The Abbey of La Trinité in Vendôme, France and the Cult of the Holy Tear: An Exploration of a Multi-Sensory Devotional Experience

Chapter 3

 Gaufrido vindocinorum ad locum translata: The Holy Tear, Crusader Narratives, and the Translation of Christ Relics to the West

The legend of the Holy Tear claims that the relic was brought from Constantinople to Vendôme by Geoffrey Martel, count of Vendôme and founder of the abbey of La Trinité. According to the legend, Geoffrey was given the Holy Tear by the Byzantine emperor for driving away the Turks from Byzantium. In the twelfth century when the legend developed, the Byzantine treasury was considered to be a storehouse of the most precious relics in Christendom, including Passion relics and relics of the True Cross. The legend of the Holy Tear is set within the context of Christ relics coming into Europe from the Holy Land and Constantinople. This chapter explores the influence of Crusades and crusader narratives on the legend of the Holy Tear. I argue that in the twelfth century, stories of crusaders who went to the Holy Land and Constantinople and returned with Christ relics. One of the most significant legends was the legend of Charlemagne. This legend claims that the Byzantine emperor Constantine V asked Charlemagne to help him and the patriarch of Jerusalem conquer the Holy Land. Charlemagne returned to Europe with the right arm of Saint Simeon, thorns from the Crown of Thorns, pieces of the True Cross, the Holy Nail, the Holy Shroud, and Mary’s tunic and donated them to the cathedral of Aachen and the abbey of Saint-Denis. The translatio sequence also builds on the tradition of adventures established by Fulk Nerra, Geoffrey's father and count of Anjou, who went on multiple pilgrimages to Jerusalem. On his second pilgrimage, Fulk returned with a piece of the Holy Sepulcher, which he donated to his abbey of Beaulieu. By integrating crusader legends into the Holy Tear narrative, the monks of La Trinité created the narrative that suited the abbey of La Trinité, which needed to both authenticate the Holy Tear relic, as well as create a noble history of its founder as a pious crusader.

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