As a contribution to the Common Knowledge symposium “Caroline Walker Bynum across the Disciplines,” this essay traces the origins and development of Bynum's interest in the material artifacts of late medieval Christian spirituality. The author narrates these evolutions through analyses of a single object, the Louvain beguine cradle from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The essay begins by treating Bynum's research from the 1980s to the early 1990s as moving toward a “visual theology” and then charts her movement from an interest in matter to an interest in materiality over the second half of the 1990s and first decade of the twenty‐first century. Finally, the author uses the Louvain cradle's appearance in Bynum's most recent book, Dissimilar Similitudes, to articulate and reflect upon her contribution to material culture studies.

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