Capitel del claustro románico del complejo religioso de San Pedro en Soria. Hacer clic en la imagen de abajo para saber más.







The Camino de Santiago is credited with many cultural and religious exchanges in the Middle Ages. My study will analyze the work of the Spanish poet, Gonzalo de Berceo, and the French poet, Marie de France, as an exarnple of the cultural exchanges between France and the iberian Peninsula by means of the Camino de Santiago in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Even though these writers belong to different social backgrounds, and composed their texts for distinct purposes, we find similarities in their works. These two medieval authors have often been studied separately but it is my goal to demonstrate their simiiarities.

Chapter 1 gives a socio-political overview of the lberian Peninsula during the thirteenth century and demonstrates how these factors influenced Berceo's Milagros de Nuestra Seriora. We will see how it integrates popular elements into a learned genre to influence and attract pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela.

Chapter 2 is the analysis of two of Berceo's milagros: "El parto maravilloso" and "De como Teofilo fizo carta con el diablo de su ânima et después fue convertido e salvo".

Chapter 3 looks at the context in which Marie de France wrote her Lais. We observe the learned techniques as weli as the popular details of her region that transfonn oral tales of Breton and Norman folklore into highly polished octosyllabic verses.

Chapter 4 is where we determine the mutual influences that exist in the composition of the Lais and Milagros: the importance of Antiquity in medieval texts, and popular images and refrains.

The initial goal that I proposed for this study has been accomplished to a degree. I have been able to prove that Gonzalo de Berceo and Marie de France share many similar elements in their texts. Even though they were both writing in different centuries and regions, and about different subjects, it is obvious that the "Camino de Santiago" played a large role in the exchange of cultural traits and historical events. I have only just begun to scratch the surface of this vast area of study. It is my hope to continue discovering other similarities present in the works of these authors during at UBC. 











   This spríng I finally visited the monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla. After spending two years studying and interpreting the Milagros de Nuestra Señora it was a refreshing change to see the area where Gonzalo de Berceo wrote this celebrated text. In the síxteenth century the monastery underwent a large expansión and has since settled into the valley below the medieval monastery. The walls inside the original cloister are severely decayed and efforts are being made to stop the decomposition. There is a stark contrast between the ancient architecture and the modern wooden devices that are now holding it together. Even though time and natural elements are eroding the monastery, the texts that were produced there in the thirteenth century are still very much alive and are studied with a great enthusiasm. Milagros de Nuestra Señora is arguably Berceo's most important text for many reasons.

This collection of religious stories served two purposes: first, to praise the Virgin Mary, and second, to attract pilgrims to the monastery of San Millán. Because the monastery is located on the French Pilgrím trail, one of the many routes leading to Santiago de Compostela, it was in an advantageous position to receive many monetary donations. Foreign pilgrims would pause from their long journey at the monastery to visit the shrine of the Virgin and the place where San Millán exorcised the Devil from several parishioners in the fifth century (Olarte, 10-13). Pilgrims have been traveling to Santiago since the ninth century and in the process they would leave behind cultural and learned influences in the area. French monks, who were trying to solidify the teachings of the Roman Church, founded the monastery in the tenth century. Before religious reforms took place, there was another form of Christianity being practiced on the Península, the Mozarabic or Visigothic Liturgy. The rise of the Cult of the Virgin Mary in medieval Spain can be attributed as a merger between the Román and the Mozarabic Liturgies.

Milagros de Nuestra Señora is credited as being one of the first poetic texts of the Spanish language. Berceo used popular elements of the Rioja región and he wrote in vernacular so that his audience would better be able to appreciate the miracles of the Virgin Mary. Since Berceo was a cleric and a notary, he also integrated into his text several elements from a learned tradition: rhetorical techniques, rigid verse structures, and Latín phrases. The original texts that Berceo used as a blueprint for his versions were from Latín sources, written in prose. Because of the language and education barriers in the Middle Ages, these original texts would not have targeted the same audience. Since the purpose of these vernacular versions was to attract people to the monastery of San Millán and save sinners through the stories of the Virgin's grace, Berceo kept his texts simple. The simplicity of his texts, however, is really an illusion since they are filled wtth underlying traces of the socio-political situation of the región in the thirteenth century.

Berceo used the Mester de Clerecía as a form of presentation for his texts. The verse structure that he chose is Cuaderna Via, a meter that is associated with narrative verse. Berceo uses popular tradition to attract his audience and therefore his compositions show a mixture of learned and popular elements.

Marie de France is the second composer that will be studied in this thesis. She, like Berceo, wrote a collection of texts destined for a specific audience. Very little is known about this person, except that she has been credíted as the composer of two compílations and one text: the Lais, the Fables and the Purgatoire de Saint Patrick. Her texts date from the twelfth century and she is believed to be from Britanny in the North of France; we also know that her ñame is Marie because it is mentioned at the beginning of her first lai in the collection. The identity of the author is not the most important factor in this study as the purpose is to draw out any similarities or differences that might exist between Lais and Milagros de Nuestra Señora.

