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

Chapter 4

This chapter explores the containment of Christ's tear within a crystal vessel. The relic first appears in the abbey's charters in the twelfth century, shortly after the abbacy of Geoffrey of Vendôme. While none of the charters describe the relic's appearance, a stained-glass image of the relics and archival evidence suggest the liquid teardrop was encased in a piece of rock crystal. I explore the materiality of rock crystal as a heaven-made material and the container of the Holy Tear as an acheiropoieton, fashioned in heaven by an angel. The entrapment of the Holy Tear posed a particular relationship between liquid and container, as the tear could not exist without the vase. Thus, the vase itself became a sacred relic. 

Here we present the archival evidence relating to the Holy Tear’s appearance and materiality. The archival record is  post medieval, either during the Maurist period of the abbey or after the French Revolution, when the abbey’s treasury was inventoried by the State. Thus, the modern documents here are mostly interested in the weight and cost of the materials, not the appearance.

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