The Virgin, vindicator of women

Virgin with Child

This gold polychrome carved figure from the 13th century held profound devotional meaning. It shows the Virgin offering protection and a place for Christ, her child, as the model of a woman who represents all women. Such carved figures subsequently underwent numerous procedures to adapt them to changing esthetic fashions. Some even lost their original polychrome appearance under newer layers of paint. However, thanks to being reused, they managed to survive until today.

Traditionally, the Church has attributed an ambivalent role to women. On the one hand, it considered Eve responsible for the introduction of sin into the world. On the other hand, it defended the figure of the Virgin for its fundamental role in offering Redemption to mankind, through which, the role of women was reasserted. Hundreds of images of Virgins with Child, such as this one, produced in Europe from the 11th century onward demonstrate the predominance of this second, more positive facet of Christian thinking. An important contributor to the expansion of this new role for the Virgin, and hence, for women, was the 12th century Cistercian monk, Bernardo de Claraval.