Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

The mystical kiss of the mouth. The role of images and imagery in medieval spirituality (1100-1500)

How can the importance of the image in late medieval spirituality be understood in the context of the love mysticism inspired by the imagery of the Song of Songs?

2015 - 2019
NWO Graduate Programme 2014 NWO Graduate Programme 2014

In medieval religious culture, images played in important role. They functioned as aids in meditation and were often not only looked at but also touched and kissed. My research focuses on the question how this relationship between matter and spirit can be understood in relation to the imagery inspired by the Song of Songs, the Old Testament dialogue between a bride and a bridegroom.

In the spirituality of the later Middle Ages, images played an increasingly important role. In my research, I show the importance of the physical image can be understood in relation to the imagery inspired by the Song of Songs. Important renewals in the spirituality of the twelfth century, the period in which the foundations were laid for the mystical interpretation of the Song, are essential to the understanding of the role of the image in the later Middle Ages.

With an interdisciplinary approach, I examine both texts and visual images. I ask questions with regard to the nature of textual and visual images, the interaction between the two, and the way medieval readers/viewers interacted with images. I focus on the image of the mystical kiss of the mouth, which is particularly relevant because it shows how one of the most sensual images could be used to describe the highest state of mystical union with God.

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