The manuscript of Lais that we will be using is Harley 978, the only versión that includes all twelve narratives and a prologue. The other four manuscrípts that have been found all have different combinations of the twelve narratives and none of them have the prologue. Because of the discrepancy of the contents in the surviving manuscrípts, critics believe that Lais was not performed all at once, but rather a few at a time. The narrator of the Lais explains that musical accompaniment was part of the presentation of these texts, a factor that would have kept the audience entertained for many hours.

Like Berceo's Milagros, these texts are complemented by the addition of popular details, refrains and superstitions. The original versions of the Lais were not from Latín texts, in fact, they were oral accounts of Norman and Bretón folklore. Marie states that she is well educated in the texts of classical Antiquity but she has chosen to study the texts of her región. In the Middle Ages ít was very popular to interpret the texts of classical culture and to compose a new renditíon in Latín. Marie has elected to break with tradition and compose her Lais in a vernacular language and to treat a very different subject Like Berceo, she has maintaíned several learned factors in the composition of her text, such as rhetorical techniques and references to written accounts. To these leamed techniques she adds popular details such as supernatural creatures and worlds, refrains and familiar locations. All of these incorporations form a bond with her audience and make her texts more believable.

Berceo has written about the power and grace of the Virgin Mary. His texts were meant to instruct the pilgrims that passed through San Millán de la Cogolla. What do Marie's texts show? They were written to entertain the members of an élite audience and to teach an important lesson: respect for the feudal order. The feudal hierarchy survived for so many centuries because of the loyalty established between a vassal and a lord. Another important component of the feudal hierarchy was the inheritance issue. All of these factors will be discussed in greater detail later in the following chapters.

To understand the additions of popular culture into the Milagros de Nuestra Señora and Laís, I have used Mikhail Bakhtin's text Rabelais and His World. Even though most of his study is an analysis of Francois Rabelais, he has managed to créate a detailed account of medieval society. He has had to consider the Middle Ages in detail to understand the social context leading up to the production of Rabelais' texts. Bakhtin's divisions between the institutions and the townspeople are valuable to my study because he claims that there are definite boundaries between these two social groups. I have been able to determine that these divisions are not as clear as he makes them seem.

Even though we do not know very much about Marie de France, it is obvious that she was part of the institutions because of her level of education and because of her dedication of the Lais to an unknown King. Berceo was a member of the clergy and therefore received a compulsory education.




Chapter 1

Berceo's Influences For Milagros de Nuestra Señora


           Gonzalo de Berceo wrote his Milagros de Nuestra Señora at a very peculiar time in Spanish history; he was writing when many different cultures cohabited the Iberian Península thus leading to their influences in his works. The text that will be analysed in this study is of particular interest, as there are obvious signs of a French infiuence in the style of its composition and in the content of its ideas. Milagros benefits from this due to the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, which took place in the Northern area of the Península during the Middle Ages. This pilgrimage was the birthplace of a cultural infiuence that appears in many works of the period and was shared with the native populations. The French elements that will be analysed in greater detail for the purpose of this study are linguistic, liturgical, genre-based and stylistic. Berceo wrote Milagros with the solé purpose of exalting the Virgin Mary. It has also been suggested by Brían Dutton that they may have been written for a more "divine" purpose: to convert more people to the faith, especially those who accompanied the pilgrims on their route to Compostela and the "infidels" who lived in the area.

Medieval Spain was a mixture of cultures and diverse religions and at the time Berceo wrote his Milagros many changes were begínning to be implemented. The Church in Rome tried to reform Christianity as it was being practised on the Iberian Península.  Monks from French orders were cementing this change in religious liturgy in northern Spain. Important members of the Spanish courts supported these many foreign religious influences and therefore monasteries, which practised the Román liturgy, were established. Berceo was a secular priest of the monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla, a monastery of the Benedictine order, and it is believed that he attended the University of Palencia, a prestigious centre of study that promoted the Román liturgy and was established by Frenen monks (Dutton, 87). Milagros de Nuestra Señora echoes this situation.

The change in religious liturgy did not appear on the scene rapidly; it took many years for the process to establish itself. Before the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, there were two types of liturgy being practised in the Península. The most common liturgy was Mozarabic or Visigothic liturgy. As opposed to the Román versión, the Hispanic liturgy was celebrated in the vernacular languages and was part of the popular culture. The Román versión was celebrated in Latín and only the priests and monks, who had studied this learned language, were able to understand the message. Because the Mozarabic liturgy contained local elements, Rome sustained that it was unholy and therefore declared it heresy (Saugnieux, 51). Islam and Judaism were perceived as threats to Christianity, and because Spain had a very high concentration of these two religions, Rome declared that the Visigothic liturgy had been tainted with negative influences and therefore should becondemned. The arrival of French monastic orders in Spain gave Rome hope that this land would soon be rid of the threat posed by the other monotheistic religions. It is interesting that Gonzalo de Berceo would have chosen a pioneer in the Visigothic liturgy for one of the characters in his Milagros de Nuestra Señora He chose to dedicate the first milagro to Saint Ildefonsus of Toledo, a patriarch in the Visigothic liturgy. If the Church had been so opposed to liturgical differences in Spain, why would a clergyman living in a French monastery choose to write about the "enemy"?

