Skip to main content
Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary (PEMM) project

Using the PEMM Website

Students and scholars can conduct fascinating research using the PEMM website. We explain how to use the various pages below, including the meaning of such filter terms as "Most Read in Church" or "Print Only."

Interested in African folktales about the Virgin Mary? Go to the PEMM Stories page to see the titles of over 1,000 stories.

Interested in African manuscripts with stories about the Virgin Mary? Go to the PEMM Manuscripts page to learn more about almost 1,000 manuscripts.

Interested in African paintings of the Virgin Mary? Go to the PEMM Paintings page to see information about over 2,500 paintings. To reprint or reuse a painting from the website, please contact the repository that actually holds the manuscript. PEMM does not have any manuscripts itself; it only displays others collections. The repository is listed under each painting on its dedicated page (what we call the painting detail page). You can then go to our List of Repositories page to find out how to contact them. No images on the site can be used for commercial purposes without asking for permission from the repository.

Interested in using our data? See our Zenodo uploads, latest version is from August 2023. 

Interested in giving feedback about how the site is working? Go to the PEMM Feedback Form.

Intellectual property. Please note that our translations are freely available online and can be used for reading and teaching. However, it is prohibited for anyone to reproduce any of these translations in a print book (or any other item that will be sold, such as an audio book) without the express written permission of the PEMM project and the translators.

General Search

PEMM does not provide a global search; you can only search within stories, or manuscripts, or paintings. If you need to search the whole site, you can use Google Advanced Search for some additional searches across pages.

Stories Search Index page

Meaning of Table Heads

Story Index Table Heads

Story ID column

The unique identifying number that PEMM gave to each Marian miracle story.
Note: This number is not random. In the case of the first 643 stories in the PEMM database, the number is from Macomber's handlist. His numbering principle was to number each common story according to their most standard order in manuscripts. So, the stories that Macomber numbered as 1-A, 1-B, 1-C, 2, and 3, are those he believed to most commonly appear first, second, and third in manuscripts. We have more data, however, and do not entirely agree with his conclusions. For instance, what he gave the Story ID number of 13, the Bishop Hildephonsus of Toledo story, actually ranks first in most manuscripts. So, we place it first. We kept his numbers, but ordered the first 350 stories or so by what we have found to be their most standard order in manuscripts. Of course, such ranking only works for common stories; the unique stories are numbered in somewhat chronological order. We have not ordered the stories chronologically because we do not have precise years of origin; rather, hundreds of stories have a century-long range and would have to be numbered randomly. 

Story's Date of Origin

An estimate of when each Marian story was written down in Africa, based on when it first appears in the PEMM manuscripts.

Manuscripts with Story

The total number of PEMM manuscripts in which each particular story appears.

Paintings of Story

The total number of paintings in PEMM manuscripts that illustrate each particular story.

Type of Mary Story

Whether the story's events happened during Mary's life or after her death.


The major topics in each particular story.

Story title

The unique title that PEMM gave to each Marian miracle story (since they do not originally have titles).

Meaning of Filter Wording


Meaning of Filter Labels

Story Index Filter Labels


With Paintings

Click on to display only those stories that are illustrated. Only about 10 percent of the Miracles of Mary stories are illustrated.

With Illustrated

Click on to display only those stories that are frequently illustrated. Only about 33 stories are frequently illustrated in Miracles of Mary stories manuscripts.

Manuscripts Search Index page

Using the Site2

Date Manuscript Created

The date when the manuscript was created (if a range is given, the date is estimated).

Manuscript's Number of Stories

The number of stories that appear in the manuscript.

Manuscript's Number of Unique Stories

The number of stories that appear only in one manuscript and no other.

Manuscript's Place of Origin

The city or region in Ethiopia, Eritrea, or Egypt where the manuscript was created.

Manuscript's Number of Paintings

The number of paintings that appear in the manuscript.

Manuscript's Language

The language in which the manuscript is written, either Gəˁəz or Arabic.

Link to Manuscript Online

The link to the online copy of the manuscript, if available.

Manuscript's Digital Quality

The digital quality of manuscripts posted online, whether high (scanned in color from the original) or low (scanned from lack and white microfilm).

Manuscript Name

This is the full name that PEMM gave to this manuscript.

Paintings Search Index page

Paintings Index Page screenshot

Manuscript detail page

Story ID
Floating description: The unique identifying number that PEMM gave to each Marian miracle story.

Story Title
Floating description: The unique title that PEMM gave to each Marian miracle story (since they do not originally have titles).

Location in MS
Floating description: The page on which a particular story starts in this manuscript (f. stands for folio, s. stands for scan)

Number in MS
Floating description: The place of a particular story among all the stories in this manuscript.

Story Recension
Floating description: An earlier manuscript in which this version (recension) of this particular story appears.

Floating description: The unique first line of the story, used to identify which story it is.

Other Aspects
Floating description: If a story in our database appears only once, in this manuscript, we mark it below, with a ☆ in the last column. If a story has a hymn at the end, we mark it with a ♫. If we are not entirely sure if this story is the one we say it is, we mark it with (?)

PEMM Incipit Tool

The PEMM Incipit Tool is a powerful aid to cataloging Täˀammərä Maryam manuscripts. To use this tool:

  1. Go to the folio of a new story in a Täˀammərä Maryam manuscript.
  2. Identify the story's incipit. An incipit is the unique opening line of a story, a string of words, ten to twenty in a row. Most Täˀammərä Maryam manuscript have the same exact praises for Mary in the first one to three sentences of every story, so those are not an incipit. That is, they are not the string of unique words that identify the miracle. An incipit in Täˀammərä Maryam often starts with the equivalent of “There was a certain man…”
  3. Type the Geʿez (Ethiopic, fidəl) characters of your manuscrpt's incipit into the search bar and click on Search.
  4. Use the results to identify the story in the PEMM database that best matches the story in your manuscript. You can search all 20,000+ incipits in the PEMM database (select Search All Incipits) or you can search only 1,000 incipits, the single most representative incipit for each story (select Search Canonical Incipits).
  5. The story id is on the left, and you can click on it to read the story and see if it is a good match.

Interpreting the results takes skill.

If the story is common, and appears in many manuscripts, then the tool works really well. You should get a string of results with the same id number over and over and high scores (over 50), as you see below. The story in your manuscript is almost certainly PEMM Story ID 124.

124 Incipit Tool Search

If the story is rare, and appears in five manuscripts or less, then the results may not seem as clear, since the tool has five or fewer incipits to compare yours with.

In the case below, the first result of Story ID 1321 has a very high match score (75), and the following ones, mostly for Story ID 121, have very low scores, 9 and under. So, even though Story ID 121 showed up more, it is probably not the correct match for the story in your manuscript. Probably, the story in your manuscript is Story ID 1321. To make sure, read the Story ID's PEMM page, which in this case is PEMM Story ID 1321.

1321 Incipit Tool Search

The first iteration of the PEMM Incipit Tool was developed by Rebecca Koeser with Nick Budak of the Princeton Center for Digital Humanities to allow users to catalog miracle stories properly across manuscripts. Information about it is available at Github. The second iteration, the current one, was developed by 7Span.

pricenton ethiopian eritrean & egyptian miracles of marry project

The Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary (PEMM) project is a comprehensive resource for the 1,000+ miracle stories written about and the 2,500+ images painted of the Virgin Mary in these African countries, and preserved in Geʿez between 1300 and the present.

Princeton Department of Comparative Literature 133 East Pyne, Princeton, NJ 08540

Princeton Department of African American Studies Morrison Hall, Princeton, NJ 08540

© 2024 The Trustees of Princeton University