1 Introduction reprinted with kind permission of Mystics Quarterly 17:3 (1991): 125–136, where it appeared as “The Virgin and the Visionary in the Revelation of St. Elizabeth.”
2 For an account of the manuscripts, and editions of the Latin and Catalan versions, see L. Oliger, “Revelationes B. Elisabeth: Disquisitio critica una cum textibus latino et catalaunensi,”Antonianum 1(1928): 24–83. One Middle English version was printed by Wynkyn de Worde (STC 24766 and 24766.3) in ?1493 and ?1500; it has been edited by C. Horstmann, Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen 76 (1886): 392–400. Another, independent, version is extant in Cambridge University Library MS Hh. 1. 11, ff. 122r–127v. Sarah McNamer is editing both Middle English versions for the Heidelberg Middle English Texts series. The Revelations have attracted virtually no scholarly attention, except in the context of The Book of Margery Kempe. See Roger Ellis, “Margery Kempe’s Scribe and the Miraculous Books” (forthcoming).
3 See Alexandra Barratt, “Cherchez la femme: The Revelations of St. Elizabeth of Hungary,” forthcoming.
4 All quotations are from the copy of the Wynkyn de Worde edition held in the Cambridge University Library. (Until now, there had been no modern English translation of the Latin versions of the Revelations, as it has not achieved the status of a “spiritual classic,” and in any case the Latin textual tradition would require further study before one could be made. The hypothetical Middle High German original, if it existed, has not survived.) As the incunable has been somewhat carelessly typeset, it has been emended where necessary: emended forms are enclosed within square brackets. Abbreviations, except for the ampersand, have been expanded without notice; punctuation, word division, and capitalisation have been preserved. The Latin, when quoted in round brackets to elucidate the Middle English or justify its emendation, is taken from Cambridge Magdalene College MS F.4.45 (not listed by Oliger), which represents the version from which both Middle English translations were made. Note by the Editor of Mystics Quarterly (i.e. Valerie M. Lagorio): “To render the quotations somewhat more readable, minor modern spellings have been used, mostly the substitution of u for v and v for u.”
5 Translated by Alexandra Barratt, Cistercian Fathers Series, Kalamazoo, 1991.
6 See Klaus Grubmuller, “Die Viten der Schwestern von Töß und Elsbet Stagel (Überlieferung und literarische Einheit)” Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur 98 (1969): 171–204.
7 See Das Leben der Schwestern zu Töß beschrieben von Elsbet Stagel, samt der Vorrede von Johannes Meier und dem Leben der Princessin Elisabet von Ungarn, ed . F. Vetter, Deutsche Texte des Mittelalters VI (Berlin, 1906) 98–121; French translation in Jeanne Ancelet-Hustache, “Vie d’Elisabeth de Hongrie Vierge de l’Ordre des Prêcheurs” in La Vie mystique d’un monastère de Dominicaines au moyen âge (Paris, 1928) 169–221.
8 The Liber Celestis of St. Bridget of Sweden, ed. Roger Ellis, Early English Text Society os 291, 86/29,186/18 etc. (Oxford, 1987).
9 Maureen Bell, George Parfitt and Simon Shepherd (Boston, 1980), 253.
10 Compare the shifts in the use of personal pronouns in the following passage from The Book of Margery Kempe: “than sche seyd to the Bysshop, ‘I prey yow late myn husbond come to yowr presens, & ye shal heryn what he wyl sey.’ & so hyr husbond cam before the Bysshop … & the Bysshop dede no more to us at that day, save he mad us rygth good cher and seyd we were rygth wolcome. Another day this creatur cam to mete at the request of the Bysshop. And sche saw hym geven… xii j pens & xiij lovys wyth other mete” (The Book of Margery Kempe, ed. S.B. Meech and H.E. Allen, Early English Text Society os 212, 34 (London, 1940, repr. 1961) 18–30. Editor’s note: Spelling slightly modernized.
11 Compare Caroline Walker Bynum: “Mysticism was more central in female religiosity and in female claims to sanctity than in men’s … Women’s reputations for holiness were more often based on supernatural, charismatic authority, especially visions and supernatural signs,” in Christian Spirituality: High Middle Ages and Reformation, ed. by Jill Riatt (New York, 1987) 131. Earlier in the same article (123) Bynum picks out “a bypassing of clerical authority” as one of the “basic themes found in women’s religiosity” (123).
12 This is the standard gesture of feudal submission in the Middle Ages, with which a vassal pledged his fealty to his feudal lord, or monks and nuns pledged loyalty to their superiors.
13 That is, the “Hail Mary.”
14 10 February. Scholastica (c. 480–c. 543) was St Benedict’s sister and was traditionally regarded as the first Benedictine nun.
15 That is, Christmas Eve (December 24).
16 It was widely believed in the Middle Ages that Mary’s parents had offered her to the Temple at an early age and that she had grown up there until she reached puberty and was married to Joseph. This idea ultimately derived from a second-century apocryphal gospel, the Protoevangelium.
17 Here Elizabeth alludes to the Immaculate Conception in the strictest sense (the belief the Virgin was not only free from actual sin but was conceived without the taint of original sin), or possibly to the modified form held by St Thomas Aquinas, that the Virgin, if tainted with original sin at the time of her conception or quickening, had been cleansed from it before she was born. In the Middle Ages this was a subject of some controversy.
18 The seven petitions that follow are structured on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, derived from Is 11:2–3.
19 The Latin MS here reads humilitatem (i.e. humility); I have conjecturally emended it to uoluntatem.
20 The Latin MS here reads sciencia, which must be corrupt.
21 That is, in saying “Hail Mary, full of grace,” Gabriel was recognising the graces bestowed on her.
22 The Latin MS reads magnum here, clearly a mistake for manum.
23 This was the year of St Elizabeth of Thuringia’s death.