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Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue
 9782503554112, 9782503554235

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Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue

MEDIEVAL WOMEN: TEXTS AND CONTEXTS Editorial Board under the auspices of the School of Historical Studies, Monash University General Editor Constant J. Mews, Monash University Editorial Board Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, University of Pittsburgh Juliette D’Or, Université de Liège Jeffrey Hamburger, Harvard University Anneke Mulder-Bakker, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen Miri Rubin, Queen Mary University of London Gabriela Signori, Universität Konstanz Claire Waters, University of Virginia Nicholas Watson, Harvard University

Previously published volumes in this series are listed at the back of the book.

Volume 28

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue

Edited by

Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

© 2017, Brepols Publishers n.v., Turnhout, Belgium All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. D/2017/0095/11 ISBN: 978-2-503-55411-2 e-ISBN: 978-2-503-55423-5 DOI: 10.1484/M.MWTC-EB.5.112663 Printed on acid-free paper

Memoriæ Monicæ Hedlund (1940–2016) sacrum, quæ fuit huius incepti fautrix et autrix, fidum omnium nostrum exemplar, primi voluminis collaboratrix egregia, et cuius accuratissimæ scientiæ auctoritatique firmissimæ quam multum debeamus vix dici potest. St Birgitta of Sweden, Revelationes, book I, chap. 53.31: ‘Nam illi, quibus sapiunt verba mea et qui nomen suum humiliter sperant scriptum in libro vitæ, hii tenent verba mea.’

Contents List of Illustrations


Colour Plates


Acknowledgements xvii Introduction xxi

Rules and Learning Leoba’s Legacy: The Carolingian Transformation of an Icono­graphy of Literacy Helene Scheck and Virginia Blanton

‘Faciat eas litteras edoceri’: Literate Practices in the Clarissan formae vitae Julie Ann Smith

Religious Order and Textual Identity: The Case of Franciscan Tertiary Women Alison More

‘To yowr gostly comforte and proffite’: Devotional Reading for the Nuns of Syon Abbey Ann M. Hutchison

Sitting between Two Sisters: Reading Holy Writ in a Community of Tertiaries in Sint-Agnes, Amersfoort Sabrina Corbellini








A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons in the Low Countries Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen


Literacy and Visualization What Did Catalan Nuns Read? Women’s Literacy in the  Female Monasteries of Catalonia, Majorca, and Valencia Blanca Garí

Christina Hansdotter Brask: Reading and Pictorial Preferences in a Birgittine Prayer Book Eva Lindqvist Sandgren

Devotional Books from the Birgittine Abbey of Maribo Anne Mette Hansen

Scribal Engagement and the Late Medi­eval English Nun: The Quest Concludes? Veronica O’Mara

Memorializing Living Saints in the Milanese Convent of Santa Marta in the Late Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century Brian Richardson


149 171



Translating and Rewriting The Legacy of St Margit: A Case-Study of a Dominican Monastery in Hungary Viktória Hedvig Deák OP

Anonymous Then, Invisible Now: The Readers of ‘Sermon a dames religioses’ Cate Gunn

Translation and Reform: Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist and the Nuns of Montmartre Catherine Innes-Parker






Image, Text, and Mind: Franciscan Tertiaries Rewriting Stephan Fridolin’s Schatzbehalter in the Pütrichkloster in Munich Almut Breitenbach and Stefan Matter


Exchange and Networks The Transmission of Books among Canonesses of the Collegiate Church of Sainte-Waudru in Mons: The Example of Marie de Hoves’s Books Anne Jenny-Clark

The Countess, the Abbess, and their Books: Manu­script Circulation in a Fifteenth-Century German Family Sara S. Poor

The Transmission of Images between Flemish and English Birgittine Houses Mary C. Erler

Exchange and Alliance: The Sharing and Gifting of Books in Women’s Houses in Late Medi­eval and Renaissance Florence Melissa Moreton







Index of Manuscripts, Archival Documents, and Incunabula


Index of Texts


Index of Convents


Index of People


List of Illustrations Plates Plate 1, pp. xiv–xv The opening pages of the prayer book, Uppsala universitets­ bibliotek, MS C 12, fols 1v–2r, with traces of a full page miniature and a small image in the margin. Plate 2, p. xvi. Detail of colophon and notes of exchange at the end of La Vita di Savonarola copied by Sister Petronilla Nelli and given to Sister Plautilla Nelli. Firenze, Biblioteca Moreniana, MS Moreni 219, fol. 196r. c. 1540.

Figures Figure 1, p. 102. Opening page of the earliest collection of sermons by Henricus Cool. Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS II 2098, fol. 1r. c. 1574. Figure 2, p. 151. The Septem psalmi paenitentialis, Uppsala universitets­biblio­ tek, MS C 12, fol. 22r. Figure 3, p. 153. The ‘sancta anna tidher’ [Horae Sancta Anna], with marginal image traces. Uppsala universitets­bibliotek, MS C 12, fol. 48r. Figure 4, p. 155. Lost image of the Annunciation of the Virgin, with traces of frame. Uppsala universitets­bibliotek, MS C 12, fol. 91r. Figure 5, p. 156. St Katarina of Sweden. Tinted woodcut. Uppsala uni­ver­sitets­ bibliotek, MS C 12, fol. 117r. Figure 6, p. 163. The ‘xv bøner aff wars hærra ihesu christi pino’ [Quindecim orationes] with traces of a framed image on the preceding page. Uppsala uni­ versitets­bibliotek, MS C 12, fols 131v–132r. Figure 7, p. 165. St Mechthild’s prayers [Mass of St Gregory]. Tinted woodcut. Uppsala universitets­bibliotek, MS C 12, fol. 150v. Figure 8, p. 167. The ‘fæm bøner aff jomfru maria drøwilsom’ [Pietà]. Tinted woodcut. Uppsala universitets­bibliotek, MS C 12, fol. 152r. Figure 9, p. 201. Ownership inscription by Mary Nevel. Oxford, St  John’s College, MS 167, flyleaf, fol. ii recto. 1535–57/58. Figure 10, p. 204. Bookmark by Mary Nevel in the Syon Martyrology. London, British Library, MS Additional 22285. 1535–57/58.



Figure 11, p. 330. Opening page of extracts from the account book of Sainte-Waudru, Mons, for 1297–1303. Mons, Maison Losseau, Decamps (G.) MS 6, vol. I. Figure 12, p. 332. Extract from the treasury account book of Sainte-Waudru, Mons, for 1297–1303. Mons, Archives de l’Etat, Heupgen, MS 71, vol. I. Figure 13, p. 371. St Katarina of Sweden, engraving. London, Lambeth Palace Library, 1494.6. Figure 14, p. 372. St Birgitta of Sweden, engraving. Brussel, Koninklijke Biblio­ theek, MS 4407–08. Figure 15, p. 374. St  Birgitta of Sweden, woodcut. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, MS McGuire 31.54.700. Figure 16, p. 377. St Birgitta of Sweden, woodcut, from The Kalendre of the Newe Legende of Englande, 1516, fol. cxx (STC 4602). Figure 17, p. 379. Prayer to All Saints, engraving (Syon broadside). London, British Library, G 2211. Figure 18, p. 394. Detail of psalter belonging to San Jacopo di Ripoli (Florence), showing a note of exchange. Early seventeenth century. Firenze, Archivio di Santa Maria Novella, MS I.B.56, inside front cover. Figure 19, p. 396. Detail of devotional text showing a note of exchange. Firenze, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Conventi Soppressi, MS D.II.1527, fol. 106v. c. 1547. Figure 20, p. 404. Savonarola presenting his Operetta molto divota […] to the abbess of Le Murate, Florence. Firenze, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Inc. Cust. G.I., fol. 1r. c. 1490. Figure 21, p. 406. Folio 1r of a manu­script copied by Dominican friar Domenico Ricci for the nuns of Santa Maria del Portico, Florence. Firenze, Biblioteca Moreniana, MS Palagi 231. 1502.

Map Map, p. 347. The Cistercian Convent in Kirchheim am Ries and Environs.

Tables Table 1, p. 157. Reconstructed pictorial programme of Uppsala universitets­ bibliotek, MS C 12 Table 2, p. 255. Contents of manu­scripts containing Mirour de seinte eglyse.

Colour Plates


colour pLATES

Plate 1. The opening pages of the prayer book, Uppsala universitets­bibliotek, MS C 12, fols 1v–2r, with traces of a full page miniature and a small image in the margin.

colour pLATES


Photo © Uppsala universitetsbibliotek.


colour pLATES

Plate 2. Detail of colophon and notes of exchange at the end of La Vita di Savonarola copied by Sister Petronilla Nelli and given to Sister Plautilla Nelli. Firenze, Biblioteca Moreniana, MS Moreni 219, fol. 196r. c. 1540. Reproduced with permission.



e are grateful to all those who attended the conference ‘Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe’ (upon which these much-revised essays are based) at Universiteit Antwerpen from 4 to 7 June 2013 and made it such a lively occasion; we are especially thankful to all who spoke and chaired, and to those who rendered the various types of practical assistance needed at any conference. Foremost among these we wish to thank Magda Hermans and Linda De Loecht, who saw to the smooth running of the proceedings in the Grauwzusterklooster and the Hof van Liere in a most efficient manner; Nele Crabbé and her catering team for their kindly hospitality and great care; and Livia Verbrugge and Gerda Cluytens who looked after the conference accounts so thoroughly. The staff at the Leonardo Hotel were also most helpful towards our conference guests, as was Martine Depauw, the administrator of university accommodation at Universiteit Antwerpen, and the owners of the restaurant Hofstraat 24 were so accommodating in providing our conference dinner. We were also helped with practical arrangements by the doctoral and post-doctoral students at the Ruusbroecgenootschap and the Instituut voor de Studie van de Letterkunde in de Nederlanden (ISLN), particularly Elisabeth de Bruijn, Bram Caers, Mike Kestemont, Renske van Nie, Markus Polzer, Daniëlle Prochowski, and Lisanne Vroomen, who not only helped us with the organization but also mounted an engaging exhibition of their own work for the participants. Colleagues at the Ruusbroecgenootschap and the ISLN, particularly Guido De Baere, Veerle Fraeters, August den Hollander, Kees Schepers, and Frank Willaert, were also involved in a supportive capacity, by chairing sessions, guiding participants, and taking part in discussions. Luc Duerloo, the ViceDean of the Faculty of Arts of the Universiteit Antwerpen, graciously opened the conference, and so we should like to express our gratitude to him. We are grateful to Erna Van Looveren, the Librarian of the Ruusbroecgenootschap, and to Thom Mertens for introducing the conference participants to the heritage library and its fine holdings. Two of the highlights of the conference were



our visits to Museum Plantin-Moretus and to the Gruuthusemuseum in Bruges; our thanks are therefore due to the Antwerp and Bruges city guides for facilitating these visits. We also would like to thank Steven Geukens, who so expertly showed our guests the historic highlights of Antwerp. The conference could not have taken place at all without various types of fund­ing, and so we wish to express our gratitude to the following for their generous support: Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Vlaan­d eren/ Research Foundation Flanders (FWO); Universiteit Antwerpen (Departe­ ment Universiteit & Samen­leving ; Departement Letterkunde; Ruus­broec­ genootschap); Uni­ver­sity of Hull; Uni­ver­sity of Missouri-Kansas City; the Society for Medi­e val Feminist Scholarship; and the Society for Medi­e val Languages and Literature. Our publisher, Brepols, also kindly hosted a reception that saw the launch of the first volume, Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue. We are thankful to the Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België in Brussels for permission to reproduce the cover image, and to Anita Muys who designed the conference poster. We also acknowledge the following repositories who granted permission for material to be reproduced in this volume: Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek; Cam­bridge, Uni­ver­sity Library; Firenze, Archivio di Santa Maria Novella; Firenze, Biblioteca Moreniana; Firenze, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale; London, The British Library; London, Lambeth Palace Library; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Oxford, St John’s College; San Marino, Huntington Library; and Uppsala, Uppsala universitetsbibliotek. We are also grateful to all the other libraries and archives who granted access to their holdings. Finally, we offer our gratitude to Constant Mews and the editorial board of Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, and especially to the readers of this volume who made various astute comments. Guy Carney at Brepols has continued to offer steadfast support and help, and we thank him very much. In addition, we are most grateful once again to our superlative copy-editor, Shannon Cunningham and to our excellent typesetter, Martine Maguire-Weltecke, on whose kindness we have trespassed more than we can say. Editing collections of essays from different language areas and various disciplines has been challenging, and we ask forgiveness for any errors that occur in this and the other volumes. Nevertheless, we have learnt much from the process, and we should like to thank each other as well as the contributors in all three volumes for scholarship, patience, and friendship.



Denna bok tillägnas minnet av Monica Hedlund (1940–2016), som så förtjänstfullt bidrog till vår första volym. Hon var en föregångare på vårt område och en uppskattad mentor för oss alla. Hennes vetenskapliga integritet och ständiga föredöme har betytt mer för oss än ord kan uttrycka. [We dedicate this book to the memory of Monica Hedlund (1940–2016), who contributed so eminently to our first volume. She was a pioneer in our area and a trusted mentor for us all. To her rigorous scholarship and enduring example we owe more than words can express.]

Virginia Blanton Veronica O’Mara Patricia Stoop 25 November 2016 Feast of St Katherine of Alexandria



rawn from a series of substantially revised papers presented at the Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe conferences, hosted by the universities of Hull, Missouri-Kansas City, and Antwerp in June 2011, 2012, and 2013 respectively, the resulting three publications, of which this is the third volume, bring together the work of specialists to create a dialogue about the Latin and vernacular texts medi­eval nuns read, wrote, and exchanged in diverse geo­graphical areas at different chronological periods throughout medi­eval Europe.1 The three volumes are presented in such a way that they stand alone (for example, in the repetition of essential explanatory material in the introductions) as well as complement each other. One difference is that the introduction to this last volume contains more of a summation of the project than is found in the other two. Our aim is to investigate the topic of literacy from palaeo­graphical and textual evidence, as well as by discussing records of book ownership in convents, and other more external evidence both literary and historical. In other words, we want to focus on nuns not as mere adjuncts to male religious but in their own right; above all, we wish to explore the comparative dimension. By studying one country or vernacular closely, one can illuminate another; by looking at the foreign, one can start to see the native with fresh eyes. Most especially, these volumes concern the ‘average’ medi­eval nun, to the extent that she can be defined, not famous nuns like Heloise or St Hildegard von Bingen about which so much has been written already. When well-known nuns, such as those of Helfta, are considered, it is to cast more light on the larger conventual context in which they lived, such as the educational curricula estab1  See Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 26 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), and Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 27 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015).

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. xxi–lxvi O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS





lished in their milieux, rather than to focus purely on the achievements of these famous female religious themselves.2 As noted in the previous volumes, in the course of our research we have grappled with the difficulties in explaining the three key terms that define our project: ‘nun’, ‘medi­e val’, and ‘literacy’. In all three areas we acknowledge the necessity of being expansive. Our working definition for the term ‘nun’ therefore includes all enclosed or semi-enclosed female religious that either follow a Rule or live communally following a ritualized pattern of devotional and liturgical activities. So our focus includes nuns, sisters, and conversae or lay sisters, and this particular volume opens to encompass secular canonesses and tertiaries.3 Likewise, the term ‘medi­eval’ extends back as far as we can find evidence 2 

See Ulrike Wiethaus, ‘Collaborative Literacy and the Spiritual Education of Nuns at Helfta’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 27–46. 3  As noted in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, p. xxi n. 10, and Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. xxix–xxx n. 2, some representative studies of nuns in the Middle Ages and later throughout Europe include: Eileen Power, Medi­eval English Nunneries, c. 1275–1535 (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 1922; repr 2010); Catherine Boyd, A Cistercian Nunnery in Medi­eval Italy (Cam­bridge, MA: Harvard Uni­ ver­sity Press, 1943); Suzanne Fonay Wemple, Women in Frankish Society: Marriage and the Cloister, 500–900, The Middle Ages (Philadelphia: Uni­ver­sity of Pennsylvania Press, 1981); Lisa M. Bitel, ‘Women’s Monastic Enclosures in Early Ireland’, Journal of Medi­eval History, 12 (1986), 15–36; Roberta Gilchrist, Gender and Material Culture: The Archaeology of Religious Women (London: Routledge, 1994); Penelope D. Johnson, Equal in Monastic Profession: Religious Women in France, Women in Culture and Society (Chicago: Uni­ver­sity of Chicago Press, 1994); Gertrud Jaron Lewis, By Women, For Women, About Women: The Sister-Books of Fourteenth-Century Germany, Studies and Texts, 125 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1996); Patricia Ranft, Women in the Religious Life in Premodern Europe, The New Middle Ages (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1996); Women and Religion in Medi­eval and Renaissance Italy, ed. by Daniel Bornstein and Roberto Rusconi and trans. by Margery J. Schneider, Women in Culture and Society (Chicago: Uni­ver­sity of Chicago Press, 1996); Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Nuns as Artists: The Visual Culture of a Medi­eval Convent, California Studies in the History of Art, 37 (Berkeley: Uni­ver­sity of California Press, 1997); Bruce L. Venarde, Women’s Monasticism and Medi­eval Society: Nunneries in France and England, 890–1215 (Ithaca: Cornell Uni­ver­sity Press, 1997); Marilyn Oliva, The Convent and the Community in Late Medi­eval England: Female Monasteries in the Diocese of Norwich, 1350–1540, Studies in the History of Medi­e val Religion, 12 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1998); Women and Monasticism in Medi­eval Europe: Sisters and Patrons of the Cistercian Reform, ed. and trans. by Constance H. Berman, Documents of Practice (Kalamazoo: Medi­eval Institute Publications, 2002); Jutta Frings and Jan Gerchow, eds, Krone und Schleier: Kunst aus mittelalterlichen Frauenklöstern, Ausstellung der Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn, und Ruhrland­

