Recent research into the texts, practices, and visual culture of late medieval devotional life in western Europe has clearly demonstrated the centrality of devotions to Christ’s Passion. The situation in Castile, however, could not have been more different. Prior to the final decades of the fifteenth century, individual relationships to Christ established through the use of “personalized” Passion imagery simply do not appear to have been a component of Castilian devotional culture.
In Imagining the Passion in a Multiconfessional Castile, Cynthia Robinson argues that it is necessary to reorient discussions of late medieval religious art produced and used in Castile, placing Iberian devotional art in the context of Iberian devotional practice. Instead of focusing on the segregation of the religious lives of members of late medieval Iberia’s much-discussed “Three Confessions” (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), Robinson offers concrete evidence of the profound impact of each sect on the other two.
Imagining the Passion in a Multiconfessional Castile ranges across traditional disciplinary and cultural divides. Robinson considers altarpieces that differ radically from their European contemporaries; architectural ornament; a rare series of narratives of Christ’s life; indulgenced prayers; Muslim and Jewish mystical texts; lives, hours, devotions, and Psalters of and to the Virgin which appear to be uniquely Iberian and find resonances in both Hebrew and Arabic mystical literature; sacred gardens and trees in both textual and visual culture from Muslim, Christian, and Jewish contexts; and preaching manuals written by converted Jews. Together, these texts and images offer striking evidence of the plurality of late medieval Iberian religious life, both within the supposed boundaries of a specific religion and in terms of each culture’s relationship with the other.