Mary in Christian Tradition
Medieval Devotion to Mary
The Christian people of the Middle Ages, suffering constantly fron disease, famine and war which they were helpless to do anything about, turned anxiously to Mary for assistance. Simple faith led them to trust her to intercede for them with her Son as she did for the ordinary people at the marriage feast of Cana.
Since she was a compassionate mother who had experienced the sufferings of Calvary, they petitioned her for cures from sickness, for protection and help. Her kindness and power were proclaimed everywhere -- in the sermons they heard, in art and song and prayer.
Meditating on the Life of Mary
Popular classics like "The Meditations on the Life of Christ," a book dating from the 13th century, nourished medieval devotion to Mary. Widely circulated, it taught Christians to see the lives of Jesus and Mary through a kind of "pilgrimage of the imagination." By meditating on the stories of the Gospel, embellished with additional details and legends, one could experience Christ and his saints and learn from them how one should live.
Stories from the "Meditations," appealing and tender as the following short excerpt from the Nativity of Jesus shows, greatly influenced the way medieval Christians saw Mary and inspired also the works of so many medieval artists.
". . . the emperor wrote a proclamation that the whole world should be registered, and everyone go to his own city. So obeying the command, Joseph started on his way with our Lady, taking with him an ox and an ass, since she was pregnant and the road long to Bethlehem. They arrived like poor owners of animals.