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Berceo's other world: The visions of the “Poema de Santa Oria”

Elizabeth Page Vrooman, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The thirteenth-century poetic dedication to Santa Oria is a vividly portrayed life of a little-known saint. Author, Gonzalo de Berceo abides by tradition in ways that the devotional poem is well-received by his public while presenting innovation which demands the attention of his contemporary audience. The Spanish poet selects a female religious subject and conforms to certain familiar motifs of female spiritual progression simultaneously exploring novel pathways. Dreams and voyages to the other world are decoratively displayed through a schematic of symbols, both bold and subtle. The artistic and picturesque quality to the poem melds elements of literary tradition to create an original voyage of a young saint, a vision and her soul. This study investigates the five visionary journeys presented in the poetic dedication to Oria. Elements of symbolism and imagery, the scripting of sanctity, with regard for female holiness, and the access to and artistic rendering of the other world are identified and located with respect to an opulent hagiographic ancestry. The Poema de Santa Oria is presented in context with other thirteenth-century mester de clerecía poems also offering visionary escapes. The Spanish-language works of shared legacy with Oria offer shades of the heavenly realm yet do not penetrate the other world locations to the extent of visionary literary precedent. The Poema de Santa Oria is positioned within an extensive tradition of hagiographic and visionary legacy descending from both art and letters. It is argued here that as a body, Oria shared language, experience and earthly spaces with her mester de clerecía contemporaries, yet the journeys of her spirit are more closely aligned with earlier literary experiences of divine destinations. Berceo's artistic style is as gentle and deliberate as the characters and landscapes he portrays. Consideration is given to the artist's exploitation of the senses which result in creation of the precious pictorial images governing narration of the saint's visionary world.

Subject Area

Literature|Middle Ages|Romance literature

Recommended Citation

Vrooman, Elizabeth Page, "Berceo's other world: The visions of the “Poema de Santa Oria”" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3193953.