Introduction xxiii

(in general from about the seventh century) and to the very outermost reaches of the period into the later sixteenth century. In the current volume, however, the particular concentration is on the later period, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, even touching on the seventeenth. Finally, the term ‘literacy’ is one we have examined from a variety of viewpoints, including oral, written, reading, and visual.4 We have always emphasized the multiple levels and varimuseum Essen (München: Hirmer, 2005) [The English translation is Crown and Veil: Female Monasticism from the Fifth to the Fifteenth Centuries, ed. by Jeffrey F. Hamburger and Susan Marti (New York: Columbia Uni­ver­sity Press, 2008)]; Felice Lifshitz, Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia: A Study of Manu­script Transmission and Monastic Culture, Fordham Series in Medi­eval Studies (New York: Fordham Uni­ver­sity Press, 2014). To these may also be added: I monasteri femminili come centri di cultura fra Rinascimento e Barocco: atti del convegno storico internazionale, Bologna, 8–10 dicembre 2000, ed. by Gianna Pomata and Gabriella Zarri (Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2005), Redes femeninas de promoción espiritual en los Reinos Peninsulares (s. xiii–xvi), ed. by Blanca Garí (Roma: Viella, 2013) [The English translation is Women’s Networks of Spiritual Promotion in the Peninsular Kingdoms (13th–16th Centuries), ed. by Blanca Garí, Ircvm-Medi­eval Cultures, 2 (Roma: Viella, 2013)]; Bert Roest, Order and Disorder: The Poor Clares Between Foundation and Reform, The Medi­e val Franciscans, 8 (Leiden: Brill, 2013); June L. Mecham, Sacred Communities, Shared Devotions: Gender, Material Culture, and Monasticism in Late Medi­eval Germany, ed. by Alison I. Beach, Constance Berman, and Lisa Bitel, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 29 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014); Mulieres religiosae: Shaping Female Spiritual Authority in the Medi­eval and Early Modern Periods, ed. by Veerle Fraeters and Imke de Gier, Europa Sacra, 12 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014); Monográfico: Espacios de espiritualidad femenina en la Europa medi­eval. Una mirada interdisciplinar, ed. by Blanca Garí (= Anuario de studios medi­evales, 44 (2014)); Partners in Spirit: Women, Men, and Religious Life in Germany, 1100–1500, ed. by Fiona J. Griffiths and Julie Hotchin, Medi­e val Women: Texts and Contexts, 24 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014); Ville Walta, ‘Libraries, Manu­scripts and Book Culture in Vadstena Abbey’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Helsinkingin yliopisto, 2014); A Companion to Observant Reform in the Late Middle Ages and Beyond, ed. by James D. Mixson and Bert Roest, Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition, 59 (Leiden: Brill, 2015); Women in the Medi­eval Monastic World, ed. by Janet Burton and Karen Stöber, Medi­e val Monastic Studies, 1 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015); and Les femmes, la culture et les arts en Europe, entre Moyen Âge et Renaissance / Women, Art and Culture in Medi­ eval and Renaissance Europe, ed. by Anne-Marie Legaré and Cynthia J. Brown, Texte, Codex & Contexte, 19 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016). 4  As mentioned in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. xx–xxi n. 9, and in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. xxx–xxxi n. 3, in our thinking about literacy some of the works used include M. T. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record: England 1066–1307 (London: Arnold, 1979; 2nd edn, Oxford: Blackwell, 1993); Franz Bäuml, ‘Varieties and Consequences of Medi­e val Literacy and Illiteracy’, Speculum, 55 (1980), 237–65; Susan Groag Bell, ‘Medi­eval Women Book Owners: Arbiters of Lay Piety and Ambassadors of Culture’, Signs: Journal of Women and Culture in Society, 7 (1982), 742–68; Brian Stock, The



Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Princeton: Princeton Uni­ver­sity Press, 1983); The Role of the Book in Medi­ eval Culture: Proceedings of the Oxford International Symposium 26 September–1 October 1982, ed. by Peter Ganz, Biblio­graphia, 3–4, 2 vols (Turnhout: Brepols, 1986); Mary J. Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medi­eval Culture, Cam­bridge Studies in Medi­eval Literature, 10 (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 1990); The Uses of Literacy in Early Mediaeval Europe, ed. by Rosamond McKitterick (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 1990); Scribi e colofoni: le sottoscrizioni di copisti dalle origini all’avvento della stampa: atti del seminario di Erice (23–28 ottobre 1993), ed. by Emma Condello and Giuseppe De Gregorio, Colloquio del Comité international de paléo­g raphie latine, 10, Biblioteca del Centro per il collegamento degli studi medi­e vali e umanistici in Umbria, 14 (Spoleto: Centro Italiano di studi sull’alto Medioevo, 1995); Mary J. Carruthers, The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400–1200, Cam­bridge Studies in Medi­e val Literature, 34 (Cam­ bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 1998); History of Reading in the West, ed. by Guglielmo Cavallo and Roger Chartier, trans. by Lydia G. Cochrane (Cam­bridge: Polity, 1999); Women Writing Latin, From Roman Antiquity to Early Modern Europe, ed. by Laurie J. Churchill, Phyllis R. Brown, and Jane E. Jeffrey, 3 vols (New York: Routledge, 2002), ii: Medi­eval Women Writing Latin, and iii: Early Modern Women Writing Latin; Teaching Writing, Learning to Write: Proceedings of the xvith Colloquium of the Comité International de Paléo­graphie Latine, ed. by P. R. Robinson, King’s College London Medi­eval Studies, 22 (London: King’s College London, Centre for Late Antique and Medi­eval Studies, 2010); Mark Amsler, Affective Literacies: Writing and Multilinguialism in the Late Middle Ages, Late Medi­eval and Early Modern Studies, 19 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2012); and Rosenkränze und Seelengärten: Bildung und Frommigkeit in niedersächsischen Frauenklöstern, ed. by Britta-Juliane Kruse (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2013). To these may also be added: Rosanna Miriello, I manoscritti del monastero del Paradiso di Firenze, Biblioteche e archivi, 16 (Firenze: Sismel, 2007); Luisa Miglio, Governare l’alfabeto: donna, scrittura e libri nel Medioevo (Roma: Viella, 2008); Women Writing Back / Writing Women Back: Transnational Perspectives from the Late Middle Ages to the Dawn of the Modern Era, ed. by Anke Gilleir, Alicia C. Montoya, and Suzan van Dijk, Intersections: Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Modern Culture, 16 (Leiden: Brill, 2010); Mary C. Erler, Reading and Writing during the Dissolution: Monks, Friars, and Nuns 1530–1558 (Cam­bridge: Cam­ bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2013); Melissa Moreton, ‘“Scritto di bellissima lettera”: Nuns’ Book Production in Fifteenth and Sixteenth-Century Italy’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Uni­ ver­sity of Iowa, 2013); A Companion to Mysticism and Devotion in Northern Germany in the Late Middle Ages, ed. by Elizabeth A. Andersen, Henrike Lähnemann, and Anne Simon, Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition, 44 (Leiden: Brill, 2013); Melissa Moreton, ‘Pious Voices: Nun-Scribes and the Language of Colophons in Late Medi­eval Italy’, Essays in Medi­eval Studies, 29 (2014), 43–73; and Schriftkultur und religiöse Zentren im norddeutschen Raum, ed. by Patrizia Carmassi, Eva Schlotheuber, and Almut Breitenbach, Wolfenbütteler MittelalterStudien, 24 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2014); and Anne Jenny-Clark, ‘Les bréviaires, objets de transmission entre chanoinesses à la collégiale Sainte-Waudru de Mons (Hainaut)’, in Les femmes, la culture et les arts en Europe, ed. by Anne-Marie Legaré and Cynthia J. Brown, Texte, Codex & Contexte, 19 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016), pp. 151–74. See also the various volumes in the series Utrecht Studies in Medi­eval Literacy, published by Brepols (Turnhout) from 1999 onwards, under the general editorship of Marco Mostert.

Introduction xxv

ants of literacies involved: reading and writing; practical literacy and detailed understanding; Latin and vernacular knowledge; verbatim copying and highlevel composition; scribal, aural, and visual literacies. In particular, we are concerned with the ways nuns engaged formally and informally in literate culture at different points in history. Our continued focus is on the extent to which female religious from particular countries and in varying languages read, interpreted, copied, wrote, translated, edited, acted as patrons of, or intermediaries in, intellectual and literate practice. The first volume, Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, focused on geo­g raphical areas in northern Europe, particularly England, Germany, the Low Countries, and Sweden. In seventeen essays divided into four sections, contributors explored diverse material from the late seventh to the second half of the sixteenth centuries. In ‘Literacy and Nuns: Finding and Interpreting the Evidence’, five scholars sought to discover the different ways nuns demonstrated their literate credentials whether as readers, patrons, compilers, or scribes. Focusing on five different test cases from the English, French, and German regions, at various points in the tenth, twelfth, and fifteenth centuries, and ranging from famous monasteries in the Ottonian period to an assortment of convents in late fifteenth-century England, they demonstrated specific challenges and opportunities in finding evidence for nuns’ literacies. The three contributors in ‘Language and Literacy: Latin and the Vernacular’, with no shortage of evidence, ranged widely along a linguistic continuum that took in variable knowledge of Latin from that of Birgittine nuns in Sweden to various orders in Viennese convents and specific female religious in the Low Countries in the late Middle Ages. In their discussion of the Latin literacy levels of female religious, the contributors took into account the interrelated processes of translational activity and shifts in devotional religious practice at the time. The next section, ‘Literate Nuns: Reading and Writing in the Convent’, understandably comprised the largest number of essays. Beginning with Anglo-Saxon England in the late seventh century and finishing with Sweden at the end of the fifteenth century, seven participants explored a series of topics that included AngloSaxon, Middle English, and Latin saints’ lives, German sermons, and Swedish table readings and monastic rules, alongside a discussion of royal female religious in the multilingual (Czech, German, and Latin) Bohemian court in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Finally, in the last section, ‘Authorship and the Nun: Writing for the Nun by the Nun’, two contributors focused on material from the Low Countries that illustrated the valuable roles played by specific female religious as compilers and editors of particular sister-books (or mini-bio­graphies of nuns) and as redactors, collectors, editors, and/or copyists



of sermons by named preachers. In this way some examples of literate activity, in the full sense of the term, were brought to light: nuns writing creatively for the benefit of their sisters. In Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue we broadened the geo­graphical range considerably beyond northern Europe, while still recognizing its importance. In ‘Educating the Sisters’, four essays demonstrated the daily practices of literacy with which medi­eval nuns engaged: from the richness of materials associated with Frankish convents in the eighth century to the largest extant collection of women’s monastic writings in Latin and German in the Cistercian monastery of Helfta in Saxony, and beyond those to the late fifteenth-century Augustinian canonesses — adept scribes from the Brussels convent of Jericho — and the intrepid Irish nuns who established convent schools across the Spanish peninsula from 1499 onwards. In the second section of the collection, ‘Nuns Making their Letters’, three scholars provided a number of case-studies from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries that illustrated the difficulty of locating and identifying female scribal hands in varying contexts: an Italian nun who struggled to produce her accounts in a Dominican convent in Naples, a Birgittine nun in Vadstena in Sweden who expertly wrote and proofread her own work, to various English nuns where the evidence revealed more of what they read than what they definitely wrote. In the third section ‘Visualizing Meaning’, three scholars demonstrated nuns’ visual engagement with theology and how they represented, forged, or went against current artistic traditions, either male or female. These essays began with an analysis of a series of mid-eleventh-century limestone sculptures that depict women religious, probably from Essen in North Rhine-Westphalia, in discursive poses holding books and proceeded with a description of the development of an individualistic icono­graphy in the Benedictine convent of Pontetetto on the outskirts of Lucca in Tuscany, while the final essay demonstrated how certain late medi­e val Germanic nuns, both in the north and the south, continued to be active in a long-standing tradition of illustration and decoration. The fourth section, ‘Engaging with Texts’, emphasized in its four essays several types of literary culture that existed in women’s convents in various parts of Europe. These included texts in Old Irish preserved in much later versions: booklists from two Benedictine convents in Iceland, one in the south and one in the north; a massive fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Latin and German (and mixed) correspondence from the Benedictine convent in Lüne in Lower Saxony; as well as impressive mystical texts in Dutch from the Sint-Agnes convent in Arnhem in the Netherlands. The fifth and final section, ‘Literary Agency’, investigated the ways in which medi­eval nuns used existing traditions to document and control

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their communities’ reputations and goods. Three essays respectively discussed a property dispute from eighth-century Gloucestershire that demonstrates how Anglo-Saxon nuns used legal documents in order to advance their own interests and those of their communities, a Latin cartulary from fifteenth-century Godstow in Oxfordshire that show some nuns in England were actively engaged in using literate practice as part of their self-presentation, and Spanish texts written by one of the Carmelite Reform leaders in the second half of the sixteenth century as an attempt to depict the religious struggles of her own Order both in Spain and, more particularly, in her adopted country, France. In Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue the range of material goes beyond that of the preceding books while at the same time connections are made with subjects and themes already encountered. The collection covers languages not found in either of the other volumes — that is, Catalan, Danish, French, and Hungarian — while other vernaculars featured earlier, such as Dutch and German, continue to be the areas where scholars are actively working, so we again have essays about such languages. In the introduction of further languages that are less known, readers will learn about areas of Europe closed off to those of us who do not understand these languages. In this volume there is a decided emphasis on the rules drawn up for female religious, particularly on what and how they were supposed to read as well as on what actually happened, in the sense that this can be deciphered from the evidence. One contributor explores in detail a Dutch text produced in 1510 as a guide to reading for young novices; another colleague works her way through The Myroure of oure Ladye, which was an explication of Divine Service for Birgittine nuns. This emphasis on translational activity expands upon a subject only touched on in earlier volumes. Although previous contributors have been mindful of the place of translation in nuns’ reading and writing, this is the first time that essays are devoted solely to the study of translation techniques. The necessity of being knowledgeable in Latin and the vernacular is obvious from the work that Franciscan tertiaries conducted to rewrite Stephan Fridolin’s Schatzbehalter [The Treasure Trove] and that an unnamed translator produced for St Bonaventura’s Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist that was read by the nuns of Montmartre. In addition, this particular volume not only focuses on nuns but also on those other nun-like female religious whose lives were not bound forever by the laws of clausura, such as secular canonesses and those defined as tertiaries, a vexed term in itself that is fully explored by one contributor. The mention of such female religious outside the rather strict definition of nuns previously observed in these volumes also highlights another factor: the inevitable relationship between high-born secular and religious women



in the Middle Ages in terms of reading and writing. This may be seen across the board, from donations of books in Catalonia and Danish scribal activity to testamentary bequests in German-speaking areas. Nuns in the Middle Ages may have been behind their convent walls, but this did not prohibit interaction with society at large, whether this entailed helping to run a Florentine printing press in San Jacopo di Ripoli or being the recipients of Savonarola’s writings in Le Murate in Florence.5 We have divided the nineteen essays below broadly along chronological lines into the following categories: ‘Rules and Learning’; ‘Literacy and Visualization’, ‘Translating and Rewriting’; and, finally, ‘Exchange and Networks’. Of course, there are threads linking essays both within and beyond such sections that enable useful cross-cultural and linguistic connections. In ‘Rules and Learning’ the concentration is on what can be learnt about the theoretical aspects of nuns’ literate practice from informal writings, formal rules and strictures, and special guides, all of which interact in different ways. These six essays range from eighth-century Anglo-Saxon letters in Latin, with their ad hoc comments about literacy, to educational practices in the Low Countries in the late sixteenth century. En route there are formal monastic Latin rules in the thirteenth century, an examination of strictures about orders associated with tertiaries and the influence this has on the books such women owned and read, as well as a detailed examination of a prescriptive guide in the Dutch vernacular for another group of tertiaries. This section opens with the second of a two-part essay by Helene Scheck and Virginia Blanton which furthers their efforts at recovering evidence for and patterns of literacy as revealed in the writings by and about early medi­ eval women, with particular attention to Leoba of Tauberbischofsheim. In Part 1 (which is printed in the Kansas City volume), they demonstrated that an icono­g raphy of learning could be discerned in the vita of Leoba, one that illustrated the values of female learning in seventh- and eighth-century AngloSaxon England.6 In effect, they showed that Rudolf von Fulda’s vita can be used to read backwards in time as a means to recover something of the educational ideals of Anglo-Saxon women’s communities. In the present essay, ‘Leoba’s Legacy: The Carolingian Transformation of an Icono­g raphy of Literacy’, 5 

See the essay below by Melissa Moreton. Virginia Blanton and Helene Scheck, ‘Leoba and the Icono­g raphy of Learning in the Lives of Anglo-Saxon Women Religious, 660–780’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 3–26. 6 

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Scheck and Blanton demonstrate how Rudolf shaped the vita as a means to promote particular intellectual ideals for women of his own period (some fifty years after Leoba’s death) in support of the Benedictine Reform movement as well as Hraban Maur’s own programme of expanding the power and prestige of the male monastic centre at Fulda with which Leoba was connected. They stake further ground by illustrating how the same text, later dedicated to Hadamout von Gandersheim, could be redeployed for and by a later audience of women religious. In sum, Scheck and Blanton consider the motivations for and effects of Rudolf ’s presentation of Leoba as an icon of women’s monasticism to restrict women’s roles during the ninth-century Carolingian Reform movement. They conclude, however, that this static icon, superficially imposed, is insufficient to constrain the effects on women’s literacy and learning produced by the rich icono­graphy of learning at the heart of Leoba’s vita. Whereas in the early period it is often difficult to discern a specific order or rule for a given community, say for Leoba’s convent at Tauberbischofsheim, the thirteenth century saw the rise of various rules for women religious which were more distinctly codified. For instance, during the period 1212–63, the Clarissan sisters were variously provided with Rules and formae vitae by a number of authors, female and male. The authors conceived of varying religious vocations and praxes for the sisters, and supported these with more or less variant formative texts. Among the many features of monastic life encompassed by these texts were provisions for literacy and learning. Julie Anne Smith’s essay ‘“Faciat eas litteras edoceri”: Literate Practices in the Clarissan formae vitae’ takes the position that, as foundational texts that manifestly shaped nuns’ lives and choices, Rules and formae vitae can provide a ground for understanding the possibilities for, and realities of, their literate practices. The argument is based in the understanding that literate practices for the Clarissans can only be assessed adequately when armed, initially, with a sound appreciation of the broader literate cultures of the thirteenth century. The main analysis traces the writing of the Clarissan Rules, with their provisions for literate practices, from the proto-forma vitae of Francesco d’Assisi, c. 1212, to the authoritative 1263 Rule of Pope Urban IV (1261–64) for the Order of St Clare. Leading on from Smith’s concentration on Clarissans is Alison More’s essay ‘Religious Order and Textual Identity: The Case of Franciscan Tertiary Women’. It is a common myth that many communities of extra-regular religious women ‘became Franciscan tertiaries’ when they adopted the so-called Rule of St Francis, or 1289 Rule, issued by Pope Nicholas IV (1288–92). However, the many and varied texts associated with women’s houses illustrate an openness to diverse spiritual models and the reality of fluctuating order identities in these



communities. After tracing the history of ‘rules’ of the Franciscan Third Order, the widespread adoption of the 1289 Rule is discussed. This Rule was the ideal instrument of regularization: it created the appearance of belonging to an Order with an official Rule that was approved at the highest levels of the Church without requiring that communities adopt a new spirituality or submit themselves to the care of a particular Order. The mythology of a Third Order founded by Francesco d’Assisi himself stems from the Observant Reform movement’s campaign to gain canonical recognition for these groups of extra-regular women in the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Examination of specific manu­ script inscriptions from various quasi-religious houses from the Low Countries (including the Hessenberg community in Nijmegen in the fifteenth century), and the circulation of vitae of model women within and without the Franciscan ambit shows that tertiary identity is far more complex than is currently presented in most modern scholarship. While it would seem that certain Observant Franciscans felt that establishing a fixed order identity was important for houses under their care, these female tertiary communities did not agree. Instead, while the creation of Third Orders resulted in canonical changes, the spirituality of the women themselves appears to have retained its earlier amorphous character. The next two essays move from Latin theorizations of nuns’ opportunities for literacy to more practical efforts in the vernacular. In ‘“To yowr gostly comforte and proffite”: Devotional Reading for the Nuns of Syon Abbey’, Ann M. Hutchison describes how the nuns of Syon Abbey (Middlesex), who were enclosed contemplatives, fulfilled their main duties of meditation and prayer. She demonstrates how the Rule itself makes provision for the nuns to have as many books as they wish for learning and study, and points to surviving examples to indicate how books and reading were central to their lives. A number of works are by the brethren of Syon, and their work is marked by a particularly caring tone. Looking in detail at The Myroure of oure Ladye, written in the early years of the foundation of Syon Abbey, Hutchison demonstrates the importance of this translation and explanation of the unique Office of the sisters, showing that it was designed not to replace the Latin Office but to help the sisters fully understand its lessons, prayers, and verses. Underlining the centrality of reading to their devotional lives, the work dedicates a section to reading: here, both silent reading and reading aloud are discussed, as well as the choice of appropriate books. By way of example, Hutchison continues with mention of The Orcherd of Syon, a translation of the Dialogo of St Caterina da Siena, addressed to the abbess and sisters of Syon, and she touches on a number of other texts written for the nuns by the Syon brothers, showing that, among the choir sisters, at least, literacy was taken for granted.

