Capetian Women pp 177-208 | Cite as

Queenship and Kinship in the French Bible Moralisée: The Example of Blanche of Castile and Vienna ÖNB 2554

  • Tracy Chapman Hamilton
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The Bible moralisée now preserved as Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek [ÖNB] MS 2554 is one of four extant moralized Bibles from the first half of the thirteenth century that were prepared for members of the Capetian royal family.1 John Lowden, author of an impressive recent study of the Bibles moralisées, describes Vienna ÖNB 2554 as “one of the supreme achievements of medieval art.”2 My contribution to scholarship on Vienna ÖNB 2554, and to the study of Capetian women in general, is to seek to enlarge our understanding of the patronage and audience of this French manuscript on the female members of the royal family. As I will show, messages run throughout Vienna ÖNB 2554 that were tailored to speak to a female audience. Communicated through a series of unique and remarkable images of women not present in the other Bibles moralisées, these messages emphasize the validity of female authority, whether displayed in a ruler, intercessor, or procreator. Together with the vernacular French text, these female images help us to distinguish Vienna ÖNB 2554 from the more clearly “male” Latin Bibles moralisées. Given these themes, I have concluded that the intended primary viewer and, indeed, the most likely patron of Vienna ÖNB 2554 was Blanche of Castile (1188–1252), wife from 1200 of Louis VIII of France (r. 1223–26), and mother of Louis IX (r. 1226–70).3 In her roles as patron and reader of this extraordinary manuscript we may, then, recognize Blanche as the motivator behind one of the most ambitious commissions of the early thirteenth century.


Thirteenth Century Bodleian Library Female Audience Medieval Literacy Biblical Narrative 
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Copyright information

© Kathleen Nolan 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tracy Chapman Hamilton

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