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2019 Camino Guides

Medieval Christian Automata

Helen1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
#1
For the history buffs on the forum - I was listening to the In Our Time podcast about Automata (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bk1c4d). 15 minutes in they talk briefly about medieval Christian automata, how common moving statues of Mary or Christ were, and how they worked with fish being used to make them cry and so on (the rest of the podcast is a bit heavy going).

I had no idea they were so common. Apparently one of the most famous automata was the ‘miraculous’ Holy Rood of Grace at Boxely Abbey in Kent, UK. "This was a figure of Christ upon the Cross, which tradition says was so cleverly made by an English carpenter, whilst a prisoner in France, that it could nod and wink and move its limbs and frown and smile. The monks encouraged the many pilgrims, who called at the Abbey, to lay down gifts and see, in these movements, signs that they, the pilgrims, might be leading good enough lives to lead them to Heaven. Sadly, it was the monks hiding ‘behind the scenes’ who were pulling strings to achieve the appropriate nods and winks from the figure of Christ and the most favourable signs were given to those pilgrims who had donated the largest gifts. There was a similar ‘miracle’ in the form of a stone figure of a saint, which only the pure of heart could lift. But, of course, for the right gift a hidden monk would press a lever to assist the figure to rise."

This one is later, from 1560 but it's very clever and a bit disturbing:



"
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
#2
For the history buffs on the forum - I was listening to the In Our Time podcast about Automata (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bk1c4d). 15 minutes in they talk briefly about medieval Christian automata, how common moving statues of Mary or Christ were, and how they worked with fish being used to make them cry and so on (the rest of the podcast is a bit heavy going).

I had no idea they were so common. Apparently one of the most famous automata was the ‘miraculous’ Holy Rood of Grace at Boxely Abbey in Kent, UK. "This was a figure of Christ upon the Cross, which tradition says was so cleverly made by an English carpenter, whilst a prisoner in France, that it could nod and wink and move its limbs and frown and smile. The monks encouraged the many pilgrims, who called at the Abbey, to lay down gifts and see, in these movements, signs that they, the pilgrims, might be leading good enough lives to lead them to Heaven. Sadly, it was the monks hiding ‘behind the scenes’ who were pulling strings to achieve the appropriate nods and winks from the figure of Christ and the most favourable signs were given to those pilgrims who had donated the largest gifts. There was a similar ‘miracle’ in the form of a stone figure of a saint, which only the pure of heart could lift. But, of course, for the right gift a hidden monk would press a lever to assist the figure to rise."

This one is later, from 1560 but it's very clever and a bit disturbing:



"
Precursors to the Wizard of Oz.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
#3

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