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Female Sanctity
in the Later Middle Ages:
A Bibliography

Compiled by Thomas Head
Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

Contents: 1) General studies of women and late medieval Chrsitianity; 2) Hagiographic composition; 3) Beguines; 4) Women in the mendicant orders; 5) Clare of Assisi; 6) Other female mendicant saints; 7) Female religious movements in Italy; 8) Sources in translation.

General studies of women and late medieval Christianity.

Two works which have charted the study of women and sanctity are the pioneering research of Herbert Grundmann, Religious Movements in the Middle Ages, trans. Steven Rowan (German original, 1935; Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1995) and the more recent work of Caroline Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987). Also see her essays published in Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (Boston, 1990).

For bibliographic guidance beyond what is provided below, see Susan Stuard (ed.), Women in Medieval History and Historiography (Philadelphia, 1987), pp. 132-84; Joyce Salisbury, Medieval Sexuality. A Research Guide (Garland Medieval Bibliographies, 5; New York, 1990); Anne Echols and Marty Williams, Women in Medieval Times: An Annoted Bibliography (New York, 1992); Anne Echols and Marty Williams (eds.), An Annotated Index of Medieval Women (Markus Weiner, New York). Edith Ennen, The Medieval Woman, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Oxford, 1990) provides an adequate summaries of the place of women in medieval society. For an excellent summary of women as writers in the twelfth and thirteenth century, see Peter Dronke, Women Writers of the Middle Ages. A Critical Study of Texts from Perpetua (+203) to Marguerite Porete (+1310) (Cambridge, 1984).

Hagiographic composition.

On the relation between female religious (among them saints) and their confessors and the ways that relationship helped to form the hagiographic and historical record, see Brian McGuire, "Holy Women and Monks in the Thirteenth Century: Friendship or Exploitation?" Vox Benedictina, 6 (1989), pp. 343-73; Gabor Klaniczay, "Legends as Life-Strategies for Aspirant Saints in the Later Middle Ages," in The Uses of Supernatural Power: The Transformation of Popular Religion in Medieval and Early-Modern Europe, trans. Susan Singerman (Princeton, 1990), pp. 95-111; John Coakley, "Gender and the Authority of Friars: the Significance of Holy Women for Thirteenth-Century Franciscans and Dominicans," Church History, 60 (1991), pp. 445-60; John Coakley, "Friars as Confidants of Holy Women in Medieval Dominican Hagiography," in Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe, eds. Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski and Timea Szell (Ithaca, NY, 1991), pp. 222-46; Ute Stargardt, "Male Clerical Authority in the Spiritual (Auto)biographies of Medieval Holy Women," in Women as Protagonists and Poets in the German Middle Ages: An Anthology of Feminist Approaches to Middle High German Literature, ed. Albrecht Classen (Göppingen, 1991), p. 209-38; Elizabeth Petroff, "Male Confessors and Female Penitents: Possibilities for Dialogue," in Body and Soul: Essays on Medieval Women and Mysticism (Oxford, 1994), pp. 139-60; John Coakley, "Friars, Sanctity, and Gender: Mendicant Encounters with Saints, 1250-1325," in Medieval Masculinities: Regarding Men in the Middle Ages, ed. Clare Lees (Medieval Cultures, 7; Minneapolis, 1994), pp. 91-110; Catherine Mooney, "The Authorial Role of Brother A. in the Composition of Angela of Foligno's Revelations," Creative Women in Medieval and Early Modern Italy, eds. E. Ann Matter and John Coakley (Philadelphia, 1994), pp. 34-63.

On related topics of hagiographic composition, Elizabeth Petroff, has examined the influence of models drawn from the Vitae Patrum in "'She Seemed to Have Come From the Desert': Italian Women Saints and the Vitae Patrum Cycle," in Body and Soul: Essays on Medieval Women and Mysticism (Oxford, 1994), pp. 110-36, while Dyan Elliott, Spiritual Marriage: Sexual Abstinence in Medieval Wedlock (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993) treats the ways in which ideas of marriage and chastity formed both sanctity and lay religious practice in the later middle ages.


