wonderful blood


When Longinus, the blind soldier who pierced Christ’s side on the Cross, accidentally touched his eyes with Christ’s blood, he began to see (or so the medieval legend goes). Caroline Walker Bynum’s Wonderful Blood in turn makes us see Christ’s blood, and see it everywhere in late-medieval Christianity: it streams from his wound on the Cross; it gushes into the waiting mouth of believers meditating on the Eucharist; it cakes on his forehead in the Passion; it soaks the earth of Golgotha; it miraculously appears when Eucharistic hosts are stolen or abused; it imprints the heart of devoted Christians; it saves, washes and nourishes all; in short, it emerges as the central object of Northern European spirituality in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. For three decades now, Bynum has been pivotal in drawing the attention even of non-specialists to some of the overlooked, sophisticated conceptions that late-medieval piety developed of personal identity, death, redemption, gender, asceticism and the body. She now zooms in on and brilliantly illuminates the equally complex and equally crucial issue of blood, which – as first noted by Kathleen Biddick – had been conspicuous in her medieval material and sources, but absent in her analyses.

more from the TLS here.