Saint Ildefonsus was a familiar figure to the inhabitants of the Península. He had written a work about the perpetual virginity of Mary and created a new festival dedicated to Her. This was designed to avoid what should be a joyful celebration with a time of grieving[1]. The milagro dedicated to this man demonstrates that even though the common liturgy was now Román, certain elements of the popular culture could not be erased. This topic has been widely discussed by Joél Saugníeux in his book Berceo y las culturas del siglo XIII. Saugníeux suggests that Berceo may have introduced this patriarch of the Mozarabic liturgy, in order to solidify the ímportance of the Virgin Mary.   Because Saint Ildefonsus had written about the Virgin Mary and attributes such importance to her role in the salvation of the human race, Berceo has to include this kind of devotion in his narrative. Saint Ildefonsus' religious example of devotion to Mary was something that the Román liturgy later accepted wíth great fervour (Saugnieux, 69-70). The enthusiasm of the Cult of the Virgin Mary was the element that allowed the inhabitants of the Península to adapt to the Román liturgy more easily.

The problems of the Spanish Church were not as easy to solve as Rome had hoped. In Santiago de Compostela, the clergy believed that because they had the remains of the Apostle James, one of the closest persons to Christ, they would be able to have their own say in religious matters (Castro, 329-330). Even though Rome had the remains of St. Peter and St. Paul and was regarded by all other European countries as the head of the Church, the Church in Spain refused to acknowledge most of its orders. There were many disagreements between Rome and the Iberian Península, which was regarded as a colony of rebels, and had an infamous reputation throughout Europe (Linehan, 3). Most of the disagreements that had taken place were related to the payment of taxes. The Spanish church, led by a headstrong hierarchy, refused to pay these dues because they were going to be used to fight the Crusades in far off Iands. All of this in-fighting continued throughout most of the 11th  and 12th centuries; it was ñnally in the 13th century that these disagreements began to change. However. up until this time, the Church in Compostela, dictated its laws and formed its own judgements.

Durante el obispado o pontificado de Diego Gelmirez (1100­1140), periodo de máximo esplendor para Santiago, aquel magnifico personaje instauró en su corte pompa y honores pontificales; muchos los censuraban, y le recordaban "que algunos de sus antepasados habían pretendido nada menos que equipar su iglesia con la de Roma" (L. Ferreiro, III, 274). Gelmirez nombró cardenales, que vestían de púrpura; recibía a los peregrinos "Apostólico more", como si fuera, en efecto, el papa (Castro, 262).

The monks and priests, who had been forbidden to fight and carry arms by the Church in Rome, ignored these orders and even took part in battles. Many members of the relígious hierarchy had concubines even though the Church in Rome had forbidden this (Linehan, 2). They also completely disregarded the dress code; they all had beards and wore "every-man" clothing.

Acostumbraban éstos a no usar ropas talares; llevaban barba y andaban armados. Lo sabemos porque todas esas costumbres se censuran y se prohiben en los concilios compostelanos de 1060 y 1063: "Los obispos y clérigos usarán ropas talares. . . estarán tonsurados y se cortarán la barba... no llevarán armas" (Castro, 355).

The priests and monks in the Iberian Península were of a rebellious nature and that is the way that Berceo has chosen to represent most of them in his work. The majority of the characters in the Milagros de Nuestra Señora are from the ecclesiastical order and most of them are involved in worldly sins. The most common image to appear in Berceo's is the drunken monk (8).


De otro miraclo vos querría contar
que cuntió en un monge de abito reglar;
quísolo el diablo durament espantar,

mas la Madre gloriosa sópogelo vedar.

Desque fo enna orden, bien deques fo novicio,
amó a la Gloriosa siempre facer servicio;
guardóse de follía, de fablar en fornicio,
pero ovo en cabo de caer en un vicio.

Entró enna bodega un día por ventura,
bebió mucho del vino, esto fo sin mesura,
emebebdóse el locco, issió de su cordura,
yogó hasta las viésperas sobre la tierra dura.

                                                   (Stanzas 461-463)2


           Images of drunkenness and the like were very common and familiar to the audience that the Milagros were targeting; however, they were also an indication of life in the Iberian Península during the years of transition in liturgy. It has been suggested that Berceo wrote his Milagros in order to tastefully point out what was wrong with his society (Keller, 25-26). By looking at all of the religious characters in his text, it can simply be concluded that the Spanish clergy was in need of some kind of religious control and stríct rules, something that the French orders were willíng to offer. Berceo could very well be making a social comment about the hypocrisy of the Church in matters such as these; preaching order to the flock and then sinning in prívate. Even though the Church in Rome had created numerous barriere for its clergy, the Church in Spain had a different set of rules.

