Our Lady's Lawsuits in L'Advocacie Nostre Dame and La Chapelerie Nostre Dame de Baiex
Our Lady’s Lawsuits presents, for the fi rst time in translation, two extraordinary examples of medieval French religious literature. Written by an anonymous cleric during the first quarter of the fourteenth century, these works imaginatively evoke contemporary religious disputes, both theological and ecclesiastical, and evince contemporary legal arguments, both substantive and procedural.
In L’Advocacie Nostre Dame (Our Lady’s Advocacy), the Virgin Mary defends humankind against Devil’s claim for recovery of the souls he lost in the harrowing of Hell. A witty combination of detailed legal maneuvers and sophisticated theological arguments, this work may constitute one of the first vernacular procedural manuals. It may show as clearly as we will ever see, albeit in a comic mode, how a lawsuit was actually conducted in the fourteenth century in the north of France.
In the Chapelerie de Nostre Dame de Baiex (The Benefice of Our Lady’s Chapel in Bayeux), two bishops defend their benefice against the claims of the king’s representatives, each of whom dies unexpectedly after one of the bishops invokes the aid of the Virgin. This work’s message of Marian retribution echoes that of other contemporaneous miracle stories of the Virgin’s intervention in human affairs.
Only two complete editions of these works exist, both of them in French and relatively inaccessible. Readers and scholars of medieval French literature, religion, history, theater, and law now have these important texts available to them in French and in a facing page English translation.