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Aldegund of Maubeuge, vision, Christianity


Abbess Aldegund of Maubeuge, in dictating her visions to the cleric Subnius in her later years, recalled a vision she had experienced in her youth. She saw herself entering a heavenly mansion, richly bejeweled and "steeped" with Christ's "sweet odor." The vision had made a great impression on her. She accredited it with having matured her spiritual understanding, for having first misunderstood the vision's meaning, she now understood it, "the scales having fallen from her eyes." Yet as historians we are not as fortunate as Aldegund claimed to be. Many centuries removed from the events of the seventh century, the scales of subsequently imposed interpretation obscure our own vision of the abbess's experience. For between Aldegund's recollection of her formative vision and the written account that has come down to us, much time elapsed in which there was both opportunity and pious motive for revisiting and recasting the vision's meaning and for interpreting its potent central image. Yet Aldegund's description of her celestial mansion is like a pentimento: we can glimpse beneath later editing and sensibilities underlying images that are the remnant of earlier ways of thinking and earlier associations from a time when what passed for a "Christian" image was not rigorously defined. Aldegund's vision exposes the great cultural richness that the image of the celestial mansion held both for classical writers and Christians in late antiquity.