Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Panel 5. The bridegroom cuts his wife in anger.

  • Title: Cantiga 105 How the wicked bridegroom planned to do something and committed a shameful deed
  • Creator:
  • Description:

    Cantiga 105, titled “How the wicked bridegroom planned to do something and committed a shameful deed,” tells the story of a girl who promises the Virgin Mary that she herself will remain a virgin. In exchange, the Virgin pledges that the girl will go to heaven. The girl agrees and vows never to marry. Later, her father informs her of a marriage he has arranged to a wealthy man from Auvergne. Initially, the girl refuses, telling her father of the promise she made the Virgin. Her parents were unrelenting, forcing her to marry. On their wedding night, the Virgin Mary interferes in order to prevent the couple from having sex. The Virgin’s interference lasts for a year. The husband is angry that his wife would not have sex with him. While four people hold the wife’s arms and legs, the husband uses a knife to cut her vagina leaving a severe wound. She went to the bishop, Boniface, to tell him what her husband had done. The bishop expresses his condolences to the woman, but, fearing conflict, sends her back home to her husband. The husband spontaneously catches on fire. Unfortunately, the fire spreads to other citizens. The injured citizens come to the church asking to be healed. Even the wronged wife sustained an injury on her breast from the fire. In the church, the wife and the citizens pray to the Virgin. The wife challenges the Virgin when she says the Virgin did not fulfill her promise. The Virgin did not protect her from her husband or the fire. The Virgin appears in the church bringing cures for fire and leprosy to the citizens. The Virgin tells the woman to kiss the altar to be healed. The injured citizens give the woman broth and green grape juice. The woman kisses the sick, and they are all healed.

    Representations of chaste marriage are found throughout medieval art and literature. One such celebrated couple was Dauphine and Elzear in the south of France. Dauphine wanted to remain a virgin during their marriage and responded to Elzear’s protests by addressing the concern of producing an heir, “Because of this—the uncertainty of heirs and deceiving and treacherous riches, which are the cause of death and eternal damnation—it is not safe to put oneself in peril.” The virginity of many of these wives is framed as the pinnacle of their connection with God. The motif is also often introduced by the woman’s vow made to God during childhood. In this Cantiga, the married woman keeps the promise she made to the Virgin as a girl.

    Remaining a virgin during marriage tends to be associated with higher social status, including members of royal families and the nobility, which casts the upper class in an exemplary fashion. The communal support of the woman’s virginity creates a moral stance in the Cantiga, which when coupled with representations of class, elevates the moral code of the wealthy. Communal support in Cantiga 105 is apparent in the final scene of healing where the citizens show support for the woman and her virginity. The citizens are burned by the fire caused by the husband’s actions, as if protecting the woman’s virginity is a communal sacrifice. The Cantiga portrays the woman’s virginity as sacred with divine and communal protection, while the husband’s desire is deemed wicked and hazardous for the community.

    Alfonso X, king of Castile-León, was known as the Learned and commissioned a wealth of literary works including the Cantigas. These stories of Marian miracles were composed in Galician Portuguese, the literary language of the era. Alfonso commissioned music and illustrations to accompany the poems, some of which he wrote himself. There is further personal material including Cantiga 235 in which the Virgin cures the king of a serious illness. This particular manuscript version is known as the códice rico for its numerous and detailed illustrations.

  • Source: Reproduced from the Edicón facsímil del Códice T.I.1 de la Biblioteca de San Lorenzo el Real de El Escorial, Siglo XIII. Edilán, 1979. Made available open access by the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Rights: Public Domain
  • Subject (See Also): Alfonso X, el Sabio, King of Castile- Cantigas de Santa Maria Chastity Crime and Criminals Husbands Mary, Virgin, Saint Sexuality Violence Virginity Wife Abuse Wives
  • Geographic Area: Iberia
  • Century: 13
  • Date: 1280- 1284
  • Related Work: Additional Cantigas involving sexual violence:
    15. The chaste empress and second page.(On two occasions the Virgin rescues the empress from rape.)
    26. A man made an annual pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (The devil induces the man to castrate himself and cut his own throat.)
    317. The squire who assaulted a girl (The squire tries to rape a girl who seeks protection from the Virgin in a church.)
  • Current Location: Madrid, Escorial Museum, MS B.i.2, fols. 151v-152r
  • Original Location: Iberia
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital Images; Manuscript Illuminations;
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Vellum (parchment); Paint;
  • Donor: Layman; Alfonso X, King of Castile
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 33.8/50.2 [size of page]/
  • Inscription:

    "Como Santa Maria pareceu a u~a meni~a no orto e lli fez jurar castidade." [How Mary appeared to a girl in the garden and made her swear chastity.]
    "Como o pa..." [caption incomplete] [How her...]
    "Como o padr’ e a madre a fezeron casar mui sen seu grado." [How her father and mother made her marry against her will.]
    "Como a deitaron con o seu novio e Santa Maria non quis que passas[s]’ a ela." [How they made her lie down with her bridegroom but Mary would not allow him to possess her.]
    "Como o novio astroso cuidou fazer algo e fezo nemiga." [How the wicked bridegroom plotted and committed a very shameful deed.]
    "Como ela queixou ao bispo do mal que lli fezera seu esposo." [How she complained to the bishop of the harm her husband had done to her.]
    "Como o bispo a comendou a seu esposo a que o fogo salva queimou todo." [How the bishop sent her back to her husband, who was attacked by St Martial’s fire.]
    "Como os daquela cidad[e] ardian daquel fogo e se fazian levar aa igreja." [How the people of that city were all afflicted with that disease and had themselves taken to the church.]
    "Como caeu fogo na teta daquela a que o marido fora chagar."[How the disease attacked the breast of that girl whose husband had wounded her.]
    "Como Santa Maria ll’ apareceu e lli disse que se fosse deitar ant’ o seu altar." [How Mary appeared to her and told her to lie down in front of the altar.]
    "Como se deitou ant’ o altar e dormeceu e Santa Maria a sãou logo." [How she lay down in front of the altar and went to sleep and Mary cured her at once.]
    "Como se levantou sãa e todos aqueles enfermos que beijava sãavan logo."[How she got up well and all those sick people whom she kissed were cured at once.]

    Captions and English translations come from the Oxford Cantigas de Santa Maria Database: http://csm.mml.ox.ac.uk/index.php?narOption=all&p=poemdata_view&rec=105.

  • Related Resources: Keller, John E. and Cash, Annette Grant. "Love, Lust, and Marriage." In Daily Life Depicted in the Cantigas de Santa Maria. University Press of Kentucky, 1998. Pages 34-37;
    McCormick, Anne Catherine. "Revealing Tales: Sex, Violence, and Gender in the Marian Miracle Collections of Gautier de Coinci, Gonzalo Breceo, and Alfonso X, el Sabio." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1996;
    Montero, Ana Isabel. "Visions of the Lewd: The Latent Presence of the Cantigas de escarnio in the Miniatures of the Cantigas de Santa Maria", Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 45, 1 (2011): 107-131;
    Morente Parra, Maribel. "La imagen de la lepra en las Cantigas de Santa María de Alfonso X El Sabio." Anales de Historia del Arte 17 (2007): 25-45;
    Scarborough, Connie. L. Women in Thirteenth-Century Spain as Portrayed in Alfonso X's Cantigas de Santa Maria. Edwin Meller Press, 1993;