A Triumphant Madonna – Amuse Bouche #41 Dennis Aubrey


Saint-Aventin is a small town in the Larboust Valley in the Pyrénées, not far from Bagnères-de-Luchon. The eponymous church is located on a side road outside of town, actually a small lane rising to terrace partway up the hill. The church is a magnificent Romanesque structure which we will show in a later post and is distinguished by magnificent exterior sculptures. The most elegant of these is the Sedes Sapientiae virgin next to the door.

Regular readers of Via Lucis know our love of these figures, mostly carved in wood, but this one is unique. Most representation of the virgin are sorrowful, a mother knowing the doomed fate of her child at the hands of man. The child is normally seen as a small adult with a serious face looking straight out at the viewer (as does the Mother here). But here, the child Jesus looks up and shares with his mother a look of triumph, the conquest of temptation and evil.

Vierge Romane, Église Saint-Aventin, Saint-Aventin (Haute-Garonne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Beneath Mary’s feet are the heads of two demons, trampled into submission. The figures of birds and serpents are held at bay by the power of the Mother and Child, threatening but impotent.

I wish that I could translate the inscription but have not worked it out. Perhaps one of our readers can help?

And of course our readers came through – both Yuri de la Pena and Evelyne Clerc found the text: RES MIRANDA NIMIS MATER DEI ERAT VI NIMIS. This translates to “Thing worthy of admiration, the Mother of God is all powerful”. however, Project Gutenberg states, “In translating RES, avoid at all costs the word THING, or THINGS, and let the context guide you to the appropriate English word.” I will essay the following translation, “Of all who are worthy of admiration, the Mother of God is omnipotent.” This certainly fits with the triumphant Madonna.

Vierge Romane detail, Église Saint-Aventin, Saint-Aventin (Haute-Garonne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

This is part of a series of posts featuring an amuse-bouche, a bite-sized appetizer to whet the appetite of diners. Each of these will explore a single interesting feature of medieval architecture or sculpture. To see other amuse-bouches, follow this link.

7 responses to “A Triumphant Madonna – Amuse Bouche #41 Dennis Aubrey

  1. Good to see Via Lucis up and running. BTW, I can’t translate the inscription either, but I’m pretty confident the book held by the Christ child is the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. Sorry. Sometimes I can’t help myself! 😂

  2. Hi Dennis, see this web page for the inscription: http://toulouse.catholique.fr/Eglise-de-Saint-Aventin-doyenne-de
    And here is the paragraph where the website authors provide the translation:
    “Sur le pilier à droite du porche, se tient une très belle Vierge en Majesté. Elle tient le Christ Enfant sur son genou droit ; ses pieds foulent les puissances des ténèbres. Sur le phylactère, au-dessus de sa tête, une inscription latine est gravée : « Chose digne d’admiration, la Mère de Dieu est toute puissante ».”

  3. I wasn’t able to read the letters of the Latin inscription, but found the following information :

    Sur le phylactère, au-dessus de sa tête, une inscription latine est gravée : « Chose digne d’admiration, la Mère de Dieu est toute puissante » : “Thing worthy of admiration, the Mother of God is all powerful”.

  4. I’ve just found the Latin words : RES MIRANDA NIMIS MATER DEI ERAT VI NIMIS : “Chose des plus admirables, la mère de Dieu était toute-puissante”.

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