Judith Davis, Professor Emerita of French and Humanities at Goshen College, and Ron Akehurst of the University of Minnesota have recently completed their book containing translations of two 14th-century poems. Published in May by The Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Texts & Studies, the book, titled Our Lady’s Lawsuits, presents first-time English translations of two examples of medieval French religious literature.
The two poems, “L’Advocacie Nostre Dame (Our Lady’s Advocacy)” and “Chapelerie Nostre Dame de Baiex (The Benefice of Our Lady’s Chapel in Bayeux),” were originally written by an anonymous cleric during the first quarter of the 14th century and evoke various contemporary religious disputes.
After studying “L’Advocacie Nostre Dame” for a number of years, Davis and Akehurst decided to translate the work because of the theological debate that is included in it about the fall and redemption of humankind in the context of a lawsuit brought in heaven by Satan.
“Several scholars had written about the poem, but none had noticed the theological importance of the piece or the intricacies of the legal procedures used by Virgin Mary (the defender of the human race) and Satan (who was claiming ‘his share’ of the souls he lost when Christ descended into hell after the crucifixion),” said Davis.
Following “L’Advocacie Nostre Dame” is the poem “Chapelerie Nostre Dame de Baiex.” The poem also features Mary, but this time in the role of a queen defending the rights of her clerics to the benefits of a chapel dedicated to her.
“Historically, [this work] gives readers a glimpse into the tensions that prevailed as pope and monarch sought control over church revenues in the first quarter of the 14th century,” said Davis. “In the work, Mary occasions the death of the two nobles who sue the bishops for the revenues they claim for the king.”
Source: Goshen College