The illustration comes from a late-thirteenth-century manuscript of the Decretum, Gratian's compendium of canon law. The image depicts the centrality of the child, both in this moment of the text and in the ritual to which it alludes. On the right stand the godparents; on the left, the parents and officiating priests. The raised gesture of the child, paralleling or mimicking that of the priest, suggests an active participation of the infant in the ritual. Such an interpretation may problematize the notion of fides aliena, in this case the faith of the godfather who holds the infant. While Catholic polemicists never argued for the active bodily involvement of the infant in the rite, Bernard of Clairvaux did attempt to interpret the cries of the child at the font as evidence of the puerile novitiate's assent and awareness of his dire predicament.

From "A tender age": cultural anxieties over the child in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries by William F. MacLehose

Creator(s)
Subjects
  • European: 400-1400
Citable Link
  • Baptism The illustration comes from a late-thirteenth-century manuscript of the Decretum, Gratian's compendium of canon law. The image depicts the centrality of the child, both in this moment of the text and in the ritual to which it alludes. On the right stand the godparents; on the left, the parents and officiating priests. The raised gesture of the child, paralleling or mimicking that of the priest, suggests an active participation of the infant in the ritual. Such an interpretation may problematize the notion of fides aliena, in this case the faith of the godfather who holds the infant. While Catholic polemicists never argued for the active bodily involvement of the infant in the rite, Bernard of Clairvaux did attempt to interpret the cries of the child at the font as evidence of the puerile novitiate's assent and awareness of his dire predicament.