Grundmann's own work was in large part focused on the beguines of the low countries. Ernest McDonnell, The Beguines and Beghards in Medieval Culture (New Brunswick, NJ, 1954) remains the basic introduction in English, although Carol Neel, "The Origins of the Beguines," Sisters and Workers in the Middle Ages, eds. Judith Bennett, Elizabeth Clark, Jean O'Barr, B. Anne Vilen, and Sarah Westphal-Wihl (Signs, 14.2; Winter, 1989; published separately, Chicago, 1989), pp. 321-41 provides the context for the early beguines well and concisely. For a local study of their place in the social and economic fabric, consult the somewhat dated study by Dayton Phillips, The Beguines in Medieval Strasbourg: a Study of the Social Aspect of Beguine Life (Ann Arbor, MI, 1941). Simone Roisin, L'hagiographie cistercienne dans le diocèse de Liège au XIIIe siècle (Louvain: Bibliothèque de l'Université, 1947) is the fullest consideration of the hagiographic sources. More specifically on Thomas of Cantompré, see her "La méthode hagiographique de Thoams de Cantimpré," in Miscellanea historica in honorem Alberti de Meyer, 2 vols. (Louvain, 1946). See also the following: Benjamin de Trouyer, "Beguines et Tertiares en Belgique et aux Pays-Bax aux XII-XIVe siècles," in I Frati penitenti (see above), pp. 133-38; Brenda Bolton, "Mulieres Sanctae," Studies in Church History, 10 (1973): 77-85 and "Vitae Matrum: A Further Aspect of the Frauenfrage," Derek Baker (ed.), Medieval Women (Studies in Church History, Subsidia, 1; Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978) and "Some Thirteenth-century Women in the Low Countries, A Special Case?" Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis, 61 (1981), pp. 7-29; Charles McCurry, "Religious Careers and Religious Devotion in Thirteenth-Century Metz," Viator, 9 1978), pp. 325-33; Alberto Forni, "Maestri predicatori, santi moderni e nuova aristocrazia del denaro tra Parigi e Oignies nella prima metà del sec. XIII," in Culto dei santi, istituzioni e classi sociali in età preindustriale, eds. Sofia Boesch Gajano and Luigi Sebastiani (Collana di studi storici, 1; L'Aquila: Japadre Editore, 1984), pp. 459-70; some of the works of Caroline Bynum (see above); Elizabeth Petroff, "A New Feminine Spirituality: The Beguines and Their Writings in Medieval Europe," in Body and Soul: Essays on Medieval Women and Mysticism (Oxford, 1994), pp. 51-65. The beguine movement was also active in regions other than the low countries, particularly southern France, see Pierre Peanò, "Les Béguines u Languedoc ou la crise du R.O.F. dans la france méridionale," in I Frati Penitenti (see above), pp. 139-58. Beguines were particularly drawn to the cult of Christ and the Passion, see Walter Simons and Joanna Ziegler, "Phenomenal religion in the Thirteenth Century and its Image: Elisabeth of Spalbeck and the Passion Cult," Women in the Church (Studies in Church History, 27; Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), p. 117-126. Judith Oliver has studied a beguine devotional book which illustrates the life of Catherine of Alexandria in "Medieval alphabet soup," Gesta, 14 (1985), pp. 129-140.

Women in the mendicant orders.

