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.
Massacre The Massacre of the Innocents: The illustration comes from an historiated initial in a late thirteenth-century Burgundian breviary associated with the abbey of St.-Bénigne in Dijon. The massacre often appeared in painted and sculpted cycles of the Infancy of Christ, especially from the twelfth century onward. This particular image portrays the brutality and extreme emotion of the scene in a compact format. The scene is reduced to four characters, King Herod ordering the massacre, a soldier committing the atrocity, an infant being impaled, and a mother crying over the event. It illustrates a sermon for the Feast of the Innocents.
Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life.
New York: Random House, 1965.
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