Meditations on the Life of Christ

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Meditationes uitae Christi (Giovanni de Cauli?), ca. 1478

The Meditations on the Life of Christ (Latin: Meditationes Vitae Christi or Meditationes De Vita Christi) is a fourteenth-century devotional work, later translated into Middle English by Nicholas Love as The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ.


The work's precise date of composition, and its author, has occasioned much debate. Until the late nineteenth century, it was traditionally ascribed to Bonaventure. Once it was realised that the work was not by him, but by an unknown author, the ascription was changed to pseudo-Bonaventure, representing a work previously thought to have been written by Bonaventure, but now of unknown author. It has since been thought to be the work of a Franciscan friar.[1]

The critical editor of the Meditations associated it with a John of Caulibus (Latin: Johannes de Caulibus),[2] an attribution also appearing with the work's most recent English translation.[3] It was also suggested that the work may have been based on a vernacular work, perhaps one written by an Italian nun,[4] but this view has not won wide acceptance.[5] Newly discovered documentary evidence showed that the work was indeed that of a Franciscan, and was written around 1300 by Jacobus de Sancto Geminiano, who is also identifiable as the leader of a revolt of Tuscan spirituals, one of the Fraticelli, in 1312.[6][7]


The work's popularity in the Middle Ages is evidenced by the survival of over two hundred manuscript copies, including seventeen illuminated ones.[8] The popularity of the work increased further with early printed editions, with a surviving Venetian blockbook of 1497.[9]

The work's detailed evocations of moments from the Gospels influenced art, and it has been shown to be the source of aspects of the iconography of the fresco cycle of the Life of Christ in the Scrovegni Chapel by Giotto. It has also been credited with inspiring the great increase in depictions of the Veil of Veronica from the late 14th century.[10]


  1. ^ McNamer, Sarah (1990). "Further evidence for the date of the Pseudo-Bonaventuran Meditationes vitae Christi". Franciscan Studies. 50 (1): 235–261. doi:10.1353/frc.1990.0003.
  2. ^ Stallings-Taney, C. Mary (1997). Iohannis de Caulibus Meditaciones uite Christi, olim S. Bonauenturo attributae. Corpus Christianorum, continuatio mediaevalis. 153. Turnhout: Brepols. ISBN 978-2-503-04532-0.
  3. ^ Taney, Francis X.; Miller, Anne; Stallings-Taney, C. Mary (2000). Meditations on the life of Christ. Asheville, NC: Pegasus Press. ISBN 978-1-889-81823-8.
  4. ^ McNamer, Sarah (October 2009). "The Origins of the Meditationes vitae Christi". Speculum. 84 (4): 905–955. doi:10.1017/S0038713400208142.
  5. ^ Karnes, Michelle (2011). Imagination, meditation, and cognition in the Middle Ages. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-226-42531-3.
  6. ^ Tóth, Peter; Falvay, Dávid (2014). "New Light on the Date and Authorship of the Meditationes vitae Christi". In Stephen Kelly, Ryan Perry (eds.). Devotional culture in late medieval England and Europe: diverse imaginations of Christ's life. Medieval church studies. 31. Turnhout: Brepols. pp. 17–105. doi:10.1484/M.MCS-EB.5.103036. ISBN 978-2-503-54935-4.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  7. ^ Falls, David J. (2016). Nicholas Love's Mirror and late medieval devotio-literary culture: Theological politics and devotional practice in fifteenth-century England. London: Routledge. pp. 39–42. ISBN 978-1-317-08755-7.
  8. ^ Ragusa, Isa; Green, Rosalie B. (1961). Meditations on the life of Christ; an illustrated manuscript of the fourteenth century (2 ed.). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-10031-9.
  9. ^ "Le devote meditatione sopra la passione del nostro signore". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  10. ^ Mâle, Emile (1986). Religious art in France: The late Middle Ages. A study of medieval iconography and its sources (5 ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 26–48. ISBN 978-0-691-09914-9.
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