The association of female orders with the mendicant movements was a difficult and multi-faceted one, both encouraged and opposed by the male mendicants. It is Grundmann who set the problem. A full considertaion of one form of source material is found in Micheline de Fontette, Les religieuses à l'âge classique du droit canon: Recherches sur les structures juridiques des branches féminines des ordres (Paris, 1967). The problems posed by women for the new religious movements in the eyes of the papacy have been illuminated by Edith Pástor, "I Papi de duecento e trecento fronte alla vita religiosa femminile," in Il movimento religioso femminile in Umbria nei secoli XIII-XIV, ed. Roberto Rusconi (Florence, 1984), pp. 31-83. Roberto Rusconi has considered the expansion of female involvement in the Franciscan movement in "La chiesa e il Francescanesimo femminile," and "L'espansione del francescanesimo femminile nel secolo XIII," in Movimento religioso femminile e Francescanesimo nel secolo XIII (Assisi, 1980). The other studies collected in this volume consider more specific aspects. For a general history of the Clarissas, see Ancilla Rottger and Petra Gross, Klarissen: Geschichte und Gegenwart einer Ordensgemeinschaft (Werl, 1994). John Freed examines one important practical aspect of this problem in "Urban Development and the 'Cura monilium' in Thirteenth-Century Germany," Viator 3 (1972): 311-27. Women, however, also remained important in traditional monastic convents. See Michel Parisse, Les nonnes au Moyen Age (Le Puy, 1983); Penelope Johnson, Equal in Monastic Profession: Religious Women in Medieval France (Chicago, 1991). For a sense of convent life, see Roberta Gilchrist, Gender and Material Culture: The Archaeology of Religious Women (Routledge, 1994).

Clare of Assisi.

The critical edition of Clare's own writings is: Claire d'Assise, Ecrits, ed. Marie-France Becker, Jean-François Godet, and Thaddée Matura (Sources Chrétiennes, 325; Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1985). Now also see Giovanni Boccali, "Testamento e benedizione di S. Chiara. Nuovo codice latino," Archivum franciscanum historicum, 82 (1989): 273-305. Concordances may be found in Concordantiae verbales opusculorum s. Francisci et s. Clarae Assisiensium, ed. Giovanni Boccali (Assisi: Edizioni Porziuncola, 1976) and Opuscula sancti Francisci, Scripta sanctae Clarae: concordance, index, listes de fréquence, tables comparatives, ed. Jean-François Godet (Corpus des sources franciscaines, 5; Louvain: Université catholique de Louvain, 1976). The major hagiographic records of Clare are Zeffirino Lazzeri (ed.), "Il processo di Santa Chiara d'Assisi," Archivum Franciscanum Historicum, 13 (1920): 403-507 and (Thomas of Celano?,) Legenda sanctae Clarae virginis tratta dal ms. 338 della Bibl. communali di Assisi, ed. Francesco Pennacchi (Assisi: Metastasio, 1910). Other contemporary records may be found (with Spanish translation) in Escritos de Santa Clara y Documentos Contemporaneos, ed. Ignacio Omaechevarria, second edition (Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 314; Madrid: Editorial Catolica, 1982) and (with French translation) in Sainte Claire d'Assise: Biographie, écrits, procès et bulle de canonisation, textes de chroniquers, textes législatifs, tables, ed. Damien Vorreux (Paris: Editions franciscaines, 1983). For English translations see: Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, trans. Regis