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Stories of the Rose presents a compelling and readable history of the rosary in its formative years. It explores the many spiritual, literary, and artistic dimensions of the rosary and explains how and why it became so popular on the eve of the Protestant Reformation. In its most basic form, the rosary is a series of prayers and meditations designed to bring the worshiper closer to God through the Virgin Mary. But, as Anne Winston-Allen shows, there was no single text of the rosary prayer: different versions, some in German and some in Latin, evolved over the course of the late Middle Ages as communities of believers experimented with their own forms. She also finds that rosary prayers were influenced by secular, even courtly literature that used images of the rose and rose garden; in the rosary, Mary is the Mystical Rose. She finds that the rosary was particularly suited to the needs of lay faithful, providing spiritual help that could be mediated by associations of laypersons and dispensed outside the corporate liturgical offices of the church. In an age when religious piety was bursting beyond the traditional bounds of church and monastery, the rosary became a "layperson's breviary" or a "common man's hours." Stories of the Rose elegantly shows us how a religious practice such as the rosary, whose form may seem fixed, actually grew and changed gradually in response to the very people who were practicing it. In this, it shows the great vitality that existed in personal religious devotion on the eve of the Reformation and also helps to explain the continuing appeal of the rosary in the present day.
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"Winston-Allen's intriguing work sheds light on [the rosary's] beginnings and explores how the rosary survived when many other devotional exercises of the Middle Ages did not, why it became so popular (even at the height of the Protestant Reformation), and how it was changed over time by writers, worshipers, and religious reformers. This fascinating history provides not only much detail but also valuable insight into the continuing appeal of the rosary."
"Winston-Allen has done her research well. The book makes for fascinating and educational reading and gives an important dimension to the rosary as we honor it today."
"The author's research breaks new ground by investigating non-literary materials and the vernacular texts, especially German. She also extensively studied the artistic and other popular media of the 15th century. A comprehensive, integrative investigation that should appeal to all interested in Catholic religious practices and the cultural milieu of the Middle Ages."
"Few of the devotional exercises arising in the late Middle Ages have been as popular, long-lasting, and influential as the rosary. Anne Winston-Allen shows us where the rosary came from and how it was adapted over time by writers, worshipers, and religious reformers. This fascinating and carefully researched book will interest a wide variety of readers."
--Richard Kieckhefer, Northwestern University
"The innovative work of Anne Winston-Allen proves without a doubt that Eamon Duffy's revisionist views of traditional religion have not fallen on deaf ears. . . . Winston-Allen pushes studies of Lollardy, witchcraft, magic, and heresy to the side and instead turns to the predominant symbol of late medieval piety: the rosary. In this unique examination of a religious object and its concomitant spirituality, she reveals significant and heretofore disregarded aspects of lay piety as it relates to gender, individuality, and lay initiative. . . . Winston-Allen brings this meaningful aspect of lay piety to the attention of English historians in a style that is readily accessible to both the academic and popular audiences."
--Sara M. Butler, Canadian Journal of HistoryFrom the Back Cover:
For centuries, the rosary has been one of the most popular expressions of religious devotion among Roman Catholics, but it origins remain obscure. Stories of the Rose presents a compelling and readable history of the rosary in its formative years. It explores the many spiritual, literary, and artistic dimensions of the rosary and explains how and why it became so popular on the eve of the Protestant Reformation.
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