The Mystic Marriage in Christian Art


  • Carolyn D. Muir


Giving corporeal form to an ethereal ideal is by its very nature paradoxical and hence problematic, the more so when the 'holy' is expressed in terms of mystical experiences. Each culture comes to terms with this transformation of the verbal into the visual in different ways through different idioms. The main concern of this paper is with the iconographical representation of mystic marriage in the Christian tradition. Allusions to mystical nuptials can be found in both the Old and New Testaments. References to Israel as Yahweh's bride occur in the writings of Hosea, Jeremiah and other prophets, and the symbol of the bride appears in a Christian context in the writings of Paul and John.1 But these references are laconic, in comparison with the more developed commentaries by medieval theologians on the Song of Songs, the text which most strongly shaped the Christian concept of mystic marriage.