St. Juliana - West Window Women, Roscrea
Ireland had more than thirty-five monasteries of Cistercian monks before the Reformation, but probably only two of nuns, while there were hundreds of houses of Cistercian nuns on the Continent of Europe. Thirteen nuns are depicted in the window, an extraordinary group of twelfth to thirteenth century women, but we cannot claim Irish identity for any of these.
|St Juliana of Mount CornillonBl. Humbeline,
Bl. Ida of Nivelles|
Examining the group one notices an unusual sight, a nun holding the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament exposed. Who could she be? She is Saint Juliana of Mount Cornillon, in the diocese of Liege in Belgium. She was noted for her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament exposed. Gradually her devotion spread to the locality and then to the whole diocese, just as it has been spreading throughout Ireland in recent years. Liege was the first diocese in Christendom for which the feast of Corpus Christi was approved by Rome. Soon it extended to the whole Church, thanks to the prayer life of Saint Juliana. All this is related in Bis Tertium. The Eucharistic Congress of 2012 will give Irish Cistercians an opportunity to promote devotion to their own Saint Juliana.
Who is the important lady with the crozier, beside Saint Robert? There is a wonderful painting of 1635 entitled "The Holy Nuns of Citeaux," thirty-three of them. All are named and each has some pertinent clue as to her identity. The most important lady right in the centre, with crozier and book in hand, is Blessed Humbeline, sister of Saint Bernard. In fact the whole picture is sometimes referred to as the "The Humbeline Tree." Humbeline was Prioress, not Abbess of Jully, a Benedictine and not Cistercian Priory, so she had neither a crozier nor a white habit. The artist of 1635, however, did not scruple to give both to Saint Bernard's sister, nor did the stained glass artist of 1893, when giving Humbeline the central position in this window.
And then there is the nun in the most honoured place of all, up beside Our Lady with the Divine Child stretching towards her. Bis Tertium tells us of Blessed Ida of Nivelles in South Belgium, to whom the Blessed Virgin entrusted Jesulum, we would say Iosagdn, into her arms. So we conclude that Ida is the nun in the window with her Iosagdn. Ida had besides a special devotion to the Passion of Christ, offering all her anguish for suffering priests and religious. She died in 1231.
The first nun recorded in Bis Tertium is Lutgard of Aywieres in the Netherlands, to whom five pages are devoted. Although much courted in her youth and promised in marriage by her father, she remained a virgin. On the right side of the right light she wears the virgin's crown and gazes lovingly on the crucifix resting on her arm. For the last seven years of her life Lutgard was blind.
Mount Saint Joseph Abbey
Roscra, Co. Tipperary
Roscra, Co. Tipperary