Digulleville’s Pèlerinage de Jésus Christ: A Poem of Courtly Devotion

  • Maureen Boulton
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


At two periods separated by a quarter of a century, the monk Guillaume de Digulleville, attached to the Cistercian abbey of Chaalis, north of Paris, composed a series of three allegorical poems devoted to aspects of the Christian life.1 In 1330–1332, Guillaume presented his first vision of the journey of the Christian in this world in the Pèlerinage de vie humaine, a work written in response to the Roman de la rose intended to create an art not of love, but of spiritual pilgrimage. The poem, originally aimed at a lay audience, circulated widely; it survives in fifty-three manuscripts (twenty-three of them cyclic), was adapted into prose in the fifteenth century, and was finally provided with a critical edition in 1893.2 Claiming to be alarmed by its success, Digulleville subjected it to a thorough revision in 1355.3 The second version of the poem was directed to a new (possibly monastic) audience, who were expected to read the work rather than hear it read.4 Less popular than the original version (only nine manuscripts survive, including five of the complete cycle), the revised Vie humaine was the basis of Lydgate’s Pilgrimage of the Life of Man, and made the transition to print in two separate editions.5 Unfortunately, this version of the poem has not found a modern editor, and must be consulted in manuscript.


Thirteenth Century Fifteenth Century Fourteenth Century Direct Discourse Bryn Mawr 
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  1. 13.
    On this manuscript see Paul Meyer, “Notice du MS. 1137 de Grenoble,” Romania 16 (1887): 214–31.Google Scholar
  2. 14.
    Siegfried Wenzel, “The Pilgrimage of Life as a Late Medieval Genre,” Mediaeval Studies 35 (1973): 371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 27.
    Ch.-V. Langlois, La vie en France au moyen âge. IV, La vie spirituelle. Enseignements, méditations, et controverses (Paris: Hachette, 1928), p. 202.Google Scholar
  4. 34.
    On Latin texts, see Thomas H. Bestul, Texts of the Passion: Latin Devotional Literature and Medieval Society (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Duncan Robertson, and Nancy Bradley Warren 2002

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  • Maureen Boulton

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