I believe that Berceo is not making a harsh comment on the lack of moráis of the clergy. He is simply stating a reality and he is not tryíng to forcé a new doctrine upon the monks and priests; rather, he suggests that the members of the clergy are humans as well, and like all sinners, can be offered forgiveness. These characters are ofFered salvation from their earthly mistakes through the understanding and pity of the Virgin Mary. It is by Her grace that they will be saved. Berceo does not criticise his characters severely, instead, he mentions how foolish they are to have neglected their religious example.

Un fraire de su casa, Guiralt era clamado,
ante que fuesse monge era non bien senado:
facié a las debeces follía e peccado,
como omne soltero que non es apremiado.

                                                (Stanza 183)3


En Colonna la rica, cabeza de regnado,
avié un monasterio de Sant Peidro clamado;
avié en él un monge assaz mal ordenado,
de lo que diz la regla avié pocco cuidado.

Era de pocco seso, facié mucha locura,
porque lo castigavan non avié milla cura;
cuntió'l en est comedio muy grand desaventura:
parió una bagassa d'él una creatura.

                                             (Stanzas 160-161)4

Because Berceo is not making direct attacks against these religious characters in his Milagros de Nuestra Señora, it could be possible that there were clergymen in his audience. It would be strange indeed if he did not instil some kínd of religious message in his Milagros because he was a secular priest who lived in the cloister of a Benedictine monastery and he is treating the subject of salvation through the intercession of Mary. It has been suggested that the Milagros were a commissioned work (Keller, 25) and therefore it is safe to assume that he was not making a direct attack about the lack of moráis in the church, rather it was his patrón who was in charge of making the criticism.

If one were to look for social criticism in Milagros de Nuestra Señora, one would find it in the treatment of the Jewish population that co-existed in the same space as the Christians. The Church in Rome regarded the Jewish and Islamic peoples living on the Iberian Península as a threat because of their religions and their customs. The three religions were sharing the same space and there was very little evidence of tensions among them until the 15"1 century. In the major cities of the time, such as Toledo - a centre for translation of texts - there are obvious influences of the three cultures in the architecture of the city as well as other works of art. There were specific cultural districts within the city and barriere did not sepárate the citizens. People had to deal with each other in businesses and on the streets. Anti-Semitism began to surface in the writings of the thirteenth century and perhaps even earlier due tothe differing opinions of the immigrants and visitors from other European countries. These foreign ideas became more apparent when the Church in Rome formed an interest in creating a "Bula de la Santa Cruzada" 5 that would help elimínate the non-Christian religions of the Iberian Península. The European countries, mostly funded by monies and knights from France, contributed to a "Holy" War in this "heathen" land, which changed the co-existence that had once taken place there. Once the French religious orders became established in northern Spain, this dislike toward other religious groups became more apparent.



Anti-Semitism in Milagros de Nuestra Señora


The Milagros are filled with indirect and many times direct anti-Semitic feelings. Berceo uses images and language in order to make his point. He refers to the stereotypes of the moneylender and the assumption that Judaism is a dangerous religión. He believes that all Jewish people work for the Devil and are pursuing the soul of the Christian. Berceo uses defamatory language and terms when he describes the Jewish characters in his Milagros. Curiously enough, he makes no reference to the Islamic peoples, who were still present on the Península.   He refers to a Jewish character in his Milagro XVI, "El judezno", denigrating him as a "can traidor" (Stanza 362a)6 and as a "falso descreído" (Stanza 363a) 7. Because this character would not allow his son to attend the Christian Church, Berceo treats the father in an even more violent fashion. When it is this character's turn to receive his punishment for trying to kill his son in an oven, the narrator says the following.


Prisieron al judío,        al falsso desleal,

al que a su fijuelo        fiziera tan grand mal,

legáronli las manos      con un fuerte dogal,

dieron con elli entro     en el fuego cabdal.


Quanto contarié omne   poccos de pepíones,

en tanto fo tornado        cenisa e carbones,

non dizién por su alma   salmos nin oraciones,

mas dizién denosteos    e grandes maldiziones.


                                           (Stanzas 371-372)8


The Jewish characters in the Milagros de Nuestra Señora are of great importance because they form a part of the society in which Berceo lived and also because they were treated in an extremely negative manner. Even though this theme only appears in five of the twenty-five milagros, it clearly demonstrates the way Berceo regarded this social group,

During the Middle Ages, the Jewish population was not regarded kindly. Many stereotypes began to surface in the collective memory of society, and some had to do with the merchant classes. The Church had mixed feelings about this particular social class because it was involved in the trade of goods, and, particularly, usury. Monetary gain was believed to be one of the worst sins, leading to greed and the eventual distance from religious beliefs. Christian usurers were chastised publicly by the Church and other members of the society because it was forbidden in the New Testament to increase their wealth at the cost of others, especially by using God's gift of time (Gurevich, 279). There was no religious law that forbade the Jewish community from participating in this trade, therefore they established a system that was used by them and the Christians in their cities. The irony of Jewish money-lending extended farther than expected: it financed the battles of the Christian kings in the Iberian Península.

