Ideological Clash in L’Ovide moralisé

Original article

Christine Aubert,

BA, Director, L’espérance Private école de français pour les enfants handicapés auditifs, Orléans, France

Address: 4 Rue Neuve Saint-Aignan, Orléans 45000, France


Article ID: 010210910

Published online: 1 April 2019




Quoting (Chicago style): Aubert, Christine L. 2019. “Collision idéologique dans L’Ovide moralisé.” Beacon J Stud Ideol Ment Dimens 2, 010210910.

Language: French

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“The Art of love,” “Metamorphoses,” “Heroides” and “The Love Elegies” written by Publius Ovidius Naso, represent important formative elements of the Roman Catholic homiletic poem “The Moralised Ovid” (L’Ovide Moralisé) written in the early 14th century by an unknown author in Old French. In the article, the ideological use of allusions and reminiscences of this poem to “The Art of Love” and “The Loves”, is analysed. Based on the comparison of Ovid’s quotes on gender roles and Christian maxims, an attempt is made to evaluate the success of the methodology of citing “The Art of Love” and “The Loves” for the purposes of creating medieval Christian ideological narrations.

Key words: Ovid, Ars Amatoria, The Art of Love, L’Ovide Moralisé, gender roles, ideological reassessment, Christian ideological fable, cultural anachronism

Extended summary in English


In medieval Roman Catholic homiletic literature, since the 14th century a tradition originated that utilised the works of ancient authors for creating Christian ideological stories and parables. At the same time, the logic of Roman Catholic writers was completely different from that of the Church Fathers and apologists of the first centuries.


In antiquity, Christian writers quoted heathen classical authors very widely. However, they never tried to present them as the forerunners or harbingers of Christianity. Any Church Father, Church writer or apologist always understood that he is quoting a pagan. Therefore, a Christian interpreter was completely aware of the limits of what was “permissible” in such a citation. Pagan authors did not form the basis of ideological narratives in early Christian times. But during the late Middle Ages, an unexpected hermeneutic revolution happened. Many Roman Catholic authors began to portray Homer, Euripides, Aeschylus, Virgil, and Horace as hidden preachers of divine truth, some sort of "Christians before the Christ.”


L’Ovide Moralisé (“The Moralised Ovid”) is the most serious reinterpretation of Ovid in the Christian ideological narrative. This is a huge Roman Catholic homiletic work written in verse in the first half of the fourteenth century by an unknown author in Old French and dedicated to Joanne, Countess of Burgundy and d’Artois. The author was a highly educated Christian writer. Most likely, he was a representative of the Roman Catholic clergy of mid to high level. This conclusion can be made from the fact that L’Ovide Moralisé was often used in Church oral and written sermons of the Roman Catholic clergy in the 14th-15th centuries.


The author of L’Ovide Moralisé uses a reinterpretation, a "secondary reading" of Ovid as part of his ideological narrative about gender equality. Why could the Roman Catholic Church in France turn to composing such an ideological narrative in the fourteenth century?


I hypothesise that during the late Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church in France made a significant shift towards gender equality in comparison with the 11th-13th centuries. The long Crusades and the Hundred Years’ War (especially the former) caused the huge male depopulation in France since they took the lives of a huge number of knights and warriors of lower levels. Women in the fourteenth century became a significant majority of the French population. The difference could reach up to 20 per cent. According to some estimates, there were about 20 per cent difference between male and female population in France during the late Middle Ages. I believe that for this reason, the ideological work of the Roman Catholic Church was redirected towards women to a great deal. During that time, woman was gradually transformed from a mere "slave of man", a heroine of courtly idolatry, into a religiously emancipated creature. Woman started to be treated as a legitimate listener of the God’s word. Ovid, with his love poems, could be a very useful source for including women in the ideological context in which women were portrayed as beings equal to men.


The author of L’Ovide Moralisé seemed to make that ideological task. Though he was not the only medieval writer who reinterpreted Ovid – among these writers, there were Fulgence, bishops Theodolph and Arnulph, secular poets Pierre Bersuire, John of Garland, Giovanni del Virgilio, Dante Alighieri at last – he turned out to be the best in achieving the ideological goal of involving ancient heathen texts in the context of social development. The ideological analysis of L’Ovide Moralisé may assist us in understanding social contexts of rethinking secular non-Christian poetry within Christianity for uniting people around a definite ideology and making predesigned shifts in social structure of the existing social groups.

© 2019 Christine Aubert.
Licensee The Beacon: Journal for Studying Ideologies and Mental Dimensions.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( that permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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