Salvam Fac Famulam Tuam, Domine: The Liturgical Ritual of Churching

  • Paula M. Rieder
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The liturgy of churching is often compared to the celebration of Mary’s purification, an event portrayed in numerous medieval images and in illuminated books of hours. The book of hours made for Mary of Burgundy by a Flemish artist in the 1470s contains a beautiful yet traditional example of such images.1 The image was set within a historiated letter at the beginning of the office for None, the fifth of the seven canon­ical hours. As was usually the case, this image conflated two stories, the Purification of the Virgin and the Presentation of Jesus, but did so in a way that gave Mary the most prominent role. When we look at this image, not even the divine infant attracts our attention away from his mother. Mary stands before the altar in the process of handing her son to the priest. Dressed in a long, blue robe, she is the central figure in the scene and the only one whose head is surrounded by a nimbus. Behind her we see a group of people, two women and a man who holds a lighted candle. The attention of this group is also focused on Mary just as our eyes are first drawn to her when we look at the illumination.2


Thirteenth Century Fifteenth Century Parish Community Ritual Action Christian Community 
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© Paula M. Rieder 2006

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  • Paula M. Rieder

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