaknar, missir hún skjótliga síns vits, ok tók at tala ýmisliga hluti. Hennar bóndi undrask þetta mjǫk. Eptir lítinn tíma segisk hún sjá at sú kristilig trú, sem hún hefir þar til haft fyrr, var í milli hennar brjósta, ok fór þar út. Spottaði djǫfullinn svo þessa konu, hverrar ǫnd hann hugðisk til sín skyldu hafa. Hennar vinir báru mikinn angr sakir þessarrar óhamingju sem henni hafdi til borit. Þeir fœra hana til margra heilagra staða, væntandi at hún mætti fá aptr sína heilsu. Hún vakti ok í kirkju heilagrar þrenningar í þeim stað er Fuscanum heitir, en heilǫg þrenning, þat er einn Guð í þrimr personis, vildi eigi þar veita henni heilsu, en hann vildi þann heiðr veita himinríkis dróttningu, Guðs móður Marie. Þessi konu var gefit þat vatn af mǫrgum prestum sem vígt var með mǫrgum sœringum ok helgat með mǫrgum blezunum, en síðan þat kom á hana, œstizk þar við mjǫk hennar krankleiki, ok varð hún síðan miklu óðari. Síðan eitt ár var líðit síðan hún fell í þenna krankleika er hún flutt til kirkju heilagrar Marie fyrir festum purificacionis. Þá kirkju smíðuðu forðum Grikkir at því sem segisk í miðjum einum stórum skógi. Er hún mjǫk ólik ǫðrum kirkjum at smíð, ok viðrkvæmilig heremitis. Hún vakir þar um nóttina á fyrr sagðri hátíð ok varð svo heil fyrir verðleik þeirar helguztu jungfrúr, sem hún hefði aldri þolt þá illu sótt, þvíat hennar vit kom fullkomliga aptr, svo var ok hǫfuðit vel heillt. Sjálf hún ok hennar bóndi ok allir þeira vinir lofaðu Guð ok hans móðir Mariam fyrir þessa jarteign.

Which, rendered into English, is:

A woman, the wife of the knight whose name was Rotergarus (Roger), dreamt a dream where it seemed to her that she wore a banner as red as blood. She was pregnant with a boy-child at the time. When she awoke she suddenly lost her mind and began saying various things. Her husband was greatly astonished by this. After a short time she said that she saw that her Christian faith, which she had always possessed before, was between her breasts and went out there. Thus the devil taunted this woman, whose soul he wanted to have for himself. Her friends were greatly grieved because of this misfortune which had befallen her. They took her to many holy places, hoping that she would recover her health. She also held a vigil in the church of the Holy Trinity in that place that is called Fuscanum (Fécamp), but the Holy Trinity, which is one God in three persons, did not want to grant her health, but he [the Holy Trinity?] wanted then to give honour to the queen of heaven, God's mother Mary. Water was given to this woman by many priests, which was consecrated with many exorcisms and sanctified with diverse blessings, but after it came upon her, her malady increased greatly, and she became much more insane afterwards. After a year had passed from the time she fell into this illness, she was taken to the church of the blessed Mary for the feast of the Purification. The Greeks built this church long ago, according to what is told, in the middle of a great forest. It is most unlike other churches in its construction, and suitable for hermits. She held a vigil there during the night of the aforementioned feast and so regained her heath through the virtue of the most holy Virgin, as if she had never suffered from this evil malady, because she regained her sanity completely so that her head was completely healed. She herself and her husband and all their friends praised God and his mother Mary for this miracle.

The story ends with the newly-healed woman and her husband thanking God and his mother Mary for this miracle. We thank you for joining us this week and will return next week with a new miracle. (Click on the photo for a larger version.)