Since the Late Antique period, spiritual and domestic vocations were often depicted as mutually exclusive within the Christian tradition. Sanctity was associated with purity, contemplation, and virginity. On the other hand, bearing children was associated with carnality and the temporal. In the late medieval period, however, several ‘parent-saints’ challenged this traditional binary by pursuing a religious vocation despite their domestic constraints. My paper examines the hagiography of three of these parent-saints: Raymond Palmerio (1140-1200), Margaret of Cortona (1247-1297), and Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373). I will primarily examine the creative arguments used by hagiographers in order to either justify or nullify the saint’s status as a parent. The rhetoric deployed by these hagiographers sheds light on the complex relationships that existed between sanctity, religious authority, sex, gender, the body, and domesticity in the later Middle Ages.
John Cassian, in his foundational works on the ascetic life, gave monastics two measurements by which they could gauge their progress toward purity of heart. First, speech must be pure – this, unfortunately, could be faked. The second, however, was much more difficult, requiring cessation of nocturnal emissions. A truly pure person only had pure dreams. This negative measurement of interior purity gave way in the Early Middle Ages to a positive measurement combining both speech and dreams which could also be used by women. Baudonivia demonstrates this measure by underscoring the sanctity of St Radegund with incidences of sleep-speech.
What were the material expressions of cultural memory in the Middle Ages? How did medieval awareness of history connect with the material world? These questions may be explored at the intersection of (vernacular) medieval hagiography and the physical sites associated with the cult of the saints. In Old French literature, there exists a corpus of verse saints’ Lives dedicated to Merovingian-era (496-754) Frankish bishops and monks. These texts are rich in references to both historical events and specific places. Based primarily on the example of the Lives of St Josse and St Germer by the 13th-century poet Pierre de Beauvais, I will discuss how textual communities and the local materialities of the cult of the saints shaped medieval cultural memory and portrayals of history.