“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Who Was Jesus?


Medieval legends suggest that Ismeria, a descendent of the tribe of King David, was the grandmother of the Virgin Mary Discovery News

The great-grandmother of Jesus was a woman named Ismeria, according to Florentine medieval manuscripts analyzed by a historian.

The legend of St. Ismeria, presented in the current Journal of Medieval History, sheds light on both the Biblical Virgin Mary's family and also on religious and cultural values of 14th-century Florence.

"I don't think any other woman is mentioned" as Mary's grandmother in the Bible, Catherine Lawless, author of the paper, told Discovery News. "Mary's patrilineal lineage is the only one given."

"Mary herself is mentioned very little in the Bible," added Lawless, a lecturer in history at the University of Limerick. "The huge Marian cult that has evolved over centuries has very few scriptural sources."

Lawless studied the St. Ismeria story, which she said has been "ignored by scholars," in two manuscripts: the 14th century "MS Panciatichiano 40" of Florence's National Central Library and the 15th century "MS 1052" of the Riccardiana Library, also in Florence.

"According to the legend, Ismeria is the daughter of Nabon of the people of Judea, and of the tribe of King David," wrote Lawless. She married "Santo Liseo," who is described as "a patriarch of the people of God." The legend continues that the couple had a daughter named Anne who married Joachim. After 12 years, Liseo died. Relatives then left Ismeria penniless.

"I'm pretty sure one is supposed to believe that it was either her dead husband's relatives or, less likely, her natal family," Lawless said. "The family of the Virgin Mary would not have been cast in such a light."

Ismeria then goes to a hospital where she finds refuge. She is said to perform a miracle, filling a shell with fish to feed all of the hospital's patients. After this miracle she prays to be taken away from the "vainglory of this world."

After God called her to "Paradise," a rector at the hospital informed the Virgin Mary and Jesus of her passing. They departed for the hospital with the 12 Apostles, Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary Cleophas. There they paid honor to St. Ismeria.

The legend marks a shift in belief, as sanctity was previously more often earned by blood martyrdom rather than piety. Lawless credits that, in part, to the rise in the belief of Purgatory, an interim space between heaven and hell where sins could be purged.

"The more sins purged in one's lifetime (through penitence, good works, etc.) the less time needed in purgatory -- for either oneself or one's family," she said.

She also pointed out that "the great bulk of Christian martyrs of the west died under the Roman persecutions, which ended in the fourth century."

While the author of the Ismeria legend remains unknown, Lawless thinks it could have been a layperson from Tuscany. During the medieval period, "the story may have been used as a model for continent wifehood and active, charitable widowhood in one of the many hospitals of medieval Florence."

"The grandmother of the Virgin was no widow who threatened the patrimony of her children by demanding the return of her dowry, nor did she threaten the family unit by remarrying and starting another lineage," she added. "Instead, her life could be seen as an ideal model for Florentine penitential women."

George Ferzoco, a research fellow at the University of Bristol, commented that the new paper analyzing the legend is "brilliant" and "reveals an exciting trove of religious material from late medieval and renaissance Florence, where many manuscripts were written specifically for females."

"What is so striking about St. Ismeria," Carolyn Muessig of the University of Bristol's Department of Theology and Religious Studies told Discovery News, "is that she is a model for older matrons. Let's face it: Older female role models are hard to come by in any culture."

"But the fact that St. Ismeria came to the fore in late medieval Florence," Muessig concluded, "reveals some of the more positive attitudes that medieval culture had towards the place and the importance of women in society."


  1. He was a Jewish rabbi of unknown background who told great stories.

    He was a narrator.

  2. His great grandmother certainly hasn' t been identitfied.

    He hasn't even been identified.

    He was a real human being made into a myth

    which is the way and truth of life.

    I'd just like to sleep in a hut by that watery lake with Melody.

    But it looks like I ain't gonna get it.

  3. The word Wanekea which the City oked as one of my street names, has, I think, the very same meaning as "Jesus the Risen Christ" in an older and not forgotten context.

    Narrative is great.

    'There was a brown eyed girl, and a blue eyed boy, who lived together alone in a hut by the hungry everlasting sea, and each morning they arose and began to.....'

  4. Narrative is at it's best an effort to lead to a higher level.

    That's who Jesus was, a man attempting to lead to a higher level.

  5. the brown eyed girl was taken by force from a rib of the blue eyed boy, so as to force life to go forward, and it hurt, agonizing, and he wanted his rib back, so to reconvene an original oval coherence, everlasting

    there is narrative....

    I'm staying at a motel tonight, nice one, much activity, lots of laughter, and it is very very cold here tonight, lots of holiday decorations, and I was just talking to a guy from where I used to farm, up by Grangeville, Idaho, nice fellow, it was fun to talk with him

    Happy Holidays to all.....

    (we shared a smoke together)


    I think I'll go have a drink, where all the singing is.....

  6. I was chauffeured to and from my annual Christmas party crashing…nuff said.

  7. Who was Jesus?

    So, you would like me to watch a 46 minute video of Jesus right now? Yeah, okay do you know what kind of day I had.

  8. Least you don't drink and drive.


    The guy from Grangeville is asleep on the couch over there.

    They let him stay the night, cause it's so cold ourside.