Devotion to Mary greatly increased during the Age of Faith. This impetus began in the the monasteries and spread to the people. Many Cathedrals and Churches were named in her honor. The title "Our Lady" came into use. The Medieval aristocratic ladies had to make her one of their own before they could venerate her. Mary was hailed as the "Fair Lady of the Knights". From a simple maiden of Nazareth, she became the "Queen of Heaven" in view of the belief in Mary's Assumption into Heaven. Notice that the stained glass window from the Cloisters, New York, at the Annunciation Mary is already crowned as a queen. In the Medieval world, when a king married his beloved she became a Queen. Likewise, Mary was chosen by God as his bride to bear his Son, so she became a Queen when she agreed to bear his only Son.
We find that Olido of Cluny, fifth abbot of the monastery of Cluny in the 11th Century, dedicated his life to Mary with the following words:
most loving Virgin, Mother of the Savior of all ages,
from, this day onward take me into your service.
And in every circumstance of my life,
be with me always, most merciful Advocatrix.
Except for God, I place nothing above you, and,
as your very own servant,
I freely place myself under your command forever."
(Luigi Gambero, Mary in the Middle Ages, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2005, p. 90)
We find a similar dedication to a lady in courtly love. Was this by accident or can we find a correlation between devotion to Mary and Courtly love? Lyrics of Mary were prior to courtly love so we can expect them to have an influence on courtly love poems. The following is an example by Gillebert de Berneville who describes a lady as more beautiful than creation who is untouched by darkness which implies moral purity which can only be true of the Virgin Mary. (Webpage by Rachael Brawn, Sacred and Secular Elements of Female Personae in Old French Song)
We find that the opposite is also true. King Alfonso of Castille (1221-1284) set Marian religious poetry, part of which was his, to troubadour and troubadour-inspired melodies. These songs adopted the Virgin Mary as the "lady" of traditional love themes. The collection "Cantigas de Santa Maria" is found on the web. Here is a sample.
"Esta é como Santa Maria fez en Rocamador decender
ha candea na viola do jograr que cantava ant' ela.
A Virgen Santa Maria
todos a loar devemos,
cantand' e con alegria,
quantos seu ben atendemos.
E por aquest' un miragre | vos direi, de que sabor
averedes poy-l' oirdes, | que fez en Rocamador
a Virgen Santa Maria, | Madre de Nostro Sennor;
ora oyd' o miragre, | e nos contar-vo-lo-emos. ..."
Why did courtly love arise in the Age of Faith?
Kay Stoner in her paper on "The Enduring Popularity of Courtly Love" maintains that this was the re-emergence of the millenia-old ideals toward the age old goddess Artemis or Diana now directed by the Church toward the Virgin Mary. On the other hand, now that the knights conscious focus was on Mary, a more likely explanation as follows:
"Historically, chivalry began with knights in the middle ages, and was the belief and practice of men who had been influenced and transformed by Christianity. They held dearly ideals such as courtesy, loyalty, protection, gentleness and honor to all, including enemies. A knight sought love and glory, but not selfish love and glory - love and glory for his lady and king first. Since knights devoted themselves to the Virgin Mary, this is probably where their worshipful attitudes toward women originated. Women were literally treated as queens by chivalric men. Knights were respectful, worshipful, and reverent toward women. A knights love for a lady was known as courtly love. To a knight, both love and war constituted the ultimate sacrifice they upheld their ladys honor and her every whim or desire no matter the cost, even if it meant death. It is the stuff of Braveheart." (Gary Wicker, Is Chivalry Dead?)