Sobre el papel económico de los judíos habría mucho que decir. El siglo XII corresponde en las finanzas castellanas a un período de crisis: los Almorávides se niegan a pagar las parias que los reyes de taifas entregaban a los cristianos, y los monarcas, que necesitaban dinero para llevar a cabo sus guerras, establecen un nuevo impuesto, la «monada forera».


Para cobrarlo utilizan nuevos agentes fiscales, los judíos, que ya desempeñaban este papel entre los moros. Los judíos, dedicándose frecuentemente a la usura, disponían de importantes sumas realizables en el acto, con lo que podían prestar inmediatamente al rey la cifra fijada, cobrando ellos más tarde los impuestos (Saugnieux, 94).

Usury became more common in the 12th and 13th centuries as merchants became more dominant in the worldly hierarchy of the Middle Ages. It is probably for this reason that Berceo placed the stereotypical character of the moneylender in his collection of milagros.  The Milagro XXIII. "El Mercader Fiado", presents an example of the new emerging social class and the attitudes of the clergy toward it in the XIII century.  Berceo portrays the two different types of merchants that existed in this era: the "honest" Christian, who works very hard in order to achieve his wealth and must travel great distances and possibly endure great dangers; and the "lazy" moneylender who ulereases his fortune by chargíng interest. Gurevich mentions the difficultíes that the merchants had to endure on their expeditions and this is why the clergy later accepted the merchant class.

They had to take their caravans into far-off lands, make their way among the alien races and populations, and confront all imaginable dangers. from marauders to local lords more like brigands who did their best to get their hands on the merchants' wealth either by chargíng them exorbitant customs duties or simply relieving them of their merchandise and earnings. The merchants had to withstand storms at sea and all the triáis of land transport over nearly impassable roads (244).

Berceo begins Milagro XXIII with a description of the Christian merchant. He tells about this man's generosity and how he had given away all he owned to others less fortúnate than himself. Once he has lost all of his wealth, he turns to a moneylender in order to improve his lifestyle. With the borrowed money, he embarks on a trading expedition to a distant land. The moneylender stays in the town and becomes angry when the merchant does not repay his debt. Berceo approves of the merchant in this milagro as he does not criticize him for wanting more money, and thus demonstrates the evolution of medieval thought and priorities. He has a very interesting way of describing the moneylender in the same milagro. He portrays him as a likeable character, but once his "greedy tendencies" begín to surface, the description takes a sharply negative tura. He also contrasts this character with the Christian, who is hardworking and charitable.

Un judío bien rico avié enna cibdat,
non avié d'él más rico en essa vezindat:
asmó de ir a elli entre su voluntat,
demandarli consejo por Dios a caridat.

Fo luego al judío e fo bien recibido,
demandó°l cómo andava, por qué era venido,
ca de otras sazones lo avié conocido
e todo el su pleito bien lo avié oído.

                                             (Stanzas 636-637)9

El trufan alevoso, natura cobdiciosa,
non metié el astroso mientes en otra cosa;
tenié que su ventura era maravillosa,
púsoli al burgés nomne 'boca mintrosa'.

Reptávalo la aljama, essa mala natura,
que perdió so aver por su mala locura;
nunqua omne non fizo tan loca fíadura,
que priso por fianza una imagen dura.

Dessemos al judio, goloso e logrero,
no lo saque Dios ende, aguarde so cellero,
fablemos su vegada del pleit del mercadero,
levémosli las nuevas do ribo el tablero.

                                            (Stanzas 679-681)10

The last stanza demonstrates to the modern reader how Berceo transfers his attention from the Jewish character to the Christian. By this action he is showing that this character is not worthy of narrative space.

Another anti-Semitic thread is the descriptions of Jewish characters as helpers of Satán in the war against the Christian. All of Berceo's Jewish characters are described as having some kind of demonic quality; most of them are working in conjunction with the Devil to steal the soul of the Christian. They are associated with witchcraft and occult ceremonies. Saugníeux mentions that there were two diíferent kinds of anti-Semitism in Berceo's Spain: economic and religious. We have already explored economic anti-Semitism when we studied the case of the moneylender in the previous paragraph. Religious anti-Semitism appears in most of the milagros; this takes into account the fact that the Jewish community rejects Christ as the Messiah (75-76). Another component to religious anti-Semitism is the belief by Christians that the Jewish community was collectively guilty of Christ's death (and henee, of deicide), a belief that was officially endorsed by the Vatican until 1961. This is the most obvious form of anti-Semitism present in the Milagros de Nuestra Señora. In Milagro XVIII, "Cristo y los judíos de Toledo", the Virgin Mary appears to the Bishop of Toledo to warn him and the congregation that the Jewish community is practlsing witchcraft with a wax statue moulded in the image of Christ. The violence, initíated by the words of the Virgin Mary, leads to the destruction of the Jewish neighbourhood by the Christians.

Fablólis voz del cielo, dolient e querellosa,
"Oíd -dixo- christianos una estranna cosa,
la gent de judaismo, sorda e cegajosa,
nunqua contra don Christo non fo más porfíosa.

