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images, Gautier de Coinci, Legend of Theophile


This article examines the use of the Old French word “ymage” in Gautier de Coinci’s early thirteenth-century Legend of Theophile. Gautier is the first author to write a version of the legend that includes an ymage, designating a material representation of the Virgin. Far from a subtle insertion, he mentions the term ten times, during every pivotal moment of the story, when terrestrial and celestial spheres collide. Critics acknowledge the centrality of Gautier in representing this revolutionary French period, during which time attitudes concerning ritualistic images were in a state of flux; yet, Gautier’s repetitive and groundbreaking use of the word ymage in this legend has not been fully explored. In both a diachronic and synchronic analysis, I demonstrate how this author represents a changing cultural context by evolving a popular legend with the incorporation of a mere detail, but one that transforms a key Christian ritual: prayer. His ymage, a material object, thrusts the entire momentum of the legend in a new direction, because the relationship between Heaven and Earth moves from inward communication to outward adoration of an ymage.