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Sabrina Corbellini’s essay, ‘Sitting between Two Sisters: Reading Holy Writ in a Community of Tertiaries in Sint-Agnes, Amersfoort’, likewise discusses the process of learning specific religious techniques as described in the so-called Informieringheboeck der jongen [Manual for the Young Ones], a handbook for the instruction of novices written by Jan de Wael, the confessor of the community of tertiaries of Sint-Agnes in Amersfoort around 1510. In the chapter dedicated to the reading of the scriptures, Jan de Wael offers detailed information about the development of religious literacy among these women. He discusses the practical aspects of reading and the process of selecting reading material, and stresses the importance of including in the process a careful analysis of paratextual elements, which form the backbone of the text and allow a selective and discontinuous readership of the scriptures. Clearly placing himself and his community in the Devotio moderna, he suggests selecting short passages (points or chapters) to be read intensively, ruminated and meditated upon, as well as copied into personal scrapbooks (‘carte’). He stresses also the moral and spiritual value of reading the scriptures: they are described as ‘mirrors’ in which the sisters can find examples to follow and mistakes to avoid, but also inspiration for the building of a rich and satisfactory spiritual life. According to Jan de Wael’s description, the religious community centres upon, is created, and reinforced by reading, interpreting, and meditating on the scriptures, which form a pivotal point in the spiritual life of the sisters. Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen deal with the end of the so-called medi­ eval period in ‘A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons in the Low Countries’. In the 1570s an anonymous Carthusian nun from SintAnna-Ter-Woestijne in Sint-Andries near Bruges wrote down thirty-nine sermons she had heard her confessor, Vicar Henricus Cool (d. 1578), preach. The sermons are extant in two manu­scripts. In her epilogues to both collections the sister mentions that she had heard these sermons herself, and that she wrote them down because her memory was not retentive enough to remember all the valuable and comforting content. In writing down the sermons, the Carthusian nun places herself in a fairly vibrant tradition of sermon writing in the vernacular by sister scribes in the Low Countries. This contribution focuses on twenty-one sermons in the earliest of the two collections (Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS II 2098) and seeks to explore how this anonymous nun from the only Carthusian women’s convent in the Low Countries committed the sermons of her vicar to paper, how she formed her own redactorship, and the level of her literacy. It also seeks to explore what public the sister had in mind while she was writing the sermons. The next section moves more from the theoretical to the actual. The focus is on the ways in which the nuns in question put their literate skills into prac-



tice in reading, writing, illumination, composition, and commemoration: in other words, how medi­e val nuns visualized their devotional world. ‘Literacy and Visualization’ works through an examination of the evidence for reading in various convents in the north-east corner of the Spanish peninsula from the thirteenth century, through illuminating, reading, and writing in Birgittine circles in Sweden, Denmark, and England, to more independent-minded Italian nuns who used their compositional skills to promote the sanctity of some of their own sisters in the first decades of the sixteenth century. During the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, nunneries in Catalonia, Majorca, and Valencia were filled with books written in Latin and in the vernacular; the latter included a significant number of works in Catalan, either translations of the most prominent spiritual texts in circulation throughout southern Europe or books originally written in that language. Studies of the literacy of Catalan nuns, their libraries, and reading are still scarce. However, the gradual collection of scattered data, partial inventories, and monastic archives allow new hypotheses which, on the one hand, increasingly question the hitherto general idea of cultural poverty within female monastic milieux in most of the territories of the Crown of Aragon, and on the other, provide information about the role played by these female communities in the development of a religious vernacular culture. In her essay ‘What Did Catalan Nuns Read? Women’s Literacy in the Female Monasteries of Catalonia, Majorca, and Valencia’, Blanca Garí offers an overview of the wealth of those archives, and of the reading and cultural practices of eight monasteries of the different orders and communities: the Cistercian nunnery of Santa Maria de Vallbona; the houses of Poor Clares of Sant Antoni de Barcelona, Santa Maria de Pedralbes (near Barcelona), Santa Clara de Manresa (Bages), and La Trinitat de Valencia; the Dominican house of Santa María de Montsió in Barcelona; and the Augustinian communities of Santa Margarida in Palma de Mallorca and Santa Maria del Puig de Pollença. Beginning the first of the three Birgittine essays in this section, Eva Lindqvist Sandgren investigates a prayer book from the late medi­eval Birgittine monastery in Vadstena in her ‘Christina Hansdotter Brask: Reading and Pictorial Preferences in a Birgittine Prayer Book’. The manu­script, Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­ biblio­tek, MS C 12, was copied by one of the best-known and most productive scribes in the convent, Sister Christina Hansdotter Brask (active 1459–1520). There are still three extant small woodcuts accompanying some of the prayers, but there used to be several more that were pasted into the manu­s cript. Sandgren investigates the traces of the lost images, their original position on the page, the signs of wear and tear on the pages, and the relation of the images to the extant texts. From this analysis, it is possible to reconstruct a pictorial

Introduction xxxiii

programme. The main themes of the images treat the passion of Christ and the Virgin Mary. The icono­graphy reveals that the Abbey was up to date with what was fashionable in the cura monialium at the time, even if the nuns’ artistic skills were not at a professional level. MS C 12 is nevertheless a good example of how the Vadstena nuns’ prayer books could be organized, illuminated, and used. Prayer books are again the focus of the next essay. In ‘Devotional Books from the Birgittine Abbey of Maribo’ Anne Mette Hansen outlines the early history of the convent’s foundation on an estate in the middle of Lolland near the town of Maribo. She notes how Queen Margrete I (1353–1412) — who had close ties to the Birgittines, having been brought up by Märta Ulfsdotter (c. 1319–71), a daughter of Birgitta of Vadstena (1303–73) — donated her estate, Grimstrup, in 1401. In 1408 this was then handed over to the Birgittine Order to form the convent of Maribo, officially founded in 1416, the first Birgittine convent on Danish soil. Five late medi­e val prayer books and a few fragments of two books in Danish are preserved from the Abbey of Maribo. In this essay Hansen provides an introduction to these devotional vernacular books dating from the early 1490s to the early 1500s. She addresses the overall content of the books and the relationship among the manu­scripts. All these manu­scripts are written in the same type of script, the widespread Gothic half cursive (gotisk halvkursiv) characteristic of manu­script books for private use of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The scribes themselves are anonymous, but it is clear that the same scribe was responsible for more than one work, thus emphasizing even more the connection between these prayer books. In the descriptions provided Hansen concentrates in particular on the two books with named owners, those of the Maribo nuns Marine Isdatter, a sister in the early 1490s, and Anna Brahe, an abbess who died before 1545. The details about prayer manu­scripts that are constructed in Hansen’s essay connect in some respects to those found in Maribo’s sister convent of Syon, which was founded a year earlier, in 1415, as shown in Veronica O’Mara’s essay ‘Scribal Engagement and the Late Medi­e val English Nun: The Quest Concludes?’. In previous essays O’Mara investigated some of the evidence for — and against — scribal literacy by nuns in late medi­eval England.7 The current 7  See respectively ‘The Late Medi­e val English Nun and Her Scribal Activity: A Complicated Quest’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 69–93, and ‘Nuns and Writing in Late Medi­eval England: The Quest Continues’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 123–47.



essay is therefore the third in an integrated series that explores material mainly from the fifteenth to the first half of the sixteenth century — this time particularly from Syon Abbey. In the first essay O’Mara concentrated on the evidence from nuns’ ownership inscriptions before discussing examples of manu­scripts from selected convents, and in the second she examined prayers and devotional texts added to various manu­scripts to see what light, if any, they cast on English nuns’ potential scribal activity. In the current essay the field is narrowed in order to allow a fuller exploration of what evidence remains for female scribal ability and activity in the only Birgittine foundation in England, Syon Abbey (Middlesex), in the years between 1500 and the Dissolution in 1539 and beyond. Particularly important is the figure of Mary Nevel (d. 1557/58), who is currently the only named English female scribe associated with Syon Abbey, and whose hand may be identified from palaeo­graphical evidence in a number of manu­scripts. In this respect the quest does not conclude but takes on new life for study into the future. While O’Mara has a challenging time isolating the corpus of manu­scripts produced by just one nun, in ‘Memorializing Living Saints in the Milanese Convent of Santa Marta in the Late Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century’, Brian Richardson is able to study the production of manu­scripts by whole groups of nuns. He compares the output of the Augustinian nuns in Milan with the better-known evidence for the texts copied by the Clarissans of Monteluce in Perugia. These two cases show how communities of nuns might continue to produce handwritten books for their own use in ways that were in some respects similar but could also respond to the circumstances of individual houses. The work of the nuns of Santa Maria di Monteluce was more typical of convent practice in Italy in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century: their manu­ scripts included a convent chronicle, breviaries, rules of their Order, spiritual treatises, and lives of saints. Some were produced as a result of suggestions by male Franciscans, and some were written collaboratively by the nuns. In the convent of Santa Marta in Milan some nuns used the elegant humanistic cursive script that had been introduced into Italy in the fifteenth century, as well as the more traditional and widely used semi-gothic script. These nuns of Santa Marta also produced offices and a convent chronicle, but, more unusually, they compiled — apparently on their own initiative — documents in the vernacular that were intended to promote the veneration of Sister Veronica Negroni da Binasco (1445–97) and Sister Arcangela Panigarola (1468–1525), the two ‘living saints’ of the convent who raised its profile both spiritually and politically. The third section, ‘Translating and Rewriting’, encompasses four essays on topics spread throughout Europe. These begin with two texts that originate

Introduction xxxv

in the thirteenth century, the legend of St Margit of Hungary (1242–70) and the translation of the Speculum religiosorum of St Edmund of Abingdon into Anglo-Norman. It ends with two later texts: the fifteenth-century French prose translation of St Bonaventura’s Lignum vitae and a rewriting in manu­script form of an incunabulum first printed in 1491. All the essays seek to show the ways in which translation done for nuns or rewriting by the nuns themselves provide significant insights into the sort of texts and manu­scripts owned and produced by them. The most important female monastery in Hungary was that of the Dominican nuns of Buda (today Budapest) founded by King Béla IV (1235–70) in 1254. As shown in Víktória Hedvig Deák’s essay ‘The Legacy of St Margit: A Case-Study of a Dominican Monastery in Hungary’, this convent played an exceptional role in Hungarian history and especially vernacular literature, until the nuns fled because of the imminent Turkish occupation in 1540. This community of women, most of whom were illiterate in the thirteenth century, was among the first and the most effective in Hungary at producing or copying vernacular translations, of which the most remarkable is Szent Margit élete [The Life of St Margit]. Out of forty-five extant vernacular manu­scripts, the nuns produced fourteen. First, this essay focuses on the significance of this convent, since it provides excellent opportunities to study the literacy of a single community over time. Second, Deák considers that the production of vernacular texts in this convent was the result of the efforts of one person, St Margit of Hungary, whose example in seeking a more personal relationship with God could be an explanation for the relatively high percentage of vernacular works produced. To explore the literacy of these nuns more fully, Deák provides an overview of the sources of the life of St Margit of Hungary, who functions as a link throughout the convent’s history. The sources of the Legenda Beatae Margaritae and her canonization process provide the earliest information on the state of literacy and on possible vernacular manu­scripts existing during her lifetime. Deák presents the fourteen extant vernacular codices produced in the monastery and discusses the significant figures in the scriptorium in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, such as Lea Ráskay, the scribe of Szent Margit élete, and Katerina Legéndy. Finally, Deák reflects on how Margit remained a constant source of inspiration for her fellow sisters: the best witness for this is her above-mentioned vernacular legend, copied again in 1510 in the convent. During the time that the canonization process for St Margit was ongoing in Hungary, the Speculum religiosorum of St Edmund of Abingdon was being translated into Anglo-Norman in England, usually with the title Mirour de seinte eglyse. The manu­script copies in French containing complete or partial



texts suggest adaptations for different readerships, male and female, lay and religious. In her essay ‘Anonymous Then, Invisible Now: The Readers of “Sermon a dames religioses”’, Cate Gunn considers this French translation focusing on its survival in four manu­scripts: London, British Library, MS Royal 12 C.xii; London, British Library, MS Royal 20 B.xiv; Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190; Yale Uni­ver­sity, Beinecke Library, MS 492; and a partial text in Cam­ bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 123. While the text addresses ‘soers’ [‘sisters’] and contains a highly contemplative chapter, suggestive of professional religious readership, the manu­script evidence is often at odds with this textual evidence, sometimes pointing instead to male, lay ownership. Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190 contains a version entitled ‘Sermon a dames religioses’, but it belonged to Westminster Abbey, a house of Benedictine monks. Gunn suggests that we need to keep an open mind when evaluating manu­scripts and accept that ownership or readership attested at one period of a manu­script’s history is not the whole story. In ‘Translation and Reform: Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist and the Nuns of Montmartre’, Catherine Innes-Parker shows that in this particular case it is possible, with careful scrutiny of the text, to isolate the features of translation intended for a particular readership at a particular period in time. The works of St Bonaventura were unquestionably among the most influential spiritual writings of the late Middle Ages, both in their original Latin and in multiple vernacular versions. Nevertheless, his Lignum vitae has been largely neglected. The text survives in three French translations, two prose and one verse, dating from the late fourteenth to the early sixteenth century. The fifteenth-century French prose translation of the Lignum vitae is of particular interest. Internal evidence suggests that it was composed for a conventual audience, and external evidence from the later of the two manu­scripts in which it survives, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Fr. 19548, indicates that it was owned by nuns, one of whom was Antoinette Auger, abbess of Montmartre from 1519 to 1526, and again from 1532 to 1539. The manu­script contains the Rule of Marie de Bretagne (attributed to Etienne Poncher, the reforming Bishop of Paris), Les Ordonnances des frères [The Ordinances of the Brothers], by Etienne Poncher (1505), Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist [The Book of the Tree of the Cross of Jesus Christ] and La Discipline claustrale (Thomas a Kempis). These texts place it squarely in the context of the late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Reforms of convents in France. The French version of the Lignum vitae shows that the translator was very conscious of his audience, updating the text to suit the devotional climate of his times and altering it to suit the daily needs of his audience. The inclusion of St Bonaventura’s contem-

Introduction xxxvii

plative text in this manu­script gives us an unusual and important mirror on the French Counter-Reformation. The next essay, Almut Breitenbach and Stefan Matter’s ‘Image, Text and Mind: Franciscan Tertiaries Rewriting Stephan Fridolin’s Schatzbehalter in the Pütrichkloster in Munich’, focuses on another late medi­eval phenomenon: the relationship of manu­script to print. Among the large library holdings of the Munich convent of female Franciscan tertiaries are three manu­scripts that contain three different abbreviated versions of Stephan Fridolin’s Schatzbehalter, all of them written during the first decade of the sixteenth century. The Schatzbehalter, published in 1491, is a carefully designed instruction for devotion which closes with an all-encompassing guide to the right way of praying. The print contains ninety-six full-page woodcuts, which form the integral core of the book, as the text is constructed in accordance with the images. Therefore, it is most surprising that the Munich manu­s cripts are not illustrated and that they mostly omit the picture descriptions. Questions that may be asked include: how does the text compensate for the loss of the images as a structural element of the work? How far does the text anticipate specific modes of reception? How is it generally to be read and understood in this new design? Next to the significant features of the reworked text itself, the rich material of the project, ‘Schriftlichkeit in süddeutschen Frauenklöstern’ [‘Written Heritage of Southern German Women’s Convents’], offers an opportunity for viewing the three Schatzbehalter-manu­scripts against the backdrop of the Pütrichhaus library. The Pütrich sisters participated in a large network of literary exchange between women’s convents of different orders in the area and were also in contact with literary life in Nürnberg, where the Schatzbehalter was written and printed. As shown in this essay, the double perspective of text and context thus brings into view many aspects of vernacular literary exchange in late medi­eval southern Germany, in which nuns played a decisive role. The texts discussed here bear witness to the indirect influence on the development of the European vernaculars brought about by the recourse to translation by medi­eval female religious as well as to the profitable growth in translation itself. The four essays in the final section also concentrate on an important European phenomenon, ‘Exchange and Networks’. We see a steady list of book exchanges among secular canonesses in Hainaut as well as late medi­eval book circulation between familial relations connected with a south German convent. There are also wider sources of transmission that connect houses of the same Order as in the Birgittines of Syon in England and Dendermonde in the Low Countries and, in central Italy, not only the gifting of books to nuns within the same house, but also the sharing of books with mendicant friars, and with secular patrons.



Throughout its history the noble women’s Chapter of Sainte-Waudru in Mons in Hainaut built up a collection of liturgical books via orders, purchases, donations, and legacies. Some references found in the Chapter’s accounts and charters associate books with multiple canonesses’ names in the context of sales, purchases, book exchanges, and wills. Anne Jenny-Clark’s analysis in ‘The Transmission of Books among Canonesses of Sainte-Waudru in Mons: The Example of Marie de Hoves’s Books’ focuses on those books passed down by canonesses to other members of this women’s Chapter. Of particular interest is the case of the canoness Marie de Hoves, whose presence in the cloister is attested in the sources from the date she acquired a place in the Sainte-Waudru’s Chapter on 12 September 1362 until her death in July 1419. She owned at least six books: one psalter, three breviaries, a missal, and a booklet, which are not extant but are known thanks to the Chapter’s accounts and charters. Marie’s books are linked with six other canonesses of Mons. They appear in the sources from 1393 to 1455, in six distinct but differing records: three books are noted in the context of book transfers, one in the sale of articles listed in the execution of a will, and two in codicils. Marie’s acquisition and legacies of manu­scripts are discussed by Jenny-Clark in order to provide a picture of book transmission within this women’s Chapter. Sara S. Poor likewise examines the specifics of late medi­e val book circulation, this time between familial relations both within and outside the cloister setting in and around Kirchheim am Ries (southern Germany) in ‘The Countess, the Abbess, and their Books: Manu­script Circulation in a FifteenthCentury German Family’. She focuses on a group of manu­scripts bearing the same or similar inscription attributing ownership first to a Countess Agnes von Werdenberg (the wife of Count Ludwig XI von Oettingen) and then to her daughter Magdalena, who was abbess of the Cistercian convent in Kirchheim from 1446 to 1496. The evidence provided by the manu­scripts, along with surviving medi­eval book inventories from the Oettingen family, show books being transferred among various family members by loan, gift, and bequest. The essay begins with a focus on the gender of the family members and the type of books transferred, since by German customary law, religious books were considered to be the property of women. However, exploring the historical context of these manu­scripts, which includes the efforts of Magdalena to reform Kirchheim in conjunction with the Observant Movement, reveals not only important details about women’s roles in the production and circulation of vernacular literature in the late medi­eval period, but also the ways that both women and men in the secular realms were engaged and involved in the culture, politics, and practices of the sacred and vice versa. In other words, the essay suggests that the focus on