Secundo que nos dizen las sanctas escripturas,
fizieron en don Christo muy grandes travesuras;
tajava essa cuita a mi las assaduras,
mas en ellos quebraron todas las sus locuras.


                                            (Stanzas 416-417) 11


Moviéronse los pueblos, toda la clereçía,
fueron a muy grand priessa por la judería;
guiólos Jesu Christo e la Virgo María,
fo luego escubierta la su alevosía.


Fallaron enna casa del raví más onrado

un grand cuerpo de ceracomo omne formado,
como don Christo sovo, sedié crucifigado,
con grandes clavos preso, grand plaga al costado.

Quanta fonta fizieron en el nuestro Sennor
allí la fazién toda por nuestra desonor,
recaudáronlos luego, mas non con grand savor,
qual fazién tal prisieron, ¡grado al Criador!

Fueron bien recabdados los que prender podieron,
diéronlis yantar mala qual ellos merecieron,
y fizieron "Tu autem", mala muerte prisieron,
después lo entendieron que mal seso ficieron.


                                            (Stanzas 426-429)12


In all of his milagros dealing with Jewish characters, Berceo makes sure that the Christians triumph in the end. He demonstrates to the modern reader the anti-Semitic sentiments of his monastery in the thirteenth century.

Milagro XXV " De cómo Teófilo fizo carta con el diablo de su ánima et después fue convertido e salvo"13, shows how the Jewish character is presented by means of shady descriptions and in questionable situations. He is the recruiter of souls for the Devil and fools Teófilo into giving away his soul in exchange for the respect he once had.


Era el trufan falsso pleno de malos vicios,
savié encantamientos e muchos maleficios',
fazié el malo cercos e otros artificios,
Belzebud lo guíava en todos sus oficios.

En dar consejos malos era muy sabidor,
matava muchas almas el falsso traidor:
como era basallo de muy mal sennor
sí él mal lo mandava él faziélo peor.


                                           (Stanzas 767-768)14


Popular elements are integrated into this milagro, such as superstitions regarding crossroads and the middle of the night. At a crossroads evil could win over good and occult deals were made with the Devil. Such is the case with Teófilo, who is led to a crossroads by the Jewish character to sign a pact with the Devil.

Prísolo por la mano, la nochi bien mediada,
sacólo de la villa a una cruzejada;
dísso'l: "Non te santigües nin te temas de nada,
ca toda tu fazienda será eras mejorada."

Vio a poca de ora venir muy grandes yentes
con ciriales en manos e con cirios ardientes,
con su reï en medio feos, ca non luzientes:
¡Ya querrié don Teófilo seer con sus parientes!

                                            (Stanzas 778-779)15

The anti-Semitic sentiment in the Milagros is a sign that it was also a part of the popular culture. Even though this is present in the text, Joél Saugníeux is not certain of the extent of anti-Semitism within Spanish society in the thirteenth century. He believes that Berceo was tainted by the ideologies desseminated at his monastery and that the degree of anti-Semitism on the Península was not as strong as the rest of Europe until the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (79, 92). It is interesting to note that the original Latin texts on which Berceo based his milagros do not contain direct attacks on the Jewish characters. Berceo has single-handedly elaborated these elements for the purpose of influencing his public and marginalizing the Jewish community.

Because there are Latín sources that precede Berceo's versions of Milagros de Nuestra Señora, it is uncertain whether he can be labelled the author of the text. Berceo has "translated" the original versions of the Milagros from Latin sources, but he has added many elements to make them more relevant to his audience. The confusión over the term author refers to the modem concept, as the creator and thus the owner of his or her ideas. Paul Zumthor, explains in Essaí de poétíque médiévale, the differences between the concepts of "text" and "work" (73-75). A "work" is the first versión, the original versión of a story or poem; the "text" is all of the variations that have been composed from the original "work"16. In the case of the Milagros de Nuestra Señora, Berceo has taken a "work" and written a "text" versión of the original form. His detailed renditions of the twenty-five Milagros have created much amusement and insight into the popular culture that existed in the Middle Ages. These details which have embellished the Latín versión, clearly demónstrate the contact of the narrator with an audience whom he addresses in most of his vignettes. Unlike "original" Latín pieces that were more than likely meant for the eyes and ears of the monks and priests in the monasteries, Berceo's versions demónstrate a rapport with an audience which was probably filled with townspeople, clergy and pilgrims on their way to Compostela.

In the Middle Ages the author was usually not the creator of ideas or the themes; he or she was the mouthpiece of an existing tradition. In the case of Gonzalo de Berceo, the narrator admíts that there are other versions of the milagros stories.

Diziénli Ildefonsso, dizlo la escriptura,
pastor que a su grey dava buena pastura,
omne de sancta vida que trasco grand cordura,
que nos mucho digamos, so fecho lo mestura.

                                          (Stanza 49)17


Leemos de un clérigo que era tiestherido,
ennos vicios seglares ferament embevido;
peroque era locco, avié un buen sentido,
amava la Gloriosa de corazón complido.


