Alyce Jordan: Rhetorics of Sanctity and Subversion

The following paper will be delivered as part of Questioning Geographies and Temporalities: Postcolonizing Medieval Art on February 12th, at the College Art Association’s 98th Annual Conference in Chicago.


Rhetorics of Sanctity and Subversion: The St. Thomas Becket Windows of Angers and Coutances

Alyce Jordan, Northern Arizona University

Four medieval narrative windows devoted to Thomas Becket survive in French cathedrals. Those of Sens and Chartres celebrate Becket as a defender of church authority and Louis VII as the archbishop’s protector during his exile. Those of Angers and Coutances, by contrast, emphasize Becket’s ties to the Angevin empire, his relationship with Henry II, and events surrounding the Anglo-Norman court. Postcolonial understandings of subversion and hybridity offer a vehicle for investigating the unusual trajectories of these windows, which relate to their occurrence in venues originally comprising part of Henry II’s continental territories, and to the genealogies of their patrons, the bishops of Angers and Coutances, both of whom belonged to onceprominent Anglo-Norman families. These connections suggest that the Angers and Coutances windows may have functioned not only as visual evidence of religious devotion to Becket’s cult but as sites of contested political loyalties and conflicted regional identities.