Introduction xxxix

the often overlooked or undervalued contributions of women to the production of medi­e val literature offers a more comprehensive and accurate understanding not only of those contributions but also of the larger integration of the religious and secular in medi­eval literary history. Particularly in the last ten years, scholarship on late medi­eval reading and devotion has been interested in the movement of religious texts from the audience for whom they were originally intended — that is, monks and nuns — to a wider audience of lay devotional readers. Tracing this reading and asking for whom it was intended and to whom it was directed has been an absorbing task, and, as noted in Poor’s essay, the traffic has not just been one way. But late medi­e val religion was still strongly visual, and the transmission and dissemination of religious images, as well as religious texts, has not been much explored. This is the focus of Mary C. Erler’s essay, ‘The Transmission of Images between Flemish and English Birgittine Houses’. One of the centres of late medi­eval visual production was the Low Countries, and the culture of religious women and religious houses from this region was especially rich. In the last half of the fifteenth century nuns from the Netherlands were heavily engaged in the production and exchange of devotional images. Designed for use both inside and outside a particular house, these designs served to strengthen community bonds both within a house and between houses, and in particular to consolidate the visual signature of a particular religious Order. This process can be seen in the movement of images from the Birgittine house of Mariëntroon (alias Maria Troon) in Dendermonde in Flanders to the English Birgittine house of Syon. As books that carried St Birgitta’s image were distributed ever more widely among the devout laity, the presence of her image broadened and strengthened devotion to her (as well as conveying the authority of a female conduit for divine transmissions). More practically, in the last decades of the fifteenth century the design of Syon’s advertising broadside by the same artist who had produced similar devotional materials for Mariëntroon shows the cross-channel influence of one Birgittine house upon another in matters visual as well as verbal — that is, in the circulation of images as well as texts — in order to stimulate devotion. A more localized, though no less significant exchange is evident in the examples from central Italy discussed by Melissa Moreton in the final essay. In ‘Exchange and Alliance: The Sharing and Gifting of Books in Women’s Houses in Late Medi­e val and Renaissance Florence’, Moreton analyses how book ownership and exchange allowed nuns to form alliances between communities inside and outside the cloister. Three broad categories of exchange are examined: the copying and passing of books from one nun to another within a



house, the gifting of books to nuns by Dominican friars, and the use of books in gift exchanges between nuns and secular patrons. The author analyses evidence from the convents of Santa Brigida del Paradiso (Birgittine), Le Murate (Benedictine), Santa Maria del Portico (Augustinian), San Jacopo di Ripoli, Santa Lucia, and Santa Caterina da Siena (Dominican) in Florence, as well as the Observant Franciscan convent of Santa Maria di Monteluce in Perugia. Moreton demonstrates how books were used within the convent as a tool for educating young nuns, fostering their spiritual formation and forming important inter-generational alliances between nuns of different status. Saints’ lives, psalters, and devotional writings provided virtuous models of piety for young nuns. The gifting of these texts by older nuns represented the transmission and continuance of a spiritual legacy for women who had no heirs and (in theory) no worldly wealth. Books were used to pay debts, strengthen alliances between female convents of the same Order, and build essential connection of patronage between (spiritual and secular) male patrons and their female subjects. By copying, sharing, and gifting books, nuns tangibly connected themselves to other members of their immediate and broader communities economically, politically, and spiritually. Indeed, the use of books as gifts in central Italy in the late fifteenth and sixteenth century serves to symbolize the sort of exchanges that were at work at different points throughout medi­eval Europe. Female religious may have lived cloistered and sheltered lives but in their interactions with each other (whether at home or abroad), their fellow male religious, and their countrymen and women, they participated in a widespread series of networks that these volumes and similar works of scholarship have been at pains to bring to light.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Project With the inclusion here (and in the Kansas City volume) of so many more essays on the Germanic languages with which the whole project started, it may be said that we have come full circle in some respects. Yet again we are also keenly aware that there is — thankfully — no closing of the circle in a project of this kind. With each round of the circle more information is uncovered, and with each additional vernacular considered new vistas are opened. This ensures that in a reconsideration of the languages or areas we know well — or think we know well — our knowledge may be clarified or enhanced. In the three published volumes on nuns’ literacies we have attempted to ensure adequate representation for different languages, periods, and regions, but we have not seen it as our duty to guarantee full coverage across Europe,

Introduction xli

something that would have been impossible in any case within the confines of just three books.8 Rather than commission essays to fill gaps for the sake of it, we tried to encourage a broad range of contributions from both senior and junior scholars simply for the value of their work. Yet despite our best efforts, we are very aware that certain areas and their vernaculars remain neglected, various materials go unexplored, and nuances to particular arguments are overlooked. To quote Andrew Marvell, that fine seventeenth-century poet from Hull, where this whole enterprise first began, ‘Had we but World enough, and Time’, more could have been done.9 Yet in presenting fifty-three essays in these three volumes, we have met our original aim in ranging widely throughout Europe chronologically, geo­graphically, and linguistically. Vernacular languages investigated in these volumes, together with various dialectal varieties, comprise Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Irish, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish. Above all, we have constantly borne in mind the importance of Latin, the so-called ‘malegendered’ language that has run seamlessly through each collection and with which our nuns have grappled ignorantly, competently, or expertly, depending on circumstance and location. On balance it is easier to list the modern-day countries covered in these essays (broadly equating with the languages above) rather than to have to rehearse the complicated medi­eval divisions of such countries along linguistic and chronological lines. However, to say, for instance, that England is dealt with in these volumes begs the question of which England: Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, or Medi­eval England? In truth different essays touch on particular aspects, but no one essay is obviously going to deal with the whole of England over time. Likewise, such an extensive region as the Germanspeaking areas is tackled from different perspectives depending on the focus of the individual essay. If this seems self-evident, it nevertheless deserves re-iteration in the light of our avowed objectives set out at the beginning of this exer8 

There are also areas of Europe and languages that we could not have included no matter how much we wished. For instance, there is evidence of only two Cistercian abbeys and one Benedictine priory in Wales, and so virtually no information about nuns’ literacies; for further information, see Jane Cartwright, Feminine Sanctity and Spirituality in Medi­eval Wales (Cardiff: Uni­ver­sity of Wales Press, 2008). 9  The first line of Andrew Marvell’s ‘To his Coy Mistress’; see The Poems and Letters of Andrew Marvell, ed. by H. M. Margoliouth, revised by Pierre Legouis, with the collaboration of E. E. Duncan-Jones, 3rd edn (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), i: Poems, pp. 27–28 (p. 27, l. 1). The name of Marvell also lives on in the Uni­ver­sity of Hull’s Andrew Marvell Centre for Medi­ eval and Early Modern Studies, under whose auspices our first conference was held.



cise. Rather than being content with old generalizations and hasty conclusions, we have sought to shine a spotlight into some dark corners and to re-examine a few long-held assumptions. What we are concerned with are the specifics of the individual situations. This has meant allowing contributors to go their own way, to agree or disagree with each other productively, and to temper some of the conclusions drawn up on the basis of previous inadequate evidence. Any implied contradictions are always guided by the current state of research and the evidence available, rather than on glib generalizations. For instance, Antonella Ambrosio notes in the Kansas City volume that there were at least thirty convents in Naples from the ninth to the fifteenth century, an unusually high number and were probably comparable only to Florence.10 Yet owing to the lack of surviving evidence and the paucity of previous research interest in the field, her main source of evidence for a particular convent has to be its account ledgers. In this she contrasts with the rosy view of literacy in Renaissance Florence and Milan given in the present volume by Brian Richardson and Melissa Moreton in their discussions of nuns’ reading and writing where manu­scripts and nuns’ scribal inscriptions are plentiful. Therefore, caveat emptor to anyone who seeks to make a generalization about the state of nuns’ literary production in Italy as a whole on the grounds of one essay rather than another. Most especially, this project has involved all of us in an examination of particular manu­scripts, texts, convents, orders, and people, which have been picked up in the individual indexes, as have the orders mentioned or discussed. Networks have been explored and influences investigated, for example, AngloSaxon and Carolingian contacts,11 Bohemian and English relationships,12 Irish


Antonella Ambrosio, ‘Literacy in Neapolitan Women’s Convents: An Example of Female Handwriting in a Late Fifteenth-Century Accounts Ledger’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­ eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 89–108 (p. 91). 11  See Lisa M. C. Weston, ‘Conceiving the Word(s): Habits of Literacy among Earlier Anglo-Saxon Monastic Women’ and Stephanie Hollis, ‘The Literary Culture of the AngloSaxon Royal Nunneries: Romsey and London, British Library, MS  Lansdowne 436’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 149–67 and 169–83; Virginia Blanton and Helene Scheck, ‘Leoba and the Icono­graphy of Learning in the Lives of Anglo-Saxon Women Religious, 660–780’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­ eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 3–26, and their essay in the current volume. 12  See the discussion of Anne of Bohemia in Alfred Thomas, ‘Between Court and Cloister: Royal Patronage and Nuns’ Literacy in Medi­e val East-Central Europe’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 207–21.

Introduction xliii

and Spanish interactions.13 If some orders, such as the Birgittine; some subjects, such as sermons or scribal identifications; or some regions such as the Low Countries, have been discussed more than others, this reflects both the strength of the material and the sort of research presently being conducted. In essence, these collections of essays are inevitably going to be as much a mirror of current interpretations and predilections as any other major research project past or future. Furthermore, while it is fruitless to rehearse the mass degradations that have led to the loss of so much material and the ruination of most of the physical environment of European nunneries, the obvious destruction brought about by wars and revolutions or orchestrated by well-known rulers, such as Henry VIII in England in the middle of the sixteenth century and Napoleon in Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century, are only part of the problem. A telling example is the almost wholesale destruction of Hungarian archival material in the century and a half following the Battle of the Móhacs which the Hungarians lost to the Turks in 1526 (the dividing line between the medi­ eval and early modern period in Hungary). The gravity of the loss of whole categories of material cannot be underestimated, even if this is not always appreciated by non-Hungarians. This is a salutary reminder that on virtually every level the narrative(s) are partial and patchy: we lack material, but sometimes we also lack sufficient understanding to interpret what we do have. It is impossible to summarize the many and varied themes and topics raised in the fifty-three essays. Together they are an attempt to begin to piece together a huge jigsaw of medi­eval European female literacies. This is a jigsaw where the original picture is largely missing, and many of the pieces themselves have inadvertently (or deliberately) been thrown away or are (temporarily, we hope) lost from view. In trying to sort out these metaphorical pieces we have examined the codicological, textual, palaeo­graphical, and physical archive in front of us, but have also grappled with the theoretical. This collaborative effort was initially driven by a series of opening questions about the nature of medi­eval nuns and books: (1) How was literacy defined in specific geo­g raphical regions and in particular monastic orders, and to what extent did class or social status affect these distinctions? (2) Is it possible to develop a definition of literacy ‘writ large’ for nuns across medi­e val Europe? (3) How is a religious profession a means to literacy? In other words, how were 13 

See Andrea Knox, ‘Her Book-Lined Cell: Irish Nuns and the Development of Texts, Translation, and Literacy in Late Medi­eval Spain’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 67–86, on the work of Irish nuns in Spain from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries.



ecclesiastical structures framed that provided nuns access (or not) to books? (4) How did nuns learn to read and write or teach other nuns to read and write? (5) What level of access and understanding of Latin did nuns have, and how did they use Latin in concert with vernacular texts? (6) When and where did nuns use vernacular languages as a means of access to books? (7) What are the differences in writing ability across the different vernaculars? (8) How did nuns’ use of language change over time and place and by monastic Order? (9) Which surviving manu­scripts show evidence of nuns as readers, patrons, or copyists? (10) What books were nuns writing, as opposed to reading, copying, or exchanging? This list of questions was intended merely as a starting point or provocation to future research, but the more work that is carried out the more it becomes clear that many of these questions require additional essays or even whole books as answers. Put simply, we can collapse the issue of literacy outlined in the first two questions into one: (1) How was literacy defined in specific geo­graphical regions and in particular monastic orders, and to what extent did class or social status affect these distinctions? combined with (2) Is it possible to develop a definition of literacy ‘writ large’ for nuns across medi­eval Europe? We may then only conclude that it is impossible to define literacy in terms of how the ‘average’ nun might have interpreted it; and there is absolutely no definition of literacy ‘writ large’, useful and all as it is to grapple with these notions. It is true that social class throughout Europe had a part to play in who became a literate nun, and it would seem standard practice that in European convents it was girls from the upper middle-classes who went on to fulfil the official functions in convents where higher-level literacy was needed. In Darcy Donahue’s essay in the Kansas City volume we are reminded of the controversies between the wearing of black and white veils in Spanish convents.14 Those who wore the black veil were members of wealthy families (often nobility) and occupied the most important positions of governance and administration such as abbess or teacher of novices, while the white veiled nuns or freylas were most often of lower class and rural origins, and performed the housework of the community. To wear a black veil required sufficient literacy to read the liturgy in Latin, whereas the work of those wearing the white veil was caring for the sick, cooking, cleaning, and laundering, none of which involved the ability to read or write. The lower-class Ana de Bartolomé miraculously acquired literacy 14 

Darcy Donahue, ‘The Personal and the Political: Ana de San Bartolomé’s Version of the Discalced Carmelite Reform’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 327–39.

Introduction xlv

under the influence of St Teresa d’Ávila herself, yet was reluctant to assume the black veil and only did so after various struggles. She was later to become an official repository of the narrative of Teresian Reform among the Discalced Carmelites, turning out more than six hundred letters, a history of the Reform, accounts of convent foundations, and lectures for novices. Yet in this respect a potential mixture of class mores and insecurity (or possibly humility) would seem to have held her back. Most monastic rules were aimed at male religious with some added material for females, but with little about their education or writing, apart from what can be surmised, as in the essay by Julie Ann Smith in the current volume. Regulatory material produced directly for nuns is often no better. For instance, the fifteenth-century Barking Ordinale account, which describes an annual distribution of books to the nuns of this convent in Essex, is famous because of its uniqueness in England. Given that the books were set out on a carpet and nuns were to come forward individually and return a book before choosing another for the next year, it causes us to wonder why there was not a more frequent distribution, as one book per year for each nun to read is not very much.15 It is possible that each nun was expected to cogitate on or even memorize her chosen book over the course of the year, which would justify such an extended study, but we simply do not know. It definitely contrasts with the list of recommended readings for novices compiled by the Dominican reformer Johannes Meyer (1422–1482/85?) in his Ämterbuch (Book of Offices) for Observant women’s houses in Germany, which are discussed by Anne Winston-Allen in the Kansas City volume.16 These novices were expected to plough through works by Hugues de Saint-Victor, Bernard de Clairvaux, Anselm, Heinrich Seuse, Thomas a Kempis, and others, though the reformer does concede that the texts did not have to be studied all at once, but a little bit at a time. 15 

The Ordinale and Customary of the Benedictine Nuns of Barking Abbey, ed. by J. B. L. Tolhurst, Henry Bradshaw Society, 65–66, 2 vols (London: Harrison and Sons, 1927–28), i: Calendar and Temporale, pp. 67–68, with commentary by Laurentia McLachlan in ii: Sanctorale, pp. 373–74, who notes that Chapter 48 of the Benedictine Rule ordains a distribution of books on the first Monday of Lent. 16  Anne Winston-Allen, ‘Outside the Mainstream: Women as Readers, Scribes, and Illustrators of Books in Convents of the German-Speaking Regions’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­ eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 191–206. For an edition of Meyer’s Ämterbuch, see Johannes Meyer: Das Amptbuch, ed. by Sarah Glenn DeMaris, Monumenta Ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum Historica, 31 (Roma: Angelicum Uni­ ver­sity Press, 2015).



Superficially, instances such as these alert us to potential differences between countries — or between reform and non-reform agendas — but more particularly they lead to further questions. One of these concerns the impact of male chaplains, confessors, and preachers on female religious. Because our aim was largely to examine nuns’ literacies in isolation, we deliberately avoided the traditional paradigm of learned male and uneducated female.17 Nevertheless, this is an important consideration which cuts both ways and serves to highlight the diverse arguments that can be raised depending on what evidence is discussed. For example, although not enough is known about Dominican influence in Iceland, Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir mentions in the Kansas City volume that the influential figure associated with the flourishing of exempla in female communities, Jón Halldórsson, bishop of Skálholt (1322–39), was a Dominican who had studied in Paris and Bologna.18 How much influence did a man of this calibre effect on the nuns in his diocese? And are such men to be believed whole heartedly when they present their own views of women’s abilities? For example, as shown by Veronica O’Mara in the same volume, Bishop Richard Fox notes in 1517 that the nuns in his Winchester diocese had such severe problems understanding the Latin Benedictine Rule that he had to have a new translation into English produced for them, which he does, with the apparent co-operation of four female superiors.19 To what extent such links between male and female hierarchies, extending as far back as Bede and Boniface and their female circles in the eighth century, influenced literacy levels in convents is an important issue. Another equally significant question concerns the person in charge of the contemporary narrative of nuns’ literacies; in the famous words of Geoffrey Chaucer’s fictional proto-feminist, the Wife of Bath, ‘Who peinted the leoun, tel me who?’20 17 

In Mulieres religiosae, ed. by Fraeters and De Gier, the editors wisely note too that the essays in the collection are going to avoid the usual hackneyed comparison of female and male spirituality, ‘one that is affective rather than cerebral; figurative and vernacular rather than discursive and Latin; visionary and sensual rather than contemplative or speculative’ (p. 4), in favour of a more nuanced discussion based on recent research. 18  Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir, ‘What Icelandic Nuns Read: The Convent of Reynistaður and the Literary Milieu in Fourteenth-Century Iceland’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 229–48, especially p. 243. 19  O’Mara, ‘Nuns and Writing in Late Medi­eval England’, p. 128. 20  This alludes to the famous beast fable in which a lion and a man argue about which of them is stronger; the lion is shown an image of a man overpowering a lion, to which the lion responds by asking who created the image. See Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, ed. by Jill Mann (London: Penguin, 2005), The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and The Wife of Bath’s Tale, pp. 211–55 (p. 235, l. 692), with commentary on pp. 895–96.

Introduction xlvii

Notwithstanding such issues, the degree of literacy expected or obtained in an average convent of female religious in medi­eval Europe from the eighth to the sixteenth century definitely varied across time and place, with uncertain co-relations between chronological period and advancements in learning. The main activity in any convent was to say the Divine Office. In theory nuns were expected to sing the Office and to study the scriptures in Latin, whereas in practice some who did not know Latin had to follow these by resorting to a vernacular version or prompt. In this respect there is a close correspondence between lay literacy and female literacy, as noted by Thom Mertens in his essay in the Hull volume, on the ways in which Middle Dutch prayers offered simplified versions of the Divine Office, a form of laicized monasticism or monastic laicism that was a feature of the Devotio moderna.21 Evidence from some communities indicates that the knowledgeable use of Latin was important: for example, the survival of vernacular Office books with Latin rubrics which could be used by novices or new initiates who did not yet know Latin so that they could follow along and comprehend the meaning of the Latin Offices. One could also read this as an indication that being able to read the Latin Office was not required, but that would again depend on the particular community and its adherence to its Rule. Some nuns clearly had no training in writing at all; some could read in the vernacular but not in Latin; others could memorize Latin but not know its meaning; while still others were well trained in Latin grammar and metrics, so much so that they could translate or compose texts themselves. Other nuns could copy, either in Latin or the vernacular or both, and we have information about a range of competencies, from untrained scratchings to calli­graphically fine textualis, from simple prayers to texts outlining their own convent history, from homespun decoration to professional illumination for the open market. Much depends on the degree to which such nuns were operating in a vacuum or in touch with the literary world at large. Some religious women were aware of the standards used in visual culture, so much so that they could craft identical work or, in other cases, develop new variations to suit their own situations, as Loretta Vandi demonstrates in her Kansas City analysis of the illumination produced by the nuns of Pontetetto in Lucca in the late eleventh and twelfth centuries.22 21 

Thom Mertens, ‘Praying in the Vernacular: Middle Dutch Imitative Forms of the Divine Office from the 1370s to 1520s’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 133–46. 22  Loretta Vandi, ‘The Visual Vernacular: The Construction of Communal Literacy at the Convent of Santa Maria in Pontetetto (Lucca)’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 171–89.