                                         (Stanza 101)18


D'un clérigo otro nos diz la escriptura
que de Sancta María amava su figura:
siempre se inclinava contra la su pintura
avié muy grand vergüenza de la su catadura.

                                         (Stanza 116)19

Berceo is proud of his compilation and his translations of these particular milagros but admits that he did not record them originally. He clearly demonstrates the medieval tradition of auctoritas. This concept, which derives from classical rhetoric, involves the medieval writer's interpretation of the original work. He or she is given the "authority'' to do this by the author of Antiquity, who expects future generations to study and render an explanation of the original. In the case of Berceo, the original works are embellished with details from the popular culture of the age, elements that would make the stories relevant to his audience.

The popular culture in Berceo's Milagros de Nuestra Señora has its roots in the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, a cult-following in Europe during the Middle Ages. Américo Castro, in his book La realidad histórica de España, explains the importance of this pilgrimage and the cult-following of the Apostle. The Holy Spirit told St. James, that he should go and preach the gospel in the Iberian Península. As an obedient servant, he followed these exact orders and lived many years of his life there. Later he returned to Palestine where he was killed (Castro 259). His body was taken back to Spain, where he was finally laid to rest in Santiago de Compostela. He is the patrón saint of Spain because he brought Christianity to the Iberian Península and he helped defeat the Islamic armies on the battlefields. According to popular belief, Santiago was seen descending from heaven on a chariot driven by two white horses, and taking part in the Battle of Clavijo in 822 A.D. He, along with Christian soldiers, took part in a "Holy" war in order to free the land from a religious threat. The Apostle James is often depicted as a warrior. As a result of this he is portrayed with a sword in sculptures and paintings. In these artistic representations he is seen decapitating Islamics with his sword, as they are crushed by his horses. The image of the bellicose saint accounts for the armed priests of the Iberian Península.


Castro mentions that the pilgrimages would attract many people to Santiago, he describes the atmosphere as chaotic.

En la ciudad apostólica era continuo el rumor de extrañas lenguas y el espectáculo abigarrado de una inquieta muchedumbre.  Dentro del templo, siempre abierto, había que imponer orden a la caterva de peregrinos, que, a empellones, pugnaba por instalarse cerca de la tumba sagrada. Los distintos grupos, según antes se ha visto, lucharon a veces entre sí para gozar del ansiado privilegio, y no era raro, además, que dejasen en la ciudad gérmenes de pestilencias asoladoras. Principes, grandes señores, mercaderes, mendigos y truhanes, en confuso revoltijo, adoraban al Apóstol y ofrecían donativos, cuya vigilancia y manejo daba gran tarea a los canónigos-cardenales. Cada peregrino recibía testimonio escrito de su estancia, y compraba la concha o venera, símbolo del Apóstol, cuya venta constituía negocio importante para centenares de mercaderes. El alojamiento de aquella masa inquieta, y la gerencia de las riquezas allegadas, tuvo en constante ajetreo a clérigos y seglares, y produjo frecuentes conflictos entre la Iglesia y los burgueses. Añádese a ello el ejercicio caballeresco de los clérigos, obligados a ir a la hueste cuando el rey los requería, puesto que el sacerdote era al mismo tiempo hombre de armas. El sentimiento religioso iba entremezclado con burocracia, milicia, liturgia, pleitos y finanzas (Castro, 317-318).

Castro's evocation of the pilgrimage to Compostela shows its importance for the economic well-being of the city and its citizens. It also demonstrates that the clergy was not as different as the state in their priorities.




Mikhail Bakhtin's Descriptoras of Carnival



The popular culture of the Middle Ages is a vast área of study, and has been examined in great detail by Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) in his book Rabelais and His WorisL To fully understand Bakhtin's reasoning. and how it can be applied to Milagros de Nuestra Señora, one must become acquainted with his theories of carnival qfficial and popular culture, grotesque and the material lower-body stratum. Medieval society, according to Bakhtin, must be divided into two different áreas: the official culture, which refers to the institutions, the Church and the ...



[...]  Tesis completa en formato PDF




1 Accordíng to Michael Gerli. the editor of a particular versión of the Míagros de Nuestra Señora, the Annuncíatíon was celebrated on Mareh 25 as it is to this day. Under St. Ildefonso's suggestions. the Council of Toledo in 656 A.D., added a new festivily for the Virgin on December 18. in order for it not to coincide with Lent, a period of mourning [79).


2 The English translations of the stanzas used in this study will be taken from Gonzalo de Berceo's Miracles of Our Lady. Richard Terry Mount and Annette Grant Cash have translated this text from Spanish into English and the University Press of Kentucky printed it in 1997.


I would like to tell you about another miracle

that happened to a monk of a religious order

the Devil wanted to frighten him severely,

but the Glorious Mother knew how to impede him.

Ever since he was in the order,

indeed ever since he was a novice

he had loved the Glorious One, always doing Her service;

he guarded against craziness, or speaking of fornication,

but he fínally fell into vice.

