Mythology is crammed with an array of outlandish and far-fetched tales. Christianity isn’t any exception. One of the vital stunning, a minimum of for me, is the story of the twelfth century monk, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, and the Virgin Mary’s breast milk. Much more curious are the quite a few artworks impressed by this story.
Born close to Dijon in 1090, Bernard of Clairvaux was a monk remembered for his inspirational sermons. He additionally advocated for the Second Crusade , an ardent believer that Muslims have been the kids of Devil. I suppose the half about “love thy neighbor” wasn’t his sturdy go well with. However one of the crucial stunning tales associated to Saint Bernard is that of being splattered with the Virgin Mary’s breast milk.
Usually known as the Lactation of Saint Bernard, legend has it that when he challenged the Virgin to monstra te esse matrem , that means “present your self to be a mom,” her statue or portray got here to life, grabbed her breast and squirted milk into his eye or mouth (relying on which model you observe). Some declare this gave him knowledge, whereas different accounts assert that it cured his eye an infection. Various experiences state that the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernard in a imaginative and prescient.
Saint Bernard and the Virgin by Alonso Cano. ( Public domain )
The story of Saint Bernard and the Virgin Mary’s breast milk grew to become exceptionally well-liked in non secular iconography and has been depicted many occasions in devotional artwork over the centuries. A few of these are uplifting artworks, whereas others vary from hilarious to downright creepy.
This imagery got here to obsess Flemish, Dutch and German audiences within the Fifteenth century, impressed by the thought of spiritual artwork miraculously coming to life. Renaissance Quarterly highlighted that though Saint Bernard most popular the usage of the spoken phrase and music relatively than visible indicators of devotion, he did use the theme of milk in his writing as a method to signify the nurturing nature of spiritual scripture.
Fifteenth-century depiction of the Lactatio Bernardi, entitled Virgin and Baby with Saint Bernard, from the Wallraf Richartz Museum in Cologne. ( Public domain )
The 1290 San Bernardo altar piece from the Church of the Knights Templar in Palma de Mallorca is without doubt one of the first, with a veritable fountain of milk gushing into Saint Bernard’s mouth. Some portrayals of the legend present Saint Bernard suckling instantly from the Virgin Mary’s breast. In the meantime, in one other Fifteenth-century depiction of the Virgin and Baby with Saint Bernard from the Wallraf Richartz Museum in Cologne, Saint Bernard appears like a pedophile or sexual offender uncovered by the #MeToo motion.
In an oil portray by Alonso Cano from the mid-Seventeenth century, on show on the Museo del Prado , a statue of the Virgin Mary produces a jet of milk from her breast and goals it from an unimaginable distance into his mouth. When breastfeeding I by no means mastered such spectacular method.
Prime picture: Saint Bernard and the Virgin by Alonso Cano. Supply: Public domain
By Cecilia Bogaard