Armstrong, revised edition (St. Bonaventure, New York: Franciscan Institute Publications, 1993); Francis and Clare: The Complete Works, trans. Regis Armstrong and Ignatius Brady (New York: Paulist Press, 1982): Legend and Writings of Saint Clare of Assisi, eds. Engelbert Grau and Ludwig Hardick, trans. Ignatius Brady (St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute, 1953). The most accessible short study in English is: Rosalind Brooke and Christopher Brooke, "St. Clare," in Medieval Women, ed. Derek Baker (Studies in Church History, Subsidia, 1; Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978), pp. 275-287. The most comprehensive overview may be found in the essays contained in: Chiara d'Assisi (Atti dei Convegni della Società di studi francescani, n. s. 3; Spoleto: Centro italiano di Studi sull'alto Medioevo, 1993). Other important studies include: Marco Bartoli, Clare of Assisi, trans. Sister Frances Teresa (Italian original, 1989; Quincy IL: Franciscan Press, 1993); Chiara, francescanesimo al femminile, ed. Davide Covi and Dino Dozzi (Collana "Studi e richerhe," 1; Rome: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1992) [original version published as a number of Laurentianum, 31 {1990}]; René-Charles Dhont, Claire parmi ses soeurs (Pax et Veritas, 10; Paris: Editions Paulines, 1971), English translation as Clare among her Sisters (St. Bonaventure, New York: Franciscan Institute Publications, 1987); G. Fortini, "The Noble Family of St. Clare of Assisi," Franciscan Studies, 42 (1986), pp. 48-67; Ezio Franceschini, Nel segno di Francesco, ed. Claudio Leonardi (Assisi: Edizioni Porziulcola, 1988); Javier Garrido, La forma de vida de Santa Clara (Aranzazu: Editorial Aranzazu, 1979) [Italian translation, Milan, 1989]; Servus Gieben (ed.), Icones sanctae Clarae. La vita di santa Chiara attraverso i'immagine (Rome: Museo Francescano, 1989); Servus Gieben (ed.), L'iconografia de Chiara d'Assisi / Clare of Assisi: Iconography (Italia Francescana, vol. 1; Rome, 1993); Lothar Hardick, "Erläuterungen," in Leben und Schriften der heiligen Klara von Assisi (Werl: Dietrich Coelde Verlag, 1952; fifth edition, 1980), pp. 154-88 [published separately in French translation as Spiritualité de sainte Claire, trans. Damien Vorreux (Paris: Editions franciscaines, 1961)]; Die heilige Klara von Assisi (Franziskanische Studien, vol. 35; Munster, 1953); Movimento religioso femminile e francescanesimo nel secolo XIII (Assisi: La Societa, 1980); Lazaro Iriarte [de Aspurz], Letra y Espiritu de la Regla de Santa Clara (Valencia: Selecciones de Francescanismo, 1974) [Italian translation, Milan, 1976]; Ingrid Peterson, Clare of Assisi: A Biographical Study (Quincy, IL: Franciscan Press, 1993); Nesta de Robeck, Saint Clare of Assisi (Milwaukee, 1951); Heribert Roggen, Franciscaans-evangelische Levensstijl volgens de h. Clara van Assisi (The Hague, 1966) [published in French translation as L'Esprit de sainte Claire ( Présence de saint François, 19; Paris, 1969)]; Anton Rotzetter, Klara von Assisi. Die erste franziskanische Frau, second edition (Freiburg im B.: Herder, 1993); Santa Chiara d'Assisi, 1253-1953. Studi e Cronaca del VII Centenario (Assisi, 1954). A general guide to the literature on Clare may be found in Bibliografia di Santa Chiara di Assisi, 1930-1993, eds. Pietro Maranesi and Isidoro de Villapadierro (Quaderni di Bibliografia Francescana, 1; Rome: Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, 1994).