Literacy, then, is a very loaded word, implying a range of competencies that we might apply to religious women and men in any particular time and place. This problem is precisely why we elected from the outset to use the plural ‘literacies’: to signal that our contemporary view of what it means to be literate (to read and write) was not the necessary standard in any given place in the Middle Ages. Neither should the routine male monastic standard of reading and writing in Latin be used as the norm by which to examine women’s learning. A study of medi­eval women’s literacies involves practical considerations as well as literary ones if we are to attempt to deal with any of the overlapping issues in the next set of questions: (3) How is a religious profession a means to literacy? In other words, how were ecclesiastical structures framed that provided nuns access (or not) to books? (4) How did nuns learn to read and write or teach other nuns to read and write? Certain countries, such as England, mostly had small — and generally impoverished — convents with an average of about twelve nuns and sometimes only about six in the late medi­e val period. This implies that all hands were needed to make the cloister function as well as possible, and as a result there may have been little time left to read beyond the Divine Office, let alone write manu­scripts. It is no mystery why a large convent such as the Augustinian house of Jericho in Brussels with a community of some fifty canonesses would need a good supply of books, and so it was inevitable perhaps that the nuns themselves set about providing them in an organized scriptorium that lasted from 1465 to c. 1490, as noted by Patricia Stoop in her Kansas City essay.23 At the other side of Europe in the Dominican convent on Margit-sziget (Margaret-Island) in Budapest, a common tradition to which different scribes belonged developed under the auspices of the lead scribe, Lea Ráskay, who worked between 1510 and 1522. In Birgittine circles there are similar dynamic scriptoria with their own house styles of script and illumination. Jonas Carlquist and Ingela Hedström in the Hull volume isolate a total of thirty-four nuns over time in Vadstena in a context which shows that they had some connections with books — as users, owners, sponsors, copyists, or even as authors and translators of texts.24 23 

Patricia Stoop, ‘From Reading to Writing: The Multiple Levels of Literacy of the Sister Scribes in the Brussels Convent of Jericho’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 47–66 (p. 61). 24  Jonas Carlquist, ‘The Birgittine Sisters at Vadstena Abbey: Their Learning and Literacy, with Particular Reference to Table Reading’ and Ingela Hedström, ‘Vadstena Abbey and Female Literacy in Late Medi­e val Sweden’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 239–51 and 253–72.

Introduction xlix

The scribes were trained to write in a similar style, and even systematically schooled in Latin according to Monica Hedlund in her Hull essay so that they were able to produce a very pragmatic combination of Latin and the vernacular.25 And this interest in scribal activity was carried to the first Birgittine monastery after Vadstena: Paradiso in Florence which was founded in 1394. As noted in the essay below by Melissa Moreton, there are eighty-one extant manu­scripts from the convent of Paradiso (known to have had at least 105); including forty-eight manu­scripts produced by seven nun scribes. Inevitably, of course, the demands of the unique Birgittine liturgy would have spurred such production. We may see then that the demands of a religious profession as noted in question (3) inspired various Dutch, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Swedish nuns to produce their own manu­scripts and build up in-house teams of scribes. Moreover, the demands of Reform were a major factor in Observant houses in German-speaking areas in requiring nun scribes and illustrators such as Barbara Gewichtmacher from Nürnberg and Magdalena Kremer from Kirchheim unter Teck to produce more liturgical books. Yet the requirements of the religious life are also unique to each institution, and convents responded to these in different ways. For instance, Irish nuns newly emigrated to Spain at the end of the fifteenth century and seeking to integrate into the country strove hard to produce supportive devotional and catechetical material in three languages (Irish, Spanish, and Latin); in the same way, regal nuns in the context of the Bohemian court in the thirteenth century functioned in a multilingual environment of Czech, German, and Latin as noted respectively by Andrea Knox (in the Kansas City collection) and Alfred Thomas (in the Hull volume).26 When we consider question (4), ‘How did nuns learn to read and write or teach other nuns to read and write?’, we find patchy details about the curricula, the practices, and the levels of expertise gained or expected. Sometimes we can only guess at what the women’s communities could do, based on their ownership of a given book. Owning a collection of saints’ lives in Latin suggests that someone could read it and that they it may have been read aloud during mealtimes, but this is more likely in the case of vernacular texts. We recall the description of a collection of saints’ lives in Anglo-Norman dating from 1275 25  Monica Hedlund, ‘Nuns and Latin, with Special Reference to the Birgittines of Vadstena’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 97–118. 26  Knox, ‘Her Book-Lined Cell’, and Thomas, ‘Between Court and Cloister’.



to 1325 associated with the Augustinian convent of Campsey Ash in Suffolk that bears the inscription ‘ce livre deviseie a la priorie de kanp/seie de lire a mangier’ [‘this book was used at the priory of Campsey for reading at mealtimes’], as shown by Virginia Blanton in her Hull essay.27 Thanks to descriptions of collations and mealtime reading, we know that reading was generally part of the life of certain communities, such as at Vadstena where table readings were prescribed as part of the daily activities, as described by Jonas Carlquist in the Hull volume.28 On occasion we are fortunate in the survival of particular lists or guidelines. For instance, a list of German table readings for the refectory, compiled at St. Katharina in Nürnberg between 1455 and 1457 by the librarian Sister Kunigund Niklasin contains fifty-three volumes from which fragments were read aloud as part of a rotating schedule in the work room and in the refectory; and some Latin texts were included among the evening readings, as described by Anne Winston-Allen in the Kansas City collection.29 Mostly we have to be satisfied with hints, as in the summary by Jan de Wael of his now lost treatise on table reading, Ordyne van ter tafel te lezen. It is rare to find something of the calibre of the Informieringheboeck, also by De Wael, a unique analysis of reading for novices written for a community of tertiaries in Sint-Agnes in Amersfoort around 1510, which is the subject of Sabrina Corbellini’s essay in the current collection. We may also glean insight from chance comments about the education of women religious. In the early period the royal women who were the leaders of Anglo-Saxon and Carolingian communities were learned before profession, and there is evidence too of nunneries having schools for children in the AngloSaxon period, as noted by Stephanie Hollis in her Hull essay.30 Schooling of various types for girls was also available in mainland Europe either inside or outside the convent; in the Kansas City volume there is much information on medi­e val Spain through the particular auspices of Irish nuns.31 How nuns taught each other within the convent at any given time and place remains speculative, as a general rule. In the early period in England and Francia that learn27 

Virginia Blanton, ‘The Devotional Reading of Nuns: Three Legendaries of Native Saints in Late Medi­e val England’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 185–206 (p. 198). 28  Carlquist, ‘The Birgittine Sisters at Vadstena Abbey’, pp. 240–41. 29  Winston-Allen, ‘Outside the Mainstream’, p. 200. 30  Hollis, ‘The Literary Culture of the Anglo-Saxon Royal Nunneries’, p. 180. 31  Knox, ‘Her Book-Lined Cell’.

Introduction li

ing was facilitated by the same means as for men. Boniface, in fact, is known to have taught both Anglo-Saxon men and women.32 There is some indication that nuns were teaching other nuns to read, using a dry-point stylus to mark out text for a group of readers, as Helene Scheck has shown in her Hull essay.33 In the German communities Alison I. Beach and Anne Winston-Allen have studied respectively in the Hull and Kansas City volumes there is a clearer sense of some kind of more regular training in reading and writing (in both Latin and the vernacular).34 Ulrike Wiethaus in her Kansas City essay shows further that within mystical texts women were encouraged in their learning so that they could better participate in contemplative life — and that contemplative texts themselves encouraged women’s education so that they could engage more fully and understand more completely.35 This is a phenomenon also shared by certain convents in the Low Countries, as shown by Kees Schepers in his discussion of mystical texts in the Sint-Agnes community of Arnhem in the Kansas City collection.36 Yet some nuns, like other secular lay women in large swathes of Europe could only pick up snippets of education in what might be termed a hit-and-miss sort of way. A prominent example of this is St Margit of Hungary, as shown by Viktória Hedvig Deák in the current volume. Whereas elite German nuns in Helfta in the thirteenth century were getting to grips with complicated theology, during the same period Margit had to rely on vernacular preaching for her sources of knowledge. Despite her royal pedigree, she was unable to read beyond the normal liturgical texts that she only understood imperfectly, and her personal prayers were mainly those that could be learnt by heart. The irony of this illiteracy is that Margit was largely responsible for the development of vernacular translation in her convent. This fact pinpoints another issue that will have been a driving force: pragmatic concerns. As outlined by Marilyn Oliva in her Hull essay and supported by Antonella Ambrosio 32 

Blanton and Scheck, ‘Leoba and the Icono­g raphy of Learning’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, p. 20. 33  Helene Scheck, ‘Reading Women at the Margins of Quedlinburg Codex 74’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 3–18. 34  Alison I. Beach, ‘“Mathild de Niphin” and the Female Scribes of Zwiefalten’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 33–50 and Winston-Allen, ‘Outside the Mainstream’, p. 200. 35  Wiethaus, ‘Collaborative Literacy and the Spiritual Education of Nuns at Helfta’. 36  Kees Schepers, ‘A Web of Texts: Sixteenth-Century Mystical Culture and the Arnhem Sint-Agnes Convent’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 269–85.



in her Kansas City essay, nuns were also administrators and so some learning must have taken place on the job; if nuns had to keep accounts, they somehow had to learn how to do so.37 Such vague attempts at answers are all that is possible about how nuns learnt or taught reading or writing in a general way. The answer to question (5), ‘What level of access and understanding of Latin did nuns have and how did they use Latin in concert with vernacular texts?’ has to be similarly imprecise. If the aforementioned Richard Fox is to be believed, nuns’ knowledge of Latin was severely limited (at least in medi­eval England). If the example of a trained scribe such as Christina Hansdotter Brask is examined, the answer is different again (at least for medi­eval Sweden). We know that she was an influential scribe at Vadstena, professed in 1459 and still active until her death in 1520, who had no difficulty copying Latin. Something like a ‘house style’ developed under her auspices, albeit with differences between the execution of the vernacular Swedish and Latin. This difference in writing styles also applied to the brothers of the Order but, whereas the nuns used hybrida for Swedish and textualis for Latin, the brothers wrote in cursiva and hybrida for the respective languages. This leads back, although in a far more subtle respect, to the controversial issue raised decades ago by Albert Bruckner about what he saw as differences in male and female hands.38 Although it has been gainsaid in a general way by various commentators, for example, by Alison I. Beach in her work on Admont in the twelfth century, there is more research to be done in this area across the board.39 Despite certain nuns having to rely on translations, cribs, and vernacular rubrics, there is genuine evidence of high-level Latin learning in some areas. As Eva Schlotheuber shows in her Kansas City essay, the nuns of Lüne in Lower Saxony wrote 1794 letters in total within the time span of about fifty years: 260 letters are completely written in Latin, 640 are composed in Low German, and 37 

Marilyn Oliva, ‘Rendering Accounts: The Pragmatic Literacy of Nuns in Late Medi­eval England’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 51–68 (especially pp. 64–66); Ambrosio, ‘Literacy in Neapolitan Women’s Convents’, p. 95. 38  Albert Bruckner, ‘Zum Problem der Frauenhandschriften im Mittelalter’, in Aus Mittelalter und Neuzeit: Gerhard Kallen zum 70. Geburtstag dargebracht von Kollegen, Freunden und Schülern, ed. by Josef Engel and Hans Martin Klinkenberg, Veröffentlichungen des Kreisheimatbundes Neuss e.V., 7 (Bonn: Hanstein, 1957), pp. 171–83. 39  Alison I. Beach, ‘Claustration and Collaboration: The Nun-Scribes of Admont’, in Women as Scribes: Book Production and Monastic Reform in Twelfth-Century Bavaria (Cam­ bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2004), pp. 65–103.

Introduction liii

the remaining letters are written in a characteristic mixture of both languages.40 They were able to communicate in Latin, the formal language of learning, with high-ranking clerics, as well as in Low German with their relatives or the city council of Lüneburg. Indeed nuns in north German convents, as noted by Schlotheuber, had a long tradition of scholarly education, even if, unlike their male counterparts, they rarely made this public. Yet a more nuanced observation may be that of Sister Regula (d. 1478), librarian at Lichtenthal near Baden Baden, who specifically translated several works into German because some sisters in her convent could not easily read Latin.41 In this particular convent then, if some nuns were hesitant in Latin, this did not apply to all of them, as her direct comment tells us. Such variety in skill and aptitude was no doubt the norm throughout much of Europe. Even if every nun had to have some rudimentary understanding of Latin in order to follow the Church services, our answer to question (5) about nuns’ potential knowledge of Latin would necessitate a whole book by itself. Everything depends on the country, the convent, the time, the nun. In truth, however, when it comes to nuns in the Middle Ages — wherever they exist in Europe — the vernacular is going to be more important for them as a literary language than Latin, and so ‘everywhere’ is going to be the answer to question (6): ‘When and where did nuns use vernacular languages as a means of access to books?’ Indeed, it can be argued — with good reason — that women’s very imperfect understanding of the male clerical language of Latin resulted in the growth of translations of some of the most important European mystical works, and so theologically the average European nun may have been more au fait with the latest writings than the average male cleric at the parish level. He similarly might well have struggled a little with Latin but stuck with it so that his reading may have remained consequently a bit more old-fashioned and restricted. And still it is more complicated than this because essentially it is a mistake to see Latin and the vernacular in separate camps. Rather, the relationship between them for nuns and others in the Middle Ages is one of what Cynthia Cyrus describes in her Hull essay as bivalent literacy, where one linguistic culture overlapped with and informed reading in another.42 40 

Eva Schlotheuber, ‘Daily Life, Amor Dei, and Politics in the Letters of the Benedictine Nuns of Lüne in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 249–67 (pp. 257–58). 41  Winston-Allen, ‘Outside the Mainstream’, p. 200. 42  Cynthia J. Cyrus, ‘Vernacular and Latinate Literacy in Viennese Women’s Convents’, in



When we come to the last four questions: (7) What are the differences in writing ability across the different vernaculars? (8) How did nuns’ use of language change over time and place and by monastic Order? (9) Which surviving manu­scripts show evidence of nuns as readers, patrons, or copyists? (10) What books were nuns writing, as opposed to reading, copying, or exchanging?, the answers may only be given in a very skeletal form. Once again, they all need book-length studies devoted to them that can tease out the different strands of writing abilities, changes in language, and palaeo­g raphical evidence from manu­scripts. Essentially, some attempt at answers to these last four questions has been the focus of the whole project of nuns’ literacies in medi­eval Europe. The answer to question (7), ‘What are the differences in writing ability across the different vernaculars?’, will inevitably be the longest addressed here, as it connects again with the whole issue of the putative education of female religious and book survival, even if it only scratches the surface. Put briefly, there are huge differences in writing ability from one language to another with English at the bleaker end of the spectrum and with Dutch and German at the more positive end. The other languages discussed here: Catalan, Czech, Danish, Hungarian, Icelandic, Irish, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish may be plotted on a line at different points, even if their placement is sometimes hedged round with uncertainties caused by lack of information. For example, on the limited detail available Hungarian will hover closer to the Dutch/German end (but with some negative elements), but we have no idea where Old Irish will be because the texts preserved are all considerably later copies. Early medi­eval Ireland, as Maeve Callan shows in her Kansas City discussion, has evidence of women’s authorship of texts, but not clear distinctions of female scribes and women’s reading among these communities.43 In some places we see the extensive use and production of books, in both Latin and the vernacular; in others we only have glimpses. Survivals from Carolingian and Ottonian Germany, as well as from late medi­e val Germany, show not only the cultural engagement with books over an extended period but also the social expectation of preserving codices of the past, despite the vagaries of war, dissolution, and reform. The wealth of material available in German archives attests to a strong tradition of women’s engagement in bookmaking Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 119–32. 43  Maeve Callan, ‘Líadain’s Lament, Darerca’s Life, and Íte’s Ísucán: Evidence for Nuns’ Literacies in Early Ireland’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 209–27.

Introduction lv

— commissioning, copying, editing, and illustrating — in both Latin and the vernacular. An exceptionally large number of manu­scripts associated with women in Germany provide rich resources for study on every level, as shown by the essays in these volumes. The German-speaking regions can boast, perhaps more than any other modern region, of a long history of book production and preservation, one that has allowed us to examine in detail the work that nuns were doing from the eighth through the sixteenth centuries. Indeed, one might argue that in some regions of Germany there has been a cultural investment in preserving evidence of the monastic past, both early and late.44 From the case studies presented in these volumes (and in various publications heretofore), we might assume that German nuns were highly literate, but does this mean that this was true in all German convents throughout the Middle Ages? Distinctions have been drawn by various commentators between north and south Germany, but finer distinctions are needed and are slowly being produced. Moreover, what impact or influence does this strong tradition of German literacy have in other adjoining areas of central multi-lingual Europe? For instance, Alfred Thomas’s essay in the Hull volume concentrates on Bohemia but it is difficult to say how the literacy of royal saintly nuns such as Abbess Kunigunde and St Agnes of Prague was representative.45 And, as shown by Viktória Hedvig Deák, what more could be told about Hungary if even a fraction of the supposed forty-five thousand manu­scripts once said to exist still survived instead of the total of 190 (of which fourteen are known to have been definitely written by nuns in a particular convent)?46 All we can do is build up the evidence and piece it together, slowly drawing on various examples and being mindful of the gaps in our knowledge. In much the same way as for Germany, the evidence for writing ability in convents in the Low Countries, and Sweden (with its specialized example of Vadstena) is similarly high. Yet there are differences that can usefully be explored. The number of surviving manu­scripts from convents in the Low Countries is much smaller than that in Germany (even if allowance is made for a much smaller land mass). Yet even if this number is in the hundreds rather 44  This even extends to the pictorial presentation in manu­script and sculpture of the learned monastic woman that goes back to the early Christian period; see Karen Blough, ‘Implications for Female Monastic Literacy in the Reliefs from St. Liudger’s at Werden’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 151–69. 45  Thomas, ‘Between Court and Cloister’. 46  For Deák’s calculations, based on the work of Edit Madas and István Monok, see her essay below.



than the multiple thousands, there are special aspects to monastic literacy in the Low Countries that do not appear elsewhere. Partly this is driven by the reforming traditions of the Devotio moderna, and partly it is the result of specialized local circumstances.47 In any case there has never been any doubt about Dutch nuns’ writing abilities and manu­script activities, as evident from the Dutch related-essays spread over all three volumes. The picture emerging from Scandinavian countries is a mixed one. Medi­ eval Sweden is amply covered by discussions of female scribal activities from Vadstena over various essays in the three books. Yet the fact that so much exists about Vadstena, even if more is known about the brothers’ library than the sisters’, distorts the overall picture. There were other monaseries in Sweden, but, owing to lack of evidence (or research), it is hard to know how they compared to Vadstena in the literacy stakes. Like many dominant institutions, Vadstena stands out like a beacon that overshadows its neighbours at home and abroad. For Denmark’s Birgittine foundation of Maribo, there is only a handful of surviving prayer books. While we may speculate that these were written by women in common with some other prayer books in Denmark, no definite evidence is provided in the current volume by Anne Mette Hansen beyond that of nuns’ commissioning or ownership of particular books. The evidence from communities in the far north-west, such as those in late medi­eval Iceland presented by Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir in the Kansas City volume, demonstrate readings in both secular and sacred texts (something it shares with Old Irish), many drawn from nearby English writers but with no obvious female scribal involvement.48 Other north European regions fare even less well when considering female scribal abilities. For example, through various Anglo-Saxon and Carolingian records, we have evidence of religious women’s engagement with books, but most of these texts are lost to time but for a brief reference. Instead, it is through the letters and lives of some Anglo-Saxon missionaries to the German regions that we know much of anything about the degree of literacy among AngloSaxon women of the seventh and eighth centuries. Saints’ lives recall the education of women, such as Leoba, who were trained in Anglo-Saxon houses before embarking on the missions, where they led communities of women and trained them in the reading of the scriptures and the Letters of St Jerome, for example. 47 

See Mertens, ‘Praying in the Vernacular’ and Wybren Scheepsma, ‘Writing, Editing, and Rearranging : Griet Essinchghes and her Version of the Sister-Book of Diepenveen’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 275–92. 48  Óskarsdóttir, ‘What Icelandic Nuns Read’.

