Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 11741
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Hudson , Vivian Kay.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Clothing and Adornment Imagery in "The Scale of Perfection" : A Reflection of Contemplation
  • Source: Studies in Spirituality 4, ( 1994): Pages 116 - 145.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Anchoresses Bride of Christ, Image of Clothing, Image of Hilton, Walter, Mystic- Scale of Perfection Imagery Monasticism Mystics Readers Theology
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 14
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  • Abstract: Like all mystical writers, Walter Hilton made use of poetic and metaphorical language to convey an experience which he found difficult to explain in direct terms. One of the most prominent and consistent groups of metaphors Hilton used centered around clothing, cloth, and adornment imagery. Although this imagery is present in varying degrees in all of Hilton's works, it is most clearly expressed in his last and most important work, "The Scale of Perfection." In "The Scale," the clothing images follow an intelligent, incremental progression, which mirrors the mystical life. The imagery falls into clusters of metaphors which are appropriate to each mystical level and to the respective persons of the Uncreated Trinity, which the soul seeks to imitate in perfecting its own faculties of memory, reason, and will (love) - its "trinitas creata." The contemplative's first calling to the mystical life is expressed in the image of her nun's habit - the symbol of her inward purity and renunciation - and in the knitting metaphor, which encourages her to become knit to Christ with the knot of love. This inward direction and spiritual knitting help to restore the soul's spiritual memory, the faculty that makes it like the omnipotent Father and holds it fast to him. The soul is further strengthened when it sees its sinful condition, strips off its beast-hide of sin and puts on Christ's livery of humility and charity. Wisdom - the faculty appropriated to the Son - is gained through the soul's illumined perception of God's human and divine natures, as they are conveyed through the clothing of the Incarnation and the veil or "sindon" of scripture. The faculty of will, obedient tolove, is restored to its original resemblance to the Holy Spirit when the soul dons the bright bridal apparel and jewels that symbolize its true marriage with Christ. In its entirety, the mystical journey, as Hilton envisions it, resembles a closely woven or intricately knitted cloth, configured after the design of the Trinity and held together by divine love. Although "The Scale" was written as two books separated in time, the intelligent progression of the clothing imagery confirms Hilton's intention to present it as a unity, and also reflects Hilton's mystical theology as it grew and evolved throughout his life. [Reproduced with permission of the Titus Brandsma Institute (The Netherlands). Copies of "Studies in Spirituality" can be ordered from the publisher: Peeters Publishers, Bondgenotenlaan 153, B-3000 Louvain (www.peeters-leuven.be).]
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  • Year of Publication: 1994.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 09266453
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