Other female mendicant saints of the thirteenth century.

See in particular the studies of Anna Benvenuti Papi collected in "In castro poenitentiae": santita e societa femminile nell'Italia medievale (Italia Sacra, 45; Rome: Herder, 1990). Bona of Pisa (+1208): Elizabeth Petroff, "The Rhetoric of Transgression in the Lives of Italian Women Saints," in Body and Soul: Essays on Medieval Women and Mysticism (Oxford, 1994), pp. 161-81. Elisabeth of Thuringia (or of Hungary; +1231): Jeanne Ancelet-Hustache, Gold Tried by Fire: St. Elizabeth of Hungary, trans. Paul J. Oligny and Sister Venard O'Donnell (Chicago, 1963); Leo Santifaller, "Zur Originalüberlieferung der Heiligsprechungurkunde der Landgräfin Elisabeth von Thüringen vom Jahre 1235," in Klemens Wieser, ed., Acht Jahrhunderte Deutscher Orden in Einzeldarstellungen: Festschrift für Marian Tumler (Bad Godesberg, 1967), 20-45; H. Zielinski, "Elisabeth von Thuringen und der Kinder: zur Geschichte der Kindheit im Mittelalter," in Elisabeth: Die deutsche Orden und Kirche, ed. U. ARnold and H. Liebing (Marburg, 1983), pp. 27-83; André Vauchez, "Charité et pauvreté chez sainte Elisabeth de Thuringe d'après les actes du procès de canonisation," in Michel Mollat, ed., Etudes sur l'histoire de la pauvreté (Paris, 1974), 163-73; Sankt Elisabeth. Fürstin Dienerin Heilige (Sigmaringen, 1981); Johanna von Herzogenberg, "Agnes von Böhmen, Elixabeth von Thüringen, Hedwig von Schlesien. Versuch eines Triptychons," 800 Jahre franz von Asisi (Krems, 1982), pp. 150-6. Hedwig of Silesia (+1243): Joseph Gottschalk, St. Hedwig Herzogin von Schlesien (Cologne and Graz, 1964). Umiliana dei Cerchi (+1246): Anna Benvenuti Papi, "Umiliana dei Cerchi. Nascita di un culto nella Firenze del dugento," Studi Francescani, 77 (1980), pp. 87-117. Douceline of Marseilles (+1274): Claude Carozzi, "L'Estamen de sainte Douceline," Provence Historique, 23 (1973), pp. 270-9 and "Douceline et les autres," Cahiers de Fanjeaux, 11 (1976), pp. 251-67. Margaret of Cortona (+1297): F. Cardini, "Agiografia e politica; Margherita da Cortona e le vicende di una città inquieta," Studi francescani, 76 (1979), pp. 127-36; Anna Benvenuti Papi, "'Margherita Filia Ierusalem.' Una visione mistica della Terrasanta nella spiritualità feminile Francescana," in Toscana e Terrasanta nel medioeveo, ed. F. Cardini (Florence, 1982), pp. 117-32; Enrico Menestò, "La mistica di Margherita da Cortona," Temi e problemi nella mistica femminile trecentesca (Rimini, 1983), pp. 183-206. Clare of Montefalco (+1308): Berengario di Donadio, Vita di Chiara da Montefalco, ed. R. Sala (Spiritualita nei secoli, 42; 1991). Humilty of Faenza (or of Florence; +1310): Pietro Zama, Santa Umiltà: La Vita e i "sermones" (Faenza, 1974); Elizabeth Petroff, "The Rhetoric of Transgression in the Lives of Italian Women Saints," and "Writing the Body: Male and Female in the Writings of Marguerite d'Oingt, angela of Foligno, and Umiltà of Faenza," in Body and Soul: Essays on Medieval Women and Mysticism (Oxford, 1994), pp. 161-81 and 204-24.

Female religious movements in Italy.

The background and some specifics is well provided by Raoul Manselli, "La donna nella vita della chiesa tra duecento e trecento," in Il movimento religioso femminile in Umbria (see above), pp. 243-55. Studies include: Anna Benvenuti Papi, "Frati mendicanti e pinzochere in Toscana: dalla marginalità sociale a modello di santità," in Temi e problemi nella mistica femminile trecentesca (Rimini, 1983), pp. 109-35; Mario sensi, "Incarcerate e Recluse in Umbria nei secoli XIII e XIV," in Il movimento religioso femminile in Umbria (see above), pp. 85-121 and "Incarcerate e penitenti a Foligno nella prima metà del trecento," in I Frati della penitenza (see above), pp. 309-24; Brenda Bolton, "Daughters of Rome: all one in Christ Jesus!" in Women in the Church, ed. W. J. Sheils and Diana Wood (Studies in Church History, 27; Oxford, 1990), pp. 101-15.

Sources in translation.

Collections of sources in translation which contain hagiographic works concerning women include (note this list goes well before and beyond the thirteenth century): Medieval Women's Visionary Literature, ed. Elizabeth Petroff (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986); Handmaids of the Lord: The Lives of Holy Women in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. Joan Petersen (Cistercian Studies, 143; Kalamazoo, forthcoming); Sainted Women of the Dark Ages, ed. Jo Ann McNamara and John Halborg, with E. Gordon Whatley (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992); Consolation of the Blessed, ed. Elizabeth Petroff (New York: Alta Gaia Society, 1979); The Lady as Saint: A Collection of French Hagiographic Romances of the Thirteenth Century, ed. Brigitte Cazelles (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993); A Legend of Holy Women. A Translation of Osbern Bodenham's Legends of Holy Women, ed. Sheila Delany (Notre Dame Texts in Medieval Culture, 1; Notre Dame, 1993). Translations of individual works are appearing in the following series: Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press); Library of Medieval Women Writers (Binghamton, NY: MRTS); Matrologia Latina (Toronto: Peregrina Publishing).

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