Introduction lvii

Letters recorded by the missionaries suggest a variety of books women copied or read that are now lost. Likewise, evidence from later Anglo-Saxon female houses suffer from the vagaries of time, but still we have evidence of the nuns’ engagement in practical matters (via charters) and in spiritual ones (via saints’ lives). Despite the fact that a number of books from this early period survive, only one can be confidently assigned to a female scribe and likely to her foundation at Nunnaminster, as noted by Stephanie Hollis and Veronica O’Mara in the Hull volume.49 Therefore, dedications of works, such as Aldhelm’s De virginitate to the nuns at Barking, provides an alternative means to gauge the degree of education in grammar and metrics that the nuns must have had to appreciate this complex treatise, as Virginia Blanton and Helene Scheck demonstrate in their contribution to the Kansas City volume.50 If we are dependent only on narrative accounts for our knowledge of literacy among Anglo-Saxon nuns, at least there are some surviving manu­scripts associated with convents in the later period in England, even if they are only an uncertain fraction of what once survived before the Dissolution and if the numbers are miniscule in comparison with the rest of northern Europe or indeed much of southern Europe (only in the region of about two hundred manu­ scripts). What survives in other countries may be indicative of what we have lost in England, but we must look for detailed evidence to provide these claims. We are aided in our understanding by evidence of the exchange of books among religious readers which Virginia Blanton in the Hull volume and Cate Gunn in the current collection demonstrate in their essays for Anglo-Saxon, English, and French, or in reading practices in Syon, as discussed by Ann M. Hutchison below.51 Yet we have very little evidence of scribal ability among nuns in late medi­eval England. As shown by Veronica O’Mara in her three contributions, in which she tries to unearth as much detail as possible, this is owing to a complex mix of factors that takes in economics, education, and various imponderables, such as the dearth of colophons and inscriptions in English manu­scripts that become increasingly common in mainland Europe (for instance, in Italy). In the same way as Anglo-Saxon nuns’ access to literacy may be deciphered in 49 

Hollis, ‘The Literary Culture of the Anglo-Saxon Royal Nunneries’, and O’Mara, ‘The Late Medi­eval English Nun and her Scribal Activity’. 50  Blanton and Scheck, ‘Leoba and the Icono­graphy of Learning’. 51  See respectively ‘Anonymous Then, Invisible Now: The Readers of “Sermon a dames religioses”’ and ‘“To yowr gostly comforte and proffite”: Devotional Reading for the Nuns of Syon Abbey’ in this volume.



pragmatic ways, for example, in Andrew Rabin’s examination of the involvement of female religious in legal entanglements, as described in the Kansas City volume,52 so Marilyn Oliva’s work in her Hull essay on account books helps fill in other aspects of the picture.53 Such core samples mean that little by little more detail is being painstakingly excavated with some high points along the way, such as the discovery by Emilie Amt in her Kansas City essay of a Latin cartulary potentially written by a nun, or some of O’Mara’s own hypotheses about a few texts — sometimes quite substantial ones — that may be attributed to anonymous or named female scribes, such as Mary Nevel of Syon.54 Like English houses, French or French-speaking communities suffered from dissolution, warfare, and the losses consequent on so-called reform. Where there is strong evidence of women’s literacies in Carolingian and Ottonian convents, it is harder to cast light on the later period. Everyone interested in female literacy can cite the example of the famous nun scribes of the convent of Chelles in the seventh century. It is far less easy to account for the later period. The loss of records results in a paucity of research in France, though there are a few exceptions, especially from high-status communities. In his contribution for the Hull collection Bruce Venarde shows that there is some indication of a working knowledge of Latin at Fontevraud, one of the premier institutions,55 while in the current volume Catherine Innes-Parker illustrates evidence of translations needed in the vernacular for access to complex mystical texts, such as St Bonaventura’s Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist, in the Fontevraudian Reform house of Montmartre. Also in the Antwerp collection is Anne JennyClark’s demonstration of book exchange among secular canonesses in Mons. Yet none of this valuable work gives any real indication of the scribal literacies of such female religious, unless one includes various ownership inscriptions in one of the Bonaventuran translations.

52  Andrew Rabin, ‘Courtly Habits: Monastic Women’s Legal Literacy in Early AngloSaxon England’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 289–305. 53  Oliva, ‘Rendering Accounts’. 54  Emilie Amt, ‘Making their Mark: The Spectrum of Literacy among Godstow’s Nuns, 1400–1550’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 307–25. 55  Bruce L. Venarde, ‘Making History at Fontevraud: Abbess Petronilla de Chemillé and Practical Literacy’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 19–31.

Introduction lix

To this extent then, in the light of current scholarship, there is quite a difference between France and northern Europe, and between France and the rest of southern Europe explored in various essays in these volumes. Although the pattern in Italy is mixed in terms of resources, as noted above, depending on whether one is discussing the north or the south, there is a vibrant and widespread sense of literate activity in the centre and north, as shown by Melissa Moreton and Brian Richardson in the current volume. This includes not just the copying and composition of texts, but in some cases a growing involvement with printing and illumination where high-ranking nuns consort with the likes of Girolamo Savonarola (1452–98) and painters like Sister Plautilla Nelli (1523–88), who is mentioned by Giorgio Vasari, emerge on the scene. In these volumes there is nothing comparable for Spain in part because the coverage here concentrates on specialized aspects: reading in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Catalonian convents by Blanca Garí in the current volume, and Irish nuns on the Spanish mainland between the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries by Andrea Knox and a late sixteenthcentury member of the Teresian Reform by Darcy Donahue, both in the previous volume. Together these essays highlight the evidence for a vibrant literary culture, though it is difficult to work out how to generalize such findings across the country, or to isolate precisely what it means for Hispanic scribal activity. Much of the problem has to do with the poor survival of material or inadequate cataloguing of what does survive. The information about Catalonia, though plentiful, largely concerns book collections and donations rather than the work of nuns themselves. And even when there is information about nuns’ activity, it is hard to know how representative it was. Were Irish nuns so embedded in literary activity because of their unique situation as emigrants rather than an example of what was going on in Spain as a whole? It has been noted that Ana de San Bartolomé, the focus of Donahue’s essay, appears not to have suffered from the ‘anxiety of authorship that afflicted so many women writers of the day perhaps because of her conviction that she was the vehicle through whom Teresa’s spiritual and ahistorical legacy would be transmitted’.56 More information needs to be uncovered about her predecessors to see to what extent she was working in a larger scribal tradition. Beyond his observation that writing in Latin or Castilian seems to have been only a fifteenth-century development 56 

See Alison Weber, ‘The Partial Feminism of Ana de San Bartolomé’, in Recovering Spain’s Feminist Tradition, ed. by Lisa Vollendorf (New York: Modern Language Association, 2001), pp. 69–85 (p. 71).



among Hispanic women and that nuns’ contributions remain in-house and so hidden from view, too little detail is known about what Ronald Surtz tellingly calls ‘the mothers of St Teresa’.57 When we start to discuss question (8) (‘How did nuns’ use of language change over time and place and by monastic Order?’), part of the answer about language has already been addressed above in the concentration on questions (5) and (6), and part of it is linked to the issue of monastic Order and individual situation. When it comes to language change and use over time, place, and Order, studies here have shown divergences that cannot be easily summarized or readily explained. One of the best examples is the discussion by Cynthia Cyrus in her Hull essay outlining the interaction of the vernacular and Latin at different points amongst Viennese nuns, where she notes that the statutes for one convent are in Latin and those for another are in the vernacular, with no obvious explanation for either choice.58 It is easy enough to list the orders mentioned or discussed in the three volumes. They include Alexians or ‘Zwartzusters’, Augustinians, Benedictines, Birgittines, ‘Büsserinnen’ or Penitents, Carmelites or Discalced Carmelites, Carthusians, Cistercians, Dominicans, Clarissans or Poor Clares, Franciscans or Minoresses, Gilbertines, Norbertines or Premonstratensians, the Order of Fontevraud, Rich Clares or Urbanists, besides Beguines, Sisters (and Brothers) of the Common Life, and Tertiaries, among other less organized or regulated communities. It is impossible to make any water-tight observations about their literary credentials. There is naturally nothing like an identifiable pattern in linguistic use in nuns of a particular Order or a consistent co-relation between any one Order and literacy levels. If the Benedictines have the longest history and therefore might be expected to have had a major impact on literacy, statistics provided for German-speaking areas, for instance, reinforce a decided emphasis on two later orders: the Dominicans and the Birgittines.59 Certainly, the female Benedictines, Birgittines, and Dominicans, together with the Augustinians, were most actively engaged with book culture. The influence of any given Order, however, depends largely upon its regional influence, and the pattern throughout Europe is very different, as is evident from the essays in these vol57 

Ronald E. Surtz, Writing Women in Late Medi­eval and Early Modern Spain: The Mothers of Saint Teresa of Avila (Philadelphia: Uni­ver­sity of Pennsylvania Press, 1995), pp. 1–2. 58  Cyrus, ‘Vernacular and Latinate Literacy in Viennese Women’s Convents’, p. 125. 59  See Cynthia J. Cyrus, The Scribes for Women’s Convents in Late Medi­eval Germany (Toronto: Uni­ver­sity of Toronto Press, 2009), Appendix B, pp. 217–20.

Introduction lxi

umes. It is odd that England only has one Dominican convent, Dartford in Kent. In itself this fact may only be an historical curiosity, but it has potentially much wider ramifications, given the paucity of evidence for scribal ability in England. In Germany vast numbers of vernacular sermons particularly instigated by reformist Dominicans such as Johannes Nider (d. 1438) and Johannes Meyer (as noted above) were aimed at convents and copied out by nuns as spiritual edification, thus providing a two-way mirror on literary expectations and practice.60 Perhaps if England (with only a mere handful of surviving nunnery sermons in Latin and English) had as many Dominican convents as Germany had or as many dedicated preaching confessors as found there or in the Low Countries, there might be more evidence for more literate women. Further, those communities on islands, including in England, Iceland, and Ireland, had less variety in the range of orders than those on the continent; as noted in Veronica O’Mara’s Kansas City essay, the city of York only had one nunnery, the Benedictine convent of Clementhorpe, by contrast, in Gent there were two beguinages, Cistercians, Rich Clares (Urbanists), ‘Zwartzusters’ or Alexian sisters, and three houses of canonesses regular, while in Bruges there were communities of beguines, Carmelites, Rich Clares, one convent of Augustinian canonesses, and ‘Zwartzusters’.61 Of importance to any future investigation would be to consider how modern geo­graphy distorts our understanding and so blinds us to the economic and practical forces at work in the establishment and migration of such orders. It is too easy to forget that Europe today maps on to the past so very imperfectly. Moreover, even the requirements of particular Orders, to the extent that these dictates may be deciphered when it comes to women, are not the answer to everything. It is not a case of one size fits all. While continental nuns of the period — Birgittine or otherwise — continue to produce their own manu­ 60 

See Regina D. Schiewer, ‘Sermons for Nuns of the Dominican Observance Movement’, in Medi­eval Monastic Preaching, ed. by Carolyn Muessig, Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, 90 (Leiden: Brill, 1998), pp. 75–92, and Regina Dorothea Schiewer, ‘Books in Texts — Texts in Books: The St. Georgener Predigten as an Example of Nuns’ Literacy in Late Medi­eval Germany’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 223–37. The tradition of preaching to nuns and the subsequent copying of the sermons in the nunneries is also found extensively among various orders in the Low Countries, as shown by Patricia Stoop, ‘Nuns’ Literacy in Sixteenth-Century Convent Sermons from the Cistercian Abbey of Ter Kameren’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 293–312, ‘From Reading to Writing’, and in her essay in the present volume. 61  O’Mara, ‘Nuns and Writing in Late Medi­eval England’, p. 124.



scripts, English nuns (and some male religious) would appear to have been relying increasingly on the commercial book sector. It is hard to know if English nuns were following or leading a native trend in this respect, but it is obvious that they were out of step with Europe. There are then inevitably chronological, cultural, linguistic, and regional differences, and it is only through close localized studies such as that of the ‘Schriftlichkeit in süddeutschen Frauenklöstern’ that we shall get any nearer to providing answers that go beyond the general.62 Finally, the last two issues: (9) Which surviving manu­scripts show evidence of nuns as readers, patrons, or copyists? (10) What books were nuns writing, as opposed to reading, copying, or exchanging? These questions have been at the core of this whole enterprise. In terms of the manu­scripts and texts that can be positively connected with female communities, we have made an initial effort in cataloguing these through the use of extensive indices of manu­scripts, texts, and the names of nuns (irrespective of what part they played or did not play in literary production). Inevitably, because of the nature of the texts involved, there is much that could not be indexed satisfactorily. Endless lists of inadequately described devotional books or liturgical works or the inevitable vague references in wills that can never be properly decoded would have been of no use to anyone. While it would be ideal to have a collective database of all manu­ scripts and texts, in Latin and the vernaculars, with which medi­eval nuns were engaged, these volumes are not the place for this Herculean task. The lists here do not bring together the evidence in the way that a database might work, but they do offer a means of quick access to what is discussed so researchers can take the evidence generated and go further. They also complement valuable work done elsewhere.63

62  This DFG Verbundprojekt was a collaboration of Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München, and Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv München under the supervision of Eva Schlotheuber. See . (Part of ) the database is available on the website [both ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. 63  See, for example, the international portal , which contains over 250,000 charters from various European countries; Anne WinstonAllen’s online survey of 140 illuminated manu­scripts made in women’s religious communities throughout the German and (East-)Netherlandish-speaking areas that have been surveyed as part of the Repertorium of Manu­scripts Illuminated by Women in Religious Communities of the Middle Ages ; Monastic Matrix [all ac­cessed 1 April 2017].

Introduction lxiii

What we can say definitively is that, by and large, nuns were producing and reading liturgical and spiritual works, that they were engaged in some very complex mystical and theological texts, and that they were invested in sharing books in their own houses, across communities of women, and in exchange with lay and male religious. There have also been many surprises along the way, from Irish nuns putting on plays in Spain to Dutch nuns expertly engaging with rhetorical terminology, as noted in the Kansas City essays by Andrea Knox and Patricia Stoop respectively.64 In their essays our contributors have achieved a great deal in providing discussions that allow for the cross-cultural and crosstemporal comparisons we had hoped. What is needed now is a finer sifting that will make further connections. A simple example might lie in an effort to trace certain recurrent texts, such as the Quindecim orationes or Fifteen Oes that crops up in no fewer than three languages discussed here (Danish, Hungarian, and Swedish), besides various others such as English. This very popular devotion, misattributed to St Birgitta of Sweden, is a telling example of how certain texts and authors are shared among European nuns, and it should be one of the objects of our future research to help identify such patterns of transmission.65 If the response to our initial list of working questions can only be tentative, even less can any ex cathedra statements be made about the literacies of European nuns and female religious in the Middle Ages. Quite frankly, to pretend that there is a grand récit would be to negate all the valuable work done here in the kaleidoscopic narratives that contribute to a composite picture. That these narratives can sometimes seem to contradict each other, both at the micro and macro level, is merely an indication of the complexities of the subject. A simple example culled from many may serve to illustrate this point. Lea Ráskay, a prolific scribe at the Dominican convent in (modern-day) Budapest, had to write a letter to the prioress’s brother on behalf of the prioress, Ilona Bocskay, since the latter was unable to write.66 If Lea Ráskay is the model for Hungarian nuns’ scribal literacy in the early sixteenth century, the outlook is very vibrant; if it is Ilona Bocskay, it is very dim. Of course, in reality they both contribute to make up the narrative and so demonstrate that individual nuns’ literacies, as 64 

Knox, ‘Her Book-Lined Cell’, p. 75, and Stoop, ‘From Reading to Writing’, p. 59. For an example of this type of research, see Clarck Drieshen, ‘Visionary Literature for Devotional Instruction: Its Function and Transmission in Late Medi­e val Observant Female Religious Communities in North-Western Europe’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Uni­ver­ sity of Leeds, 2017). 66  On this letter, see Lea Haader, ‘Elena priorissza levele’, Magyar Nyelv, 91 (1995), 420–31. Lea Raskay’s scribal activities are discussed in this volume by Viktória Hedvig Deák. 65 



well as those of the convent, the Order, the region, the language, belong on a spectrum, as noted above. And this whole picture includes men as well as women, even though in concentrating on the latter, we have not allowed the former to overshadow them, as had been the case hitherto in much scholarship. Male religious in the Middle Ages were patently not affected by the restrictions of clausura to the extent that nuns were; they had freedom of movement and frequently exercised it at General Chapters or Church Councils. Their gender allowed them access denied to their female counterparts; their education and their associated linguistic skills enabled them to have command (if at times only inexpertly) of the lingua franca of western Christendom; their ‘God-given’ authority could be exercised over the female religious in their charge. With none of these privileges, and being fewer in number and scarcer in resources, medi­eval nuns had quite a struggle in the literacy stakes. That many of them did so well is testimony to a mixture of factors that are only slowly coming to light. Indeed, possibly the most rewarding aspect about this whole project, quite apart from learning a tremendous amount and making many new friends, has been to bring such dead nuns back to life — and not just the deservedly famous ones such as Christina Hansdotter Brask of Vadstena,67 Janne Colijns of Jericho,68 Magdalena Kremer of Kirchheim unter Teck,69 or Plautilla Nelli of the convent of Santa Caterina da Siena in Florence.70 Others far less well known have surfaced here with all their fascinating incidental details, for instance: the Icelandic Katrín, the first nun to be consecrated abbess of Reynistaður (in 1298), who, according to a miracle in the C-version of the Þorláks saga helga [Life of St Þorlákr], contracted some eye infection that prevented her from entertaining herself by reading ‘helgar bækur’ [‘holy books’] and reciting the psalter ‘af bók’ [‘from a book’];71 the anonymous Swedish nun who takes such 67 

The activities of Christina Hansdotter Brask are discussed by various contributors: see Carlquist, ‘The Birgittine Sisters at Vadstena Abbey’; Hedström, ‘Vadstena Abbey and Female Literacy in Late Medi­eval Sweden’; Hedlund, ‘Nuns and Latin’; and Eva Lindqvist Sandgren in the present volume. 68  Janne Colijns is the subject of various studies by Patricia Stoop, including her essay ‘From Reading to Writing’. 69  For discussions of Magdalena Kremer, see Winston-Allen, ‘Outside the Mainstream’, and for biblio­graphical details, n. 8 of that essay. 70  Plautilla Nelli, deemed to the first female painter in Renaissance Florence, is discussed by Melissa Moreton below. 71  See Óskarsdóttir, ‘What Icelandic Nuns Read’, p. 231.

