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Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary (PEMM) project

Miracles of Mary Story Order of Stories in Manuscripts

By PEMM Staff

October 6, 2023

PEMM was launched to collect information about the order in which Ethiopian Miracles of Mary stories appear in manuscripts. Is the order of Miracles of Mary stories within manuscripts random?

Is there a standard order of stories (e.g., the same 33 first and in the same order; foreign first, indigenous second; early ones first, later ones second)? Does that order change by century or region? Which stories do most manuscripts begin with? Which stories do most manuscripts end with? Relationships: Which stories appear most often with which other stories in the same manuscript? Where in manuscripts is each story most likely to appear (e.g., early, middle, late)? Is there a standard collection of stories (e.g., the same 33 told in most manuscripts)? Does the standard change by century or region?

The story that most commonly appears first in later manuscripts is

Bishop Hildephonsus of Toledo who collected stories and compiled them into the Book of the Miracles of the Virgin Mary

In Europe, according to Metzler, there were several principles of order. We have not tested them for Ethiopic manuscripts.

First, "One of the ways collections of exempla tales were organized was by alphabetization. A key word, which represented the tale was chosen and the tales were then sequenced according to where their key word fell in the alphabet. The Miracle of the Pregnant Abbess was represented by the key word abbess (or its appropriate translation), meaning the tale is consistently arranged at the beginning of the large collections that are organized in alphabetical order." 

Second, "The collection contains about one thousand tales (depending on manuscript), all of which are
grouped into 122 thematic bundles and then arranged alphabetically. The Miracle of the Pregnant Abbess appears in a bundle of miracles of the Virgin which falls under the rubric 'Virgo Dei Genetrix.' ... [Elsewhere,] the tale appears specifically grouped among miracles of the Virgin that all fall under the rubric 'de misericordia' [mercy]. [In yet others, under the topic of] the spiritual gift of piety."

Metzler, Eric T. 2001. ""The Miracle of the Pregnant Abbess": Texts and Contexts of a Medieval tale of Sexuality, Spirituality, and Authority." Ph.D., Indiana University, page 39. 

[The data for this research post has been collected, but the post has not been written.]

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.

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