Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary

Miri Rubin

Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the most powerful, influential and complex of all religious figures. The focus for women, the inspiration of faith, the subject of innumerable paintings, sculptures, pieces of music and churches, Mary is so entangled in our world that it is impossible to conceive of the history of Western culture and religion without her. Miri Rubin’s Mother of God is a major work of cultural imagination. Mary’s role in the Gospels is a relatively minor one, and yet in the centuries during which Christianity established itself she emerged as a powerful, strange and ungovernable force, endlessly remade and reimagined by wave after wave of devotees, ultimately becoming ‘a sort of God’, in ways that have always made some Christians uneasy. Whether talking about the vast public festivals celebrating Mary that sweep up entire communities or the intense private agony of individual devotion, Rubin’s book is a triumph of sympathy and intelligence. Throughout Christianity’s journey from mysterious origins to global religion, the Mother of God has been a profound presence in countless lives – Mother of God is the story of that presence and a book that raises profound questions about the human experience. 4.2 out of 5 based on 6 reviews
Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Religion & Spirituality, History
Format Hardback
Pages 400
RRP £30.00
Date of Publication February 2009
ISBN 978-0713998184
Publisher Allen Lane
 

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the most powerful, influential and complex of all religious figures. The focus for women, the inspiration of faith, the subject of innumerable paintings, sculptures, pieces of music and churches, Mary is so entangled in our world that it is impossible to conceive of the history of Western culture and religion without her. Miri Rubin’s Mother of God is a major work of cultural imagination. Mary’s role in the Gospels is a relatively minor one, and yet in the centuries during which Christianity established itself she emerged as a powerful, strange and ungovernable force, endlessly remade and reimagined by wave after wave of devotees, ultimately becoming ‘a sort of God’, in ways that have always made some Christians uneasy. Whether talking about the vast public festivals celebrating Mary that sweep up entire communities or the intense private agony of individual devotion, Rubin’s book is a triumph of sympathy and intelligence. Throughout Christianity’s journey from mysterious origins to global religion, the Mother of God has been a profound presence in countless lives – Mother of God is the story of that presence and a book that raises profound questions about the human experience.

Reviews

The Guardian

Kathryn Hughes

[A] masterly book... [Rubin has] an extraordinary grasp of a huge range of documentary material, encompassing mongrel Latin, high Renaissance art, raw vernacular crafts and boisterous village tales. Even more remarkable is her ability to keep hold of her narrative centre, tracking Mary's main developmental arc, while still taking account of the messy margins where something entirely contradictory is happening.

14/02/2009

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The Literary Review

Edward Norman

She achieves her objectives splendidly. This is a study which will be valued for its balanced judgement and its intellectual detachment. It is also unfailingly courteous to adherents of the Virgin, and sympathetic to the humanity disclosed in the evolution of the tradition of spiritual understanding of which they are the guardians.

01/03/2009

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The Daily Telegraph

Christopher Howse

On occasion, Rubin’s learning and sympathies lead her into some well-phrased judgments, such as that, in the Middle Ages “monks and nuns enjoyed the privilege of frequent, disciplined song”. But her overall achievement astonishes for a different reason – like one of those illuminated carpet pages from the Lindisfarne Gospels it incorporates endless details. I look forward to following up some of her leads.

19/02/2009

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Standpoint

Cristina Odone

Mary as patron of the first feminists sounds counter-intuitive...but some of the most enthralling pages of Rubin's scholarly history quote from the works of magnificent women such as the musician, scientist and theologian Hildegard of Bingen and the mystic poet Julian of Norwich... Relying on impressive scholarship, Rubin shows how Mary, meek and mild, maternal and infinitely compassionate, shaped culture and even history more than any dictator.

01/02/2009

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The Independent on Sunday

Catherine Pepinster

It is particularly welcome that she makes use of women mystics: clear evidence that the cult was not a male construct... What this book does not get to grips with is the true importance of Mary in Christian belief...that for so many Christians Mary is not only a human but a spiritual route to her son... this book could have done with more history... But for its insights into the medieval world and the woman who dominated so much of its culture, this is a welcome, illuminating and at times disturbing history.

06/03/2009

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The Financial Times

Rowan Williams

Mother of God is a treasury of raw material but doesn’t quite add up as a single work. In the last few chapters especially, the reader has a feeling of research that has been a bit rushed in order to touch as many bases as possible. This would have been a more satisfying book if it had concentrated on the Middle Ages and avoided the earlier and later eras... But what it does is implicitly alert us to the basic fact about the cult of Mary that has made it such a resourceful set of images for understanding all kinds of cultural identities.

14/02/2009

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