Introduction lxv

care over her proofreading that she does it twice;72 Mergriete van Steenbergen, the Flemish sister who notes that she is writing her manu­script hurriedly on her knee;73 Katerina Legéndy, the Hungarian nun who tells us in the midst of copying that she has a dreadful headache,74 or Mary Nevel of Syon whose work can only be identified by an isolated signature.75 And perhaps most striking of all is Maria van Pee (d. 1511) from Jericho — a commanding presence if ever there was one. Her comments could easily be those of any hard pressed author or editor and so we shall leave the parting words to her. In her copying of the sermons of her father confessor, Jan Storm (d. 1488), she says: Hier om soe biddic eenen yegeliken die in dit boeck selen lesen dat sijt mijnre plompheit vergeven als si die poenten op recht niet en vinden overgeset, want minen sinnen veel te hoege was alle dingen soe schoene ende cuystelic te bescriven als sij uutgeleit ende gepredict waren, noch oec voer gheen vermetelheit en houden dat ic mi bestaen hebbe des ic op recht niet volbringen en mochte, want ict noyt en begonste | om yemen daer met te believen dan alleen tot mijns selfs orbore ende salicheit. Want ons heere in der evangelien, sprekende: ‘Salich sijnse die dat woert gods hoeren ende behouden’ (Luke 11. 28), heeft mi dicke hier toe beweeght dit uut te worpen om mijnder vliteger ghedachten te hulpen soe dat ict bi dicken overlesene onthouden mochte. [Therefore I ask anyone who will read this book that they will forgive my dullwittedness if they do not find the points put across properly, because it was too high for my mind to write everything as beautifully and as skilfully as they were explained and preached, and that they will not take it as presumption that I started something which I could not properly complete, because I never began it | to please anyone, but only for my own improvement and salvation. Because our Lord in the gospels, saying: ‘Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it’, often moved me to express this, in order to help my diligent thoughts, so that by frequent re-reading I might retain it.]76

72  Nils Dverstorp provides a detailed survey about how this nun went about her proofreading; see ‘Step by Step: The Process of Writing a Manu­script in the Female Convent of Vadstena’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, pp. 109–22 (pp. 119–21). 73  See Stoop, ‘From Reading to Writing’, p. 57. 74  See the essay by Viktória Hedvig Deák in the current volume. 75  See the essay below by Veronica O’Mara. 76  Maria van Pee’s comment is found in Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 4367–68, fols 3v–4r.



In the Hull volume it was noted that ‘we see this as an open-ended dialogue, where the current volume is the beginning of the conversation and, like all worthwhile research, it will be a long time before the narrative is at an end’.77 In the third and final volume of the present enterprise, we should like to re-iterate this statement. We offer these three dialogues on nuns’ literacies in medi­eval Europe as a resource to be built on by ourselves and other scholars.78


See Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Blanton, O’Mara, and Stoop, p. xvii. 78  Having sown the seeds of this comparative research, our aim is to take it forward in different ways, both in an individual capacity or collaboratively with other scholars. In recent years there has been a number of very worthwhile collaborations in female monastic studies (see, for example, nn. 62 and 63 above) and this continues. See, for instance, the project by Eva Schlotheuber (extending her work on the nuns of Lüne) and Henrike Lähnemann, Netzwerke der Nonnen: Edition und Erschließung der Briefsammlung aus Kloster Lüne (ca. 1460–1555) gefördert durch die Gerda-Henkel-Stiftung [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. It is hoped that we shall see many such projects, either in printed or online format, in the future.

Rules and Learning

Leoba’s Legacy:

The Carolingian Transformation of an Iconog ­ raphy of Literacy Helene Scheck and Virginia Blanton


n the second volume of the Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe trilogy we argued that Rudolf von Fulda’s (d. 865) hagio­graphical account of Leoba von Tauberbischofsheim (c. 710–82) retains within it earlier narratives and elements that coalesce to articulate an icono­graphy of literacy, one in which the presentation of Leoba encodes a set of expectations about literacies that illustrate the requirements of Anglo-Saxon female monastic leaders of the seventh and eighth centuries.1 As an icono­graphic schema, a complex system of multivalent signs, the icono­graphy of literacy we envision shifts, contracts, or expands depending on the context in which it is interpreted. In the case of Leoba, that icono­graphy, even filtered through Rudolf ’s later Carolingian attitudes and values, demonstrates that there was a shared expectation about the leadership and intellectual guidance that abbesses were to provide, from at least the early eighth century and into the ninth as well. We argued there that Rudolf ’s vita can be used to read backwards in time; here we want to assert it was also used not only to shape the ideals of his own period, some fifty years after Leoba’s death, but also beyond to a later audience of women religious. In this essay we would like to flesh out that idea by considering the motivations for and effects of Rudolf ’s presentation of the Anglo-Saxon icono­graphy of women’s learning 1 

Virginia Blanton and Helene Scheck, ‘Leoba and the Icono­g raphy of Learning in the Lives of Anglo-Saxon Women Religious, 660–780’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 27 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), pp. 3–26. Helene Scheck ([email protected]) is Associate Professor of English and Affiliate Faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies at the State University of New York at Albany. Virginia Blanton ([email protected]) is Professor of English and Associate Faculty in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 3–22 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS



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and literacy and the construction of Leoba as icon within that schema during the ninth-century Carolingian monastic reforms. As with all else in this period, material evidence for Leoba’s life is sparse. We have a few letters and some corporeal remains, but little more. We know that she participated in the Anglo-Saxon mission in Saxony. In an early letter she introduces herself by reminding Boniface (né Wynfrith, d. 754) that they are related by friendship and by blood and explains that she was educated by Eadburh, another female associate of his.2 No other letters by Leoba survive, nor any signed texts or charters, though some letters addressed to her offer some insight into the kinds of work expected of her and her colleagues. That Hraban Maur (c. 780–856) chose to honour her above other missionaries, male or female, suggests she stood out among the missionaries in some way and had a significant and influential role. However remarkable Leoba may have been, she was probably not the exception Rudolf would have her seem. Despite the paucity of evidence, it is clear that women in the burgeoning German Church needed to take an active role in propagating the faith. In the correspondence that survives, Boniface makes women’s engagement apparent. In his hortatory letter to Leoba, Thecla, and Cynehilt in 742 or 746, 3 Boniface expresses frustration with his progress, lamenting what appears to have been a reversion to old beliefs and a preponderance of ‘hereticos et scismaticos vel hypochritas’ [‘heretics and schismatics or hypocrites’] and begs these women to pray for him and the success of their holy mission.4 He also urges them to understand and act upon the will of God, by 2 

See Boniface and Lul, Die Briefe des Heiligen Bonifatius und Lullus, ed. by Michael Tangl, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Epistolae selectae, 1 (Berlin: Weidmann, 1916), Letter 29 (pp. 52–53). It is not clear which Eadburh she means, but it is probably the same woman from whom Boniface requested a copy of St Peter’s Epistles ornamented in gold. Whether that Eadburh flourished at Thanet or Wimborne has not been resolved, though Rudolf tells us that Leoba was educated at Wimborne. We follow Barbara Yorke, therefore, in locating this Eadburh to Wimborne; see Barbara Yorke, ‘Eadburh (fl. c. 716–c. 746)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Bio­graphy, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, rev. edn, 60 vols (Oxford: Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press, 2004), xvii, 523. 3  This may have been the same Thecla who would become abbess of the monasteries at Kitzingen and Ochsenfurt; Cynehilt may have been Lul’s aunt of that name; both flourished in the mid-seventh century. See Stefan Schipperges, Bonifatius ac socii eius: eine sozialgeschichtliche Untersuchung des Winfrid-Bonifatius und seines Umfeldes (Mainz: Selbstverlag der Gesellschaft für mittelrheinische Kirchengeschichte, 1996), pp. 148–49 and 53, respectively. 4  See Boniface and Lul, Die Briefe des Heiligen Bonifatius, ed. by Tangl, Letter 67 (pp. 139–40). The translation with modifications comes from Boniface, The English Corre-

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which he means: ‘confortamini et state in fide et viriliter agite et confortamini; omnia vestra cum caritate fiant’ [‘be strong, steadfast in the faith, acquit you like men, be strong; let all your things be done with charity’] (i Corinthians 16. 13–14) and ‘recordamini sanctorum apostolorum et prophetarum’ [‘keep in mind the holy apostles and prophets’]. Following masculine examples of the active teaching of Christian ideals, women of the mission seem to have enjoyed a public presence and, in addition to teaching, served as preachers, if unofficially. Because literacy was essential to the development of the Church, gender was less a factor than level of education and facility with the ideas and ideals to be promoted. Women, therefore, worked with their male counterparts to produce and disseminate texts, to understand the finer points of scripture, and to gain as full an understanding as possible of classical and historical contexts.5 Evidence from the Würzburg region in central Germany where Leoba and her colleagues lived and worked indicates that the intellectual and educational demands characteristic of the eighth-century Anglo-Saxon missionary efforts gave women access to a wide range of texts as well as the wherewithal to make sense of them. Three active female communities, Tauberbischofsheim, Kitzingen, and Karlburg, formed a triangle around the bishop’s centre at Würz­ burg, but they seem to have enjoyed a good deal of autonomy. The fluidity of signification made possible by the relaxed oversight may well have opened up spaces for developing and promoting viable models of female agency and autonomy. The circulation of heterodox texts at the time was not uncommon and does not indicate any radical tendencies on the part of women monastics; in fact, texts that have been designated questionable or outright problematic circulated freely between and among men’s as well as women’s communities into the central and late Middle Ages. The perseverance of such texts suggests an openness of perspective at this time when orthodox views were still in the process of being formulated, and the circulation of a wide range of texts without benefit of control or explanation may have permitted freer formulation of ideas. Nevertheless, texts like the so-called transvestite saints’ lives and unorthodox views in the Priscillianist tracts promoted by Origen (d. 254) and spondence of Saint Boniface, trans. by Edward Kylie (London: Chatto and Windus, 1911; repr. New York: Cooper Square, 1966), pp. 149–51 [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. 5  See also Felice Lifshitz, Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia: A Study of Manu­ script Transmission and Monastic Culture, Fordham Series in Medi­e val Studies (New York: Fordham Uni­ver­sity Press, 2014), especially Chapter 1, ‘Syneisactism and Reform: Gender Relations in the Anglo-Saxon Cultural Province in Francia’, pp. 3–15.

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Pelagius (d. 418) may have had a special attraction for women. Felice Lifshitz argues that the climate in the Würzburg area in the eighth century, with a weak episcopal see perhaps overly reliant on aristocratic families, was not unlike the early Church in having to negotiate ‘the luxuriant variety of Christian forms (and of competing non-Christian cults), which were the inevitable result of the earlier absence of established [Christian] religious hierarchies and orthodoxies’.6 Women especially may have appreciated Prisciliano de Ávila’s perception of God as a masculo-feminine entity, Lifshitz maintains, as well as the apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, which featured strong, autonomous women firm in their faith. Both offered examples of syneisactic relationships (where powerful abbesses ruled groups of nuns who were attended by monks and labourers), which may have resonated with female and male monastics in the region working in close collaboration for the development of the Church.7 We think it important to note, therefore, that while surely graced with leadership abilities as well as a sharp intellect, Leoba was part of a cohort of smart, active women, as well as a larger cultural dynamic of collaboration that blurred gender roles and expectations. In relation to literacy and learning, women’s contributions to intellectual culture continue to be revealed for England and the continent from the seventh century on. As we noted previously, there is more concrete evidence about Anglo-Saxon women’s literacies at the beginning of the eighth century than in the mid-seventh.8 After 700, more and more details emerge that indicate the ongoing engagement of Anglo-Saxon nuns with book culture. For instance, Eadburh of Wimborne (fl. 716–46) sent books to Boniface to aid in the Anglo-Saxon missions in Germany.9 Boniface commissioned a copy of the Epistles of Peter from her, sending gold along with the letter so that her atelier could produce a copy that would impress those 6 

Felice Lifshitz, ‘The Persistence of Late Antiquity: Christ as Man and Woman in an Eighth-Century Miniature’, Medi­eval Feminist Forum, 38 (2004), 18–27 (p. 18). 7  Lifshitz, ‘Syneisactism and Reform’, in Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia, pp. 3–15. For a discussion of syneisactism, see also Jo Ann Kay McNamara, Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns Through Two Millennia (Cam­bridge, MA: Harvard Uni­ver­sity Press, 1996), pp. 5–6. 8  Blanton and Scheck, ‘Leoba and the Icono­graphy of Learning’, p. 16. 9  See Boniface and Lul, Die Briefe des Heiligen Bonifatius, ed. by Tangl, Letters 30 (p. 54) and 35 (p. 60). As another example, Patrick Sims-Williams traces the possible route of transmission of the oldest surviving copy of Jerome’s commentary on Ecclesiastes from the abbess Cuthswith at Inkberrow to Burghard, bishop of Würzburg; see Patrick Sims-Williams, ‘Cuth­ swith, Seventh-Century Abbess of Inkberrow, near Worcester, and the Würzburg Manu­script of Jerome on Ecclesiastes’, Anglo-Saxon England, 5 (1976), 1–22.

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he was trying to convert.10 His pupil Lul (c. 710–86) also sent a silver stylus to Eadburh as a sign of gratitude for her support as well as a tool with which she or her nuns could provide additional service books for the mission.11 Still, more evidence has survived regarding women’s roles in book production at this time for the continent than for England. Since the groundbreaking studies by Bernhard Bischoff, Rosamond McKitterick, and Janet L. Nelson, scholars have demonstrated time and again women’s accomplishments as scribes and illustrators as well as women’s interest in books as readers and patrons.12 The 10 

See Boniface and Lul, Die Briefe des Heiligen Bonifatius, ed. by Tangl, Letter 35 (p. 60). See Boniface and Lul, Die Briefe des Heiligen Bonifatius, ed. by Tangl, Letter 70 (p. 143). 12  There are many more studies than can be cited here, but some we have found especially useful are: Bernhard Bischoff, ‘Die Kölner Nonnenhandschriften und das Skriptorium von Chelles’, in Mittelalterliche Studien: ausgewählte Aufsätze zur Schriftkunde und Literaturgeschichte, ed. by Bernhard Bischoff, 3 vols (Stuttgart: Hersemann, 1966–81), i, (1966), 16–34; Rosamond McKitterick, ‘Nuns’ Scriptoria in England and Francia in the Eighth Century’, Francia, 19 (1992), 1–35 [repr. in Rosamond McKitterick, Books, Scribes and Learning in the Frankish Kingdoms, 6th–9th Centuries, Variorum Collected Studies Series, 452 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1994), chap. VII, pp. 1–35]; Rosamond McKitterick, ‘Women and Literacy in the Early Middle Ages’, in Rosamond McKitterick, Books, Scribes and Learning in the Frankish Kingdoms, 6th–9th Centuries, chap. XIII, pp. 1–43; Janet L. Nelson, ‘Women and the Word in the Earlier Middle Ages’, in Women in the Church, ed. by W. J. Sheils and Diana Wood, Studies in Church History, 27 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), pp. 53–78; Janet L. Nelson, ‘Gender and Genre in Women Historians of the Early Middle Ages’, in Janet L. Nelson, The Frankish World, 750–900 (London: Hambledon, 1996), pp. 183–98; Michelle P. Brown, ‘Female Book Ownership and Production in Anglo-Saxon England: The Evidence of the Ninth-Century Prayerbooks’, in Lexis and Texts in Early English: Studies Presented to Jane Roberts, ed. by Christian J. Kay and Louise M. Sylvester, Costerus, n.s., 133 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2001), pp. 45–64; Katrinette Bodarwé, Sanctimoniales litteratae: Schriftlichkeit und Bildung in den ottonischen Frauenkommunitäten Gandersheim, Essen und Quedlinburg, Quellen und Studien, Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für kirchengeschichtliche Forschung des Bistums Essen, 10 (Münster: Aschendorff, 2004); Jane Stevenson, ‘Anglo-Latin Women Poets’, in Latin Learning and English Lore: Studies in Anglo-Saxon Literature for Michael Lapidge, ed. by Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe and Andy Orchard, Toronto Old English Series, 14 (Toronto: Uni­ver­sity of Toronto Press, 2005), pp. 86–107; Patrick Wormald, ‘Hilda, Saint and Scholar (614–681)’, in Times of Bede, 625–865: Studies in Early English Christian Society and its Historian (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006), pp. 267–76; Hedwig Röckelein, ‘Die Heilige Schrift in Frauenhand’, in Präsenz und Verwendung der heiligen Schrift im christlichen Frühmittelalter: Exegetische Literatur und liturgische Texte, ed. by Patrizia Carmassi, Wolfenbütteler Mittelalter-Studien, 20 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2008), pp. 139–209; Katrinette Bodarwé, ‘Lesende Frauen im frühen Mittelalter’, in Die lesende Frau, ed. by Gabriela Signori, Wolfenbütteler Forschungen, 121 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2009), pp. 65–79; and Lifshitz, Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia. 11 


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correspon­dence of Boniface and Alcuin (c. 735–804), which are both sizeable collections and therefore two rich resources for understanding the history of the period, includes letters to and from women eager to advance their learning, as well as one query from younger male ecclesiastics to a learned woman.13 Together with the earlier correspondence of Aldhelm (c. 639–709) to Abbess Hildelith of Barking and the unknown nun Sigegyth, these letters indicate not isolated moments of exchange but collaborations of men and women from the seventh to the ninth century, where male and female learning can be found in the Frankish communities near Paris at Jouarre, Soissons, and Chelles; as well as the Anglo-Saxon missionary outposts in central and southern Germany at Würzburg, Kitzingen, Karlburg, Tauberbischofsheim, Fulda, Eichstätt, and Heidenheim; and in the newly established communities in northern Germany at Essen and Gandersheim (what Lifshitz refers to as syneisactic communities).14 The Würzburg evidence demonstrates women’s association with the texts, but not women’s exclusive production, ownership, or use of the texts. Provenance is un­certain in all cases, but some manu­scripts can be convincingly tied to the ­women’s communities at Kitzingen, Karlburg, and a third community in the region simply referred to as ‘ad lapidum fluminis’ [literally: ‘at the stones of the river’].15 13  The best edition of Alcuin’s correspondence is Alcuin of York, Alcuini sive Albini epistolae, ed. by Ernst Dümmler, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Epistolae, iv, Epistolae Karolini Aevi, 2 (Berlin: Weidmann, 1895), pp. 1–493. Among Alcuin’s correspondence, most famously Charlemagne’s sister Gisela and his daughter Rodtrud express their eagerness to have his treatise on the Gospel of John (Alcuin of York, Alcuini sive Albini Epistolae, Letter 196 (pp. 323–25)). Alcuin also exchanges letters with a number of Frankish and English women, offering spiritual guidance and instruction. Among them are Charlemagne’s cousin Gundrada, to whom he dedicates his treatise on the soul; a woman of Charlemagne’s family (probably his daughter Gisela), to whom he offers guidance on astrology; and another woman, probably Gundrada or perhaps Charlemagne’s sister Gisela, with whom he shares his refutation of the Adoptionist heresy. Among the Boniface/Lul correspondence, see, for example, Boniface and Lul, Die Briefe des Heiligen Bonifatius, ed. by Tangl, Letter 29 (pp. 52–53) from Leoba to Boniface introducing herself and asking for a critique of her closing verses; and Letter 49 (pp. 78–80) from Lul, Denehard, and Burghard to the royal abbess Cuniburh sustaining their close connection to her, asking for protection for two men newly freed by Lul and his father, and also asking if she might correct any infelicities in their letter. Christine E. Fell, ‘Some Implications of the Boniface Correspondence’, in New Readings on Women in Old English Literature, ed. by Helen Damico and Alexandra Hennessey Olsen (Bloomington: Indiana Uni­ver­sity Press, 1990), pp. 29–43, provides a good overview of that epistolary corpus. 14  Lifshitz, ‘Syneisactism and Reform’, in Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia, pp. 3–15, and elsewhere argues for syneisactism in the Anglo-Saxon cultural province. 15  See Bernhard Bischoff, Südostdeutschen Schreibschulen und Bibliotheken in der Karo­

