IMC 2005: Sessions

Session 1308: Holy Women of Ireland and Italy: Image and Praxis

Wednesday 13 July 2005, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Sue Ellen Holbrook, Department of English, Southern Connecticut State University
Paper 1308-aThe Mantle of Brigid
(Language: English)
Susan Christine Graham, School of English, University of Leeds
Index terms: Ecclesiastical History, Monasticism, Religious Life, Women's Studies
Paper 1308-bIn Praise of Learned Women?: The Education of Irish Women in Conchranus' Life of Monenna and in the Dublin Collection of Saints' Lives
(Language: English)
Maura K. Lafferty, Department of Classics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill / American Academy in Rome
Index terms: Education, Hagiography, Social History, Women's Studies
Paper 1308-cMendicant Images of Medieval Italian Lay Female Piety: Beguine, Tertiary, or Hermit?
(Language: English)
Allison Clark, Fordham University
Index terms: Hagiography, Lay Piety, Religious Life, Social History

Abstract -a:
In c. 480 A.D. St Brigid (the Mary of the Gaels) founded a double monastery at Kildare in Southern Ireland. Brigid’s authority and that of subsequent abbesses, was total over both monks and nuns until 1171 by which time the influence of Kildare had dwindled. As it did, that of the Abbey of Kilculliheen in Co. Kilkenny, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and under the Arrouaisian rule, rose. This paper refers to Brigid’s ancient house of charity contrasting it with medieval Kilculliheen – an abbey of immense holdings, ruled by business women involved in intrigues and politics.
Abstract -b:
This paper contrasts the education of the saintly woman in Conchubranus’ life of Monenna and in the Dublin Collection of Irish saints lives. The Dublin Collection, compiled and revised in the early thirteenth century, describes the schooling of its male subjects. It omits schooling entirely from the two lives of women: they are models of sancta rusticitas, an unlearned wisdom contrasted with the book learning of monks and clerics. Writing before the 1130s for an audience of “sisters”, Conchubranus praises Monenna for her own education, emphatically identical to that to her male peers, and shows her teaching men to read the scriptures.
Abstract -c:
Archival evidence reveals large numbers of female hermits living in late medieval Italian cities, yet beguines and tertiaries dominate the scholarship. The practice of reclusion is collapsed into these more clearly defined vocations. The legacy of mendicant hagiography confounds this issue by presenting holy women as engaging in a range of devotional practices including reclusion and active charitable service, and by claiming them as belonging to their own order. By placing a range of devotional and living practices within the mantle of a particular order, hagiography masks the real differences between different religious vocations and calcifies a particular mendicant image of a holy woman.