Rupert of Deutz

Deacon Peter Gittens

Deacon Peter Gittens, wrote his dissertation on Rupert of Deutz, early twelfth century, at the International Marian Research Institute. Rupert wrote commentaries on Sacred Scripture. He frequently spoke about Mary's role of imparting the true sense of Christ's words to the apostles. Here is his article on the subject.

Rupert of Deutz' Beloved Statue of the Virgin

In the Abbey Church of St. Lawrence in Liège, where Rupert lived as a Benedictine monk, before becoming the Abbot of Deutz in 1120, there was a statue of the Virgin Mary with the boy Jesus sitting on her lap. Dom Rupert prayed daily before this stone-carved statue.

Writers on Liègian history, art and archaeology such as Joseph Daris (1), [see references below], Jean Tritheim (2), Remy Ceillier (3), J. Helbig (4), Jacques Stiennon (5), identify this stone sculpture of the Madonna and child as "La Vierge de Dom Rupert." It is generally held that it was through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God that Rupert, who had a great devotion to Mary, had obtained from God the extraordinary gift of intelligence and the ability to interpret Sacred Scripture.

Rupert himself was convinced that his was a special vocation and unique gift from God to have insight into the meaning of Sacred Scripture. As a result, Rupert of Deutz became the most prolific writer of commentaries on Sacred Scripture. He was also the first person to give the Canticle of Canticles an entirely Marian interpretation. Mary was the bride in the Song of Songs.

Daris furnishes information about this statue of the Virgin before which Rupert used to pray. The Virgin is seated on a cushioned chair. Supported on her knees is the child Jesus, who holds His mother's left breast in is hands. Both of them have haloes around their heads, and they are wearing shoes. This sculpture measures 92 cm. tall, and 64 cm. wide. It is semi-circular at the top, and horizontal at the base. At the top is this inscription from Ezekiel 44:2: "This door will be closed, and will not be opened, and no man will pass through it, because the Lord, the God of Israel entered through it." (Porta haec clausa erit nec aperietur et non transibit per eam vir, quoniam Dominus Deus Israel ingressus est per eam). The Latin inscription as it appears on the sculpture is "+ PORTA HEC CLAVSA ERIT N(on) AP(er)IET(ur) ET N(on) TRANSIBIT P(er) EA(m) VIR Q(uonia)M D(omi)N(u)S D(eu)S ISR(ae)L = INGRESS(us) E(st) P(er) EAM +" (Lower case letters in brackets added to complete the words abbreviated on the sculpture.)

In 1618, Abbot Otger de Loncin erected a marble altar on which this ancient image of the Virgin was placed. He had the following inscription placed at the bottom of the altar: "Audi curiosa et devota posteritas atque aemulare. Periculosae quaeritur scientiae hac in aede terminus; studii modum, fontemque Mariani disce quam malo, dum sagax rogat hic Rupertus conscius ingenii rudis posuit gravamen et animi infusum decus toto perfudit orbe. Nec totum hoc satis. Quae struit Ogerus, templa sint, sint vel domus, cuncta Mariani numinis fulgent ope." In this inscription, Otger de Loncin affirms that it was before this statue of the Virgin that Rupert prayed, and obtained his gift of intelligence. In 1622 Abbot Loncin engaged a sculptor, Jean Valdor, to make a replica of this same statue, but this time he was to include Rupert kneeling in prayer before the Virgin and the child Jesus. The inscription on this new statue reaffirms the intelligence given to Rupert through the intercession of the Virgin Mary: Rupertus, S. Laurentii in suburbio Leodiensi monachus (postea abbas Tuitiensis) studio incensus sacrarum litterarum an M.C.XXI, tardori ingenio remedium orans, a Virgine matre impetrat fusus in preces in ejusdem monasterii ecclesia coram imagine lapidea; cujus hoc aenum apographum, jussa admodum R. et Ampl. D. Otgeri Loncini abbatis S. Laurentii accurate expressum eidem Jo. Valdor D.C.Q., op. cit., pp. 142-144. Also Stiennon, op. cit. p. 82.

This stone sculpture is regarded as one of the oldest monuments of Mosan sculpture still intact today. According to Joseph Brassinè, (6) is also one of the most precious assets of the Archaeological Institute of Liège. Jacques Stiennon speaks of this statue not only as a masterpiece of mosan art, but also as a symbol itself of all the artistic and intellectual activities which made the Abbey of St. Lawrence a particularly active centre of medieval culture. This sculpture, he says, "stirs up in us the same profound feelings with which it explores scientifically, tenderly, and admirably the mystery of femininity and of divine maternity" (op. cit. p. 81).

Daris notes that after Rupert left Liège, this image of the Virgin that Rupert of Deutz venerated so much, La Vierge de Dom Rupert, came to be regarded and celebrated as miraculous. The original La Vierge de Dom Rupert is presently on permanent display in the Muse Curtius in Liège. There is also a replica of this same statue on display in the former Abbey of Saint-Laurent de Liège, now a Military Hospital. I was able to see both statues, the original and the replica, on March 25, 1991 in Liège, Belgium.

Contributed by Peter Gittens, July 29, 1996.

(1) Bulletin De L'Institut Archéologique Liègeois, Tome XIX, 1re. Livraison, (1886), 137-138).
(2) PL. 167.11.
(3) (Auteurs Sacrés et Ecclesiastiques, Tome Seconde, (Paris: Chez Louis Vivès, [1869], p. 377.
(4) L'art mosan depuis l'introduction du christianisme jusquà la fin du XVIIIe siècle, Brussels, [1906], pp. 69-71).
(5) "La Vierge de Dom Rupert", Saint-Laurent de Liège, edited by Rita Lejeune, Liège: Soledi, [1968], p. 81.
(6) La Vierge dite de Dom Rupert,Chronique Archéologique du Pays de Liège, Nov. 1909, p. 90.


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