The Authorship of the Meditationes Vitae Christi

Wednesday, 29 May 2024, 5.15-6.45 UK time
Memorial Room: The Queen’s College, Oxford

Dr Peter Tóth (Cornelia Stark Curator of Greek Collections at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford) will speak on “In Quest of a Medieval Best-Seller: The Authorship of the Meditationes Vitae Christi” as term lecture for the Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures

The Meditationes Vitae Christi, an anonymous medieval retelling of the life of Christ, appended with a number of extra and emotional details, has been described as the single most influential Franciscan text of the Middle Ages. A real best-seller that has come down to us in hundreds of manuscripts and versions in Latin and almost all the vernaculars of Medieval Europe. The text is known to have exercised an immense influence on Western spirituality and devotion and had decisive impact on Renaissance art and played pivotal role in the evolution of medieval Passion Plays and European theatre in general. Despite this enormous significance, the origin, date and authorship of the work has remained obscure and been in the focus of heated scholarly debates. After a brief survey of the problems of the text and the current scholarly consensus about its origins, the present paper will make an attempt to identify the author of the text and reconstruct its adventurous early history to explain its subsequent anonymity.

Bibliography in the New light on the date and authorship of the Meditationes vitae Christi (2015) by Peter Tóth & al. (Brepols 2015, Open Access version in the Oxford Research Archive)

Image: Meditationes vitae Christi. English translation by Nicholas Love. Bodleian Library MS. Hatton 31, fol. 28v, mid-15th century. On

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