Book Series Studies in Medieval and Early Renaissance Art History, vol. 70

Saintly Brides and Bridegrooms

The Mystic Marriage in Northern Renaissance Art

Carolyn D. Muir

  • Pages: 198 p.
  • Size:220 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:100 b/w, 17 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2013

  • ISBN: 978-1-905375-87-5
  • Hardback
  • Available


"(...)  Muir deserves much praise for revealing the variety of ways that visual images could evoke mystical experiences among those who longed to marry Christ." (Henry Luttikhuizen, in: HNA Reviews, March 2014)

"Muir's broad study of the iconography of mystic marriage skillfully reveals the rich connections among textual sources, visual imagery and contemporary piety that were at play in the religious culture of pre-Reformation northern Europe." (Catharine Ingersoll, in: Journal of the Northern Renaissance, November 2014,



Building upon recent scholarly interest in mystics and mysticism in late medieval Europe, this book explores the visual representation of female and male saints depicted as brides or bridegrooms of Christ in northern European art from 1300 to 1550. The mystic marriage imagery of St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Agnes of Rome, St. John the Evangelist, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and the Blessed Henry Suso is studied through an analysis of a wide range of paintings, illuminated manuscripts, prints, and sculpture. From these case studies, Muir argues that different visual conventions were used in the art of this period to portray the male and female experiences of mystic marriage and suggests possible reasons for these differences. She further considers why comparatively few mystics were visually portrayed in a mystic marriage with Christ, despite the large number recorded as having had that experience. Providing insights into the meanings of the mystical experience when portrayed in visual terms, this book will appeal to art historians as well as to other medievalists with an interest in the intersections of art, religion, and gender.

Carolyn Diskant Muir is an Associate Professor of art history at the University of Hong Kong. Her research focuses on religious iconography in late medieval and Renaissance Europe, with special attention to the imagery of saints.