Mary, her devotees, and her miracles: can medieval miracle tales tell us about the growth of Marian devotion?
Marian miracle tales have been studied to understand aspects of medieval life in Western Europe such as childhood, Christian-Jewish relations, and the role of women. However, these miracle tales, and collections, have been under-utilised in discussions of the growth of practices of Marian devotion and the development of Marian theology in the early twelfth century. This thesis sets out to situate William of Malmesbury’s Miracles of the Blessed Virgin Mary (MBVM) among accounts of Marian devotion in twelfth-century Anglo-Norman England. To determine the role of the MBVM in the growth of Marian devotion, this thesis situates William of Malmesbury in his political and religious contexts, considering his exemplary career whilst noting how he is representative of broader trends. The MBVM’s theological sections, that is, the Prologues and the Epilogue, will be examined to show that William was engaged in attempts to grant Mary perfection, as well as to argue that she experienced a unique death as a part of his account of her Assumption. The miracle tales will be examined to show that William depicts Mary’s as an embodiment of the virtue of Justice, intervening in myriad accounts of everyday life. This thesis will also argue that the MBVM should be read as offering an integrated theological treatise whereby the theological sections and miracle tales work to inform each other. Thus, the MBVM, despite its unpopularity in William’s own time, may provide insight into the growth of Marian devotion in Anglo-Norman England by revealing the theological concerns of monks, coupled with an account of how Mary may have been viewed by her devotees.