He entered the wine cellar by chance one day,
he drank a great deal of wine, this was without moderation.
The crazy man got drunk: he Iost his sanity,
untíl vespers he lay on the hard ground
                                                     (Stanzas 461-463)


3 A fríar of his house who was called Guiralt

before becomíng a monk was not very wise;

sometimes he committed the folly and sin

of an unmarried man without obligations
                                                     (Stanza 183)

4 In rich Cologne. a royal capital,
there was a monastery called Saint Peter's;

thereín lived and undísciplined monk

who cared very little for what the rule says.

He had very little sense. he committed much foolishness;

although they punished him, he was incorrigible;

because of this a great misfortune befell him:

a harlot bore a child from him.
                                                   (Stanzas 160-161)


5  This bull was launched to save the Iberian Península from the threat of Islam. French and other European troops took part in the Reconquista which ended in the battle of Navas de Tolosa in 1212 (Linehan. 5; García de Cortázar. 145).


6  "treacherous dog" (Stanza 362a)


7  "the false disbeliever" (Stanza 363a)


8 They seized the Jew, the false disloyal one.
the one who had done such a great wrong to his little son;

they tied his hands with a strong rope

and they cast him into a great fire.

In the time It would take someone to count a few pennies.

he was turned into ashes and embers;

they did not say psalms or prayers for his soul,

rather they hurled insults and great curses.

                                                  (Stanzas 371-372)



9 There was ín the city a very rich Jew,

there was no richer a man in the vicínity;

he decided to go to him to ask his advice for God and charity's sake.

There he went to the Jew and was well received,
the Jew asked him how he was and why he had come,
for he had known him in other times

and had tndeed heard all hts concerns.
                                                  (Stanzas 636-637)

10 The treaeherous rogue, greedy by nature,

(he who is vile thinks of nothíng else)

considered that his good fortune was marvelous;

he called the burgher "liar".

The Jew, those ill-tempered ones. reproached him

for he had lost his money due to his very madness;

never had any one accepted so senseless a surety

as to take as a guarantor a hard statue.

Let us leave the Jew, greedy and usurious.

Let God not take him out of there; let him guard his larder

Let us talk instead about the merchant's aflairs;

Let us bring him the news of where the chest made shore
                                                 (Stanzas 679-681)


11 A voice from Heaven spoke, pained and angry:

it said: "Hear, Christians, a remarkable thing!

The Jewish people. deaf and blind,

have never been so wicked to Lord Jesús!

As the Holy Scriptures tell us,
the committed iniquities against Lord Christ,
that sorrow cut to My heart;
but all their madness had repercussions for them.
                                                (Stanzas 416-417)


12 The people and all the clergy moved.
In great haste they went to the Jewish sector.

Jesús Christ guided them so did the Virgin Mary,

and theír treachery was soon discovered.

They found in the house the most honorable rabbi
and a large body ofwax shaped like a man.
It was like Jesús Christ; it was crucifíed,
held with large nails, and had a great wound in its side.

What outrage they committed against our Lord.

There they did it all to our dishonor!

They executed them immediately. but not with pleasure.

They got what they deserved. thanks be to the Creator!

Those who could be caught were executed.

They were given a bad meal, which they deserved.

There they said "Tu autem": they received a vile death.

Afterwards they understood they had committed madness.

                                                (Stanzas 426-429)


13 This particular edition of the Milagros de Nuestra Señora by Michael Gerli has placed this milagro as the last one in the collectíon, as ít was originally intended. In other edítions of the Milagros, it is milagro XXIV. Critics believe that "La iglesia despojada" (milagro XXIV in this edition) was added after Berceo originally completed Milagros.

14 The false trickster was full of evil vices,
he knew enchantments and many machinations.

The evil one drew circles and did other artífices;

Beelzebub guided him in all bis work.


He was very knowledgeable in glving bad advice.

The false traitor carried off many souls;

as he was the vassal of a very evíl lord;

if ordered to do evil, he did even worse.
                                              (Stanzas 767-768)

15 He took him by the hand, ín the middle of the night,

and led him out of town to a crossroads.

He told him, "Do not cross yourself or fear anything,

for your whole affair wíll be improved tomorrow."

Soon he saw many great people come

with candelabra and burning candles in hand.

ugly and not shining, with their king in the midst.

Now Sir Theophilus wished he were with his kin!
                                             (Stanzas 778-779)


16 This is a reversal of the terminology employed by Ingarden in The Literary Work of Art His original versión of a story would be considered a "text" and the different versions of the original would be considered a "work" (21-26).


17 Accordíng to the text, they called him lldephonsus,

a shepherd who gave hís flock good pasture,

a holy man who possessed great wisdom;

all that we may say his deeds reveal.
                                            (Stanza 49)


18 We read of a cleríc who was crackbraíned.

and deeply absorbed in worldly vices;

but although he was foolish he had one saving grace:

he loved the Glorious One with all his heart.
                                            (Stanza 101)

19 The book tells us of another cleric

who loved the image of Holy Mary:

he always bowed before her painting,

and felt very great shame under her gaze

                                            (Stanza 116)





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Simon Fraser (Canada)