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Rather than detracting from the significance of the evidence for women’s literacy, we think that the necessity of collaboration in manu­script production and dissemination also indicates an active and energetic practice of manu­script circulation, which means that the number of manu­scripts being exchanged through the various communities exceeds the number of survivals or likely holdings significantly. Texts would have been a relatively rare commodity anywhere, but especially in the newly Christianized or ecclesiastically mapped regions of Bavaria, Saxony, and Frisia, and therefore would have been shared at least for the purpose of producing copies and most likely to ensure the effective, appropriate, and lasting spread of the faith, which was, after all, the point. That is, though library holdings are difficult to ascertain in this period, especially for women’s communities, a lively interlibrary loan practice must have been essential to the function of most communities. In light of such hagio­g raphical, codicological, and historio­g raphical evidence, it is tempting to assume an egalitarianism for these regions that likely never existed. While women enjoyed a relatively high degree of autonomy, assumed leadership roles in the regional Church, and seem to have had access to a level of education and range of texts comparable to their male counterparts, some women display antifeminist — or at least limiting — perceptions of themselves. Even if the spiritual welfare of the Frankish, Saxon, and AngloSaxon regions during the eighth and early ninth centuries encouraged and relied upon a certain degree of female autonomy, the age-old stereotypes were alive and well and must have informed the set of attitudes and values that were at the heart of the mission. If Boniface embraced particular women who shared his mission, he also distrusted women as a group and worried about their wayward tendencies, characterizing the heretic as having a womanly mind or soul, for example, and claiming that female pilgrims were too easily swayed to lives of prostitution.16 His successor, Lul, too, insisted on strict enclosure of female monastics, even going so far as to excommunicate an abbess and two nuns for allowing the nuns to leave the monastery without his consent.17 Such denilinger­z eit, Sammlung bibliothekswissenschaftlicher Arbeiten (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1940), and Lifshitz, Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia, especially Chapter 3, ‘The Gun(t)za and Abirhilt Manu­scripts: Women and their Books in the Anglo-Saxon Cultural Province in Francia’, pp. 29–61. Lifshiftz ascribes these manuscripts to Karlburg. 16  See Boniface and Lul, Die Briefe des Heiligen Bonifatius, ed. by Tangl, Letter 59 (p. 116), and Letter 78 (p. 169): ‘Perpauce enim sunt civitates in Longobardia vel in Francia aut in Gallia, in qua non sit adultera vel meretrix generis Anglorum’ [‘There is hardly a city in Lombardy, France, or Gaul in which there is not an adultress or prostitute of English origin’] (our translation). 17  See Boniface and Lul, Die Briefe des Heiligen Bonifatius, ed. by Tangl, Letter 128


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grating remarks about and treatment of women clash with abundant evidence of women’s close association with men in the conversionary enterprise on the continent, producing tightly woven communities, collaborating in education and book production, promulgating the faith together. Thus we see some of the tensions exerting pressure on the Church within the larger cultural context.18 Conversionary dynamics that allowed women active and public roles, opening up a space for women in the realms of learning and literacy, cultural production, spiritual guidance, administration, and politics, likely sparked anxiety about female authority that was then cast in terms of female insufficiency, incompetence, and spiritual inferiority.19 Such evidence suggests that the active enclosure of female monastics and the separation of male from female monastics were becoming dominant practices, even in newly established ecclesiastical domains. While women gained some ground, male privilege still determined acceptable roles, practices, and perceptions. There is no question that the vita of Leoba was commissioned as part of a larger reform agenda, as scholars have noted.20 That is, Rudolf was not inspired to write about Leoba but, rather, was ordered to do so by his abbot, Hraban Maur, some fifty years after her death. As abbot of Fulda and advisor to Louis I (also known as Louis le Pieux, d. 840), Empress Judith von Bayern (d. 843), and Louis II (d. 876), and later as archbishop of Mainz, Hraban followed closely in Boniface’s footsteps as an ecclesiastical authority and reformer, even if he did not share his missionary zeal. In the 830s, the period during which the vita was commissioned, Hraban was expanding the power and prestige of the monastic centre at Fulda and styling reform for the region, in order to make the whole (pp. 265–66). Stephanie Hollis cites this event as evidence of ‘Lul’s intention to subordinate abbesses to his episcopal authority’ and links it to a more general erasure of women monastics within a programme of orthodox censorship characteristic of Carolingian Reform movements; see Stephanie Hollis, Anglo-Saxon Women and the Church: Sharing a Common Fate (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1992), p. 285. 18  On the cultural context of the Boniface circle and Leoba’s place within it, see Mary Ellen Rowe, ‘Leoba’s Purple Thread: The Women of the Boniface Mission’, Magistra, 17 (2011), 3–20. 19  See Helene Scheck, Reform and Resistance: Formations of Female Subjectivity in Early Medi­eval Ecclesiastical Culture, SUNY Series in Medi­e val Studies, 241 (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2008), and Lifshitz, Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia. 20  Examples include Hollis, Anglo-Saxon Women and the Church, pp. 271–300; Jane Tibbetts Schulenburg, Forgetful of their Sex: Female Sanctity and Society, ca. 500–1100 (Chicago: Uni­ver­sity of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 53; and Lifshitz, Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia, pp. 14–15.

Leoba’s Legacy


a spiritually significant site and an important pilgrimage destination.21 His mission was not purely a spiritual one, nor was it limited to the comportment of monastics and organization of monastic life under his leadership. Rather, his aim was to shift spiritual, ecclesiastical, and economic power in the region toward the monastic centre at Fulda. Part of his strategy for monastic reform, therefore, was to bring small proprietary communities in the region under the umbrella of the monastic centre at Fulda, rather than allowing them to exist as so many independent enterprises, thereby intercepting the authority of local lords over such communities (real or implied) and consolidating properties as well as spiritual power in that region. But such property transfers required finesse more than force, persuading local lords that such communities would be more spiritually efficacious if fully committed to ecclesiastical authority. Moreover, such appeals to piety may have been pitched to women at least as much as men. To serve his carefully orchestrated programme, therefore, an icon designed to encourage his ideals had to be based on a woman who could toe the conservative line. Rudolf ties the composition of the vita to the erection of a memorial church on the Ugesberg (now called the Petersberg), just east of the monastic centre at Fulda, and the translation of Leoba’s relics to that site.22 If Janneke Raaijmakers is right in her analysis of the evidence, however, the translation of Leoba’s relics to that site was part of a larger, holistic programme of relics placed strategically throughout the church, in and behind the high altar and the altars of the crypt, as well as in other prominently placed reliquaries, all of which suggest a multifaceted unifying design, tying together the stages of Christ’s life, heavenly and early cities, and the spread of Christianity in Rome with the spread of Christianity in Germany, thus creating the church on the Ugesberg as a testament to the life of Christ and of the Church.23 Hraban 21 

What follows draws heavily on the cogent and well-documented discussion of Hraban’s contributions to the consolidation of ecclesiastical power at Fulda by Janneke Raaijmakers, The Making of the Monastic Community of Fulda, c. 744–c. 900, Cam­bridge Studies in Medi­e val Life and Thought, 4th ser., 83 (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2012), chaps 6 and 7 (pp. 175–264). 22  Raaijmakers, The Making of the Monastic Community of Fulda, p. 216. 23  See Raaijmakers, The Making of the Monastic Community of Fulda, pp. 219–21, as well as Hilde Claussen, ‘Eine Reliquiennische in der Krypta auf dem Petersberg bei Fulda, mit einem Anhang von Friedrich Oswald, Protokoll der Untersuchungen an der mittleren Westwand der Krypta von Petersberg am 27. Oktober 1970’, in Die Kirche St. Peter in Petersberg bei Fulda: Denkmalpflege und Forschung, ed. by Katharina Benak and others, Arbeitshefte des Landesamtes für Denkmalpflege Hessen, 20 (Wiesbaden: Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Hessen, 2014), pp. 239–62, on the relic programme informing the interment of relics at the so-


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sought relics for all of the churches associated with the monastery at Fulda, not just the church he erected on the Petersberg. If the abbess Leoba is an icon of literacy, therefore, Hraban also makes her into an icon of reform in the narrative he commissions, the memorial church he erects, and the translation and display of her relics. He appropriates the icono­graphy of learning to serve a particular vision for monasticism for women as well as for men, one that separates women from men physically and spiritually, just as her body was removed from the male monastic site at Fulda. His translation of her relics according to an elaborate design for the new church on the Ugesberg and carefully contextualized in Rudolf ’s narrative methodically incorporates women and their spiritual communities into the larger ecclesiastical programme. This move also served to remove Leoba from the centre of learning at Fulda. And yet, despite the restrictions on women’s literacy suggested by such a move, Rudolf emphasizes Leoba’s learning and intellect in his vita, written around 836 at Hraban’s command. It would have been more appropriate, perhaps, in the climate of Carolingian ecclesiastical reforms to emphasize learning and active leadership for men and present a different, more passive set of virtues for women monastics, whether canonesses or nuns, since early ninth-century Carolingian capitularies are often cited as evidence that roles for women within the Church were being systematically reduced, particularly in the area of education.24 In the Rule for Canons produced at the Aachen Council of 816, for example, we note the importance of higher education and rhetorical training for men as well as cautionary admonitions forbidding commerce and conversation with women of any sort, except when pastoral duties or business with the abbess required — and then only with other women present. In comparison to the 128 chapters that comprise the Rule for Canons, the Rule for Canonesses requires only twenty-eight chapters to define their practices, expectations, and obligations. It seems ecclesiastical and secular authorities had little to say about the conduct of canonesses beyond prohibitions.25 Attention to discourse in the called Liobakirche. Raaijmakers notes that ‘Rudolf ’s Miracula sanctorum represents Fulda as a spider in a web of churches and cellae’ (p. 233). For a cogent discussion of graves and reliquaries at the monastic church of Fulda and Hraban’s larger reliquary programme, see Raaijmakers, The Making of the Monastic Community of Fulda, pp. 215–36. 24  This has become something of a commonplace, particularly since the publication of Suzanne Fonay Wemple, Women in Frankish Society: Marriage and the Cloister, 500–900 (Philadelphia: Uni­ver­sity of Pennsylvania Press, 1981). 25  The Rule for Canons and Rule for Canonesses were codified at the Council of Aachen in 816 and presented in the document produced at that meeting as ‘Concilium Aquisgranense

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Rule for Canonesses forbids all forms of congress and conversation with men, paralleling the Rule for Canons, except, again, in the case of pastoral necessity. Beyond the restrictions on speech, there is no direction for the canonesses developing as scholars, educators, or orators. Here it is worth noting that the terms ‘bilinguitas’ and ‘balbulus’ do not appear in the Rule for Canons, as if only women indulge in ‘double-speak’ and ‘idle chatter’. Scant attention is paid to education or reading. ‘Puellae’, designating cloistered virgins of any age, are to learn the psalms and recite them regularly, read scripture and saints’ lives as models for behaviour, and the Rule itself regularly, so as not to forget its dictates.26 The Rule is silent on further education for women. It was, as some have noted, the end of an era.27 Theory and praxis are often at odds, however. That is, just because the Rule was proposed does not mean it was followed everywhere and on every point. In this case, it would seem that the Rule for Canonesses was not as far reaching as the conciliar authorities had hoped. The Rule for Canons seems to have been widely distributed, but few examples of that for canonesses survive, suggesting that the Rule for Canonesses was not widely adopted.28 The oldest extant copy A. 816’, in Concilia aevi Karolini (742–842), ed. by Albert Werminghoff, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Legum 3, Concilia 2.1 (Hannover: Hahn, 1906), pp. 307–456. The ‘Institutio canonicorum Aquisgranensis’ appears first (pp. 308–421), followed by the ‘Institutio sanctimonialium Aquisgranensis’ (pp. 421–56), and then a letter from Louis I to all archbishops of his realm (pp. 456–63). 26  Councils held at Tours in 813 and Aachen in 816 use the term ‘puellae’ generically, as seems to be the practice in the early Middle Ages, which seems to conflate, therefore, canonesses and nuns who have never been married with oblates, novitiates, and girls being educated in the monastery; only ‘viduae’ [‘widows’] are distinguished as a category of women ecclesiastics, and abbesses of course. See ‘Concilium Aquisgranense A. 816’, ed. by Werminghoff, pp. 307–456 (pp. 452–54). Although Chapter 22 of the Rule requires that virgins be educated with great diligence [‘Ut erga puellas in monasteriis erudiendas magna adhibeatur diligentia’] (‘Concilium Aquisgranense, A. 816’, ed. by Werminghoff, c. xxii, p. 423), the chapter itself makes clear that education in this context, as one might expect, is about cultivating a life of modesty and sobriety, not intellectual curiosity and acuity. 27  Albrecht Diem, ‘The Gender of the Religious: Wo/Men and the Invention of Monas­ ticism’, in The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medi­eval Europe, ed. by Judith M. Bennett and Ruth Mazo Karras (Oxford: Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press, 2013), pp. 432–46 (p. 444), and Lifshitz, Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia, p. 15. 28  Lifshitz, Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia, p. 12. Even when the Rule for Canonesses served as a source for emendations of the Benedictine Rule adapted for women in Anglo-Saxon England, that fact speaks more to the fluidity of rules in general than to widespread, strict application of the Rule for Canonesses in ecclesiastical territories of Francia and


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(Würzburg, Universitätsbibliothek, M. p. th. q. 25) was produced at Würzburg Cathedral, probably in the decade following the Aachen pronouncement and a decade before Rudolf composed his account of Leoba’s life and works. Even in that document, Lifshitz argues, the Rule seems not to have been accepted uncritically. While the Rule disseminated by the Council advocates strict claustration for everyone in the community, the Würzburg version limits enclaustration to the infirm and does not include girls being educated in the monastery; that regular inmates would be allowed to leave in order to perform their duties is implied in both the conciliar and Würzburg versions.29 The ideal of enclosure, therefore, loses clear demarcations in this revision of the Rule. And while the pronouncement sought to control behaviour of canonesses, there was no similar adjustment of the Benedictine Rule to guide the behaviour of nuns.30 Although Benedict de Aniane (d. 821) incorporated parts of rules for women into his concordance, he used the masculine grammatical form throughout, suggesting that ‘Benedict was not very passionate about reforming female England. See Rohini Jayatilaka, ‘The Old English Benedictine Rule: Writing for Women and Men’, Anglo-Saxon England, 32 (2003), 147–87; Mechthild Gretsch, Ælfric and the Cult of Saints in Late Anglo-Saxon England, Cam­bridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England, 34 (Cam­ bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2006), p. 145 n. 73; and Mechthild Gretsch, ‘Benedictine Rule, OE’, in The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England, ed. by Michael Lapidge, and others (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), Blackwell Reference Online [ac­cessed 25 May 2017]. Though the Rule for Canonesses urges claustration, it also specifies that canonesses run hospices for the community. Such contradictions between the ideal and reality (and even in prescriptions for women religious) have been noted by Lifshitz, Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia, pp. 12–13, following Donald Hochstetler, A Conflict of Traditions: Women in Religion in the Early Middle Ages (500–840) (Lanham: Uni­ ver­sity Press of America, 1992), and Thomas Schilp, Norm und Wirklichkeit religiöser Frauengemeinschaften im Frühmittelalter: Die ‘Institutio sanctimonialium Aquisgranensis’ des Jahres 816 und die Problematik der Verfassung von Frauenkommunitäten, Studien zur Germania Sacra, 21 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998). 29  For details, see Lifshitz, Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia, pp. 12–13, where she points out that the missing folios between 19v and 20r, containing the end of Jerome’s letter to Furia and most of Cyprian’s misogynistic De habitu virginum (both serving to underscore the need for strict enclaustration advocated by the Rule), coincided with the manipulation of text later in the document so that infirm women rather than all girls being educated in the monastery were prohibited from leaving the cloister. 30  Albrecht Diem makes the very astute point that reform may not have been about regulating women’s behaviour at all, but rather it sought to limit and regularize the behaviour of male religious; see Diem, ‘The Gender of the Religious’, p. 443. Nuns following the Benedictine Rule, therefore, were probably simply encouraged to maintain their regular practices.

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monasticism, but he was very interested in what female monastic tradition had to say, and he had no problem applying the experience of female communities to monks.’31 If Benedict, the chief reformer of the day, did not address women’s behaviour in monasteries, what can we discern about the effects of reform on nuns in this period? Perhaps he found little to correct there, as women’s communities were sufficiently controlled. We might just as easily conclude that the Anianian Rule was intended to guide both men and women, with masculine grammatical forms generically inclusive of both genders. Whatever Benedict’s perception, the lack of a modified Benedictine Rule for women may have given female reform leaders, as well as nuns on the periphery of ecclesiastical territories, greater latitude in adapting the Benedictine Rule (inflected by Benedict de Aniane or not) to their needs and purposes. We do not know, for instance, precisely what rule was established at Herford when it was founded under Louis I as a daughter house of Corvey with close ties to St Marie, Soissons.32 Theodrada, abbess of Soissons, was charged with initiating reform at Herford, just as her brother Adalhard, abbot of Corbie, was instrumental in the implementation of reform in Saxony.33 Such ecclesiastical ties would suggest use of the Benedictine Rule, but evidence is lacking. Nor do we know whether the Benedictine Rule, if established, governed the practice of all inmates, was implemented beyond the Carolingian period, or if it allowed a mixed set of regulations, accommodating canonesses as well as nuns. We do know that Herford was influential in training leaders of subsequent foundations, including two women who came to be venerated locally as saints: Hadamout (d. 874), first abbess of Gandersheim, and Queen Mathilda von Sachsen (d. 968), who in 936 would found the important community at Quedlinburg in memory of her late husband, Heinrich I (also known as Heinrich der Vogler). Both foundations became powerful Saxon monasteries, with Gandersheim perhaps being a mixed community and Quedlinburg a house of canonesses, but neither, in any case, fully Benedictine. It may be that women on the continent who practised the highest form of monasticism following the Rule of Benedict continued to be 31 

Diem, ‘The Gender of the Religious’, p. 442. See Johanna Heineken, ‘Die Anfänge der sächsischen Frauenklöster’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Universität Göttingen, 1909), and Uwe Lobbedey, ‘Zur archäologischen Erforschung westfälischer Frauenklöster des 9. Jahrhunderts’, Frühmittelalterliche Studien: Jahrbuch des Instituts für Frühmittelalterforschung der Universität Münster, 4 (1970), 320–40 (pp. 335–36). 33  Rosamond McKitterick, The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751–987 (London: Longman, 1983), p. 7. 32 

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educated and socialized as monks were, whereas gender distinctions were more clearly drawn between canons and canonesses; nevertheless, the royal communities at Essen, Gandersheim, and Quedlinburg continued to develop scriptoria and contribute to intellectual culture through the ninth and tenth centuries whether or not they embraced the Benedictine Rule.34 It would seem, therefore, that the Rule for Canonesses of 816 did not succeed in limiting women’s intellectual development. If Hraban’s objective in promoting the cult of Leoba had been simply to silence women and restrict women’s access to literacy and advanced studies, Rudolf would have told her story very differently. Lay women as well as ecclesiastical continued to enjoy access to literacy and advanced learning. It was after all in the wake of the most stringent attempts at reform that Dhuoda (d. after 843) produced the handbook for her son that bears witness to her advanced education at a time when reform activity was most vigorous.35 Walafrid Strabo (d. 849) and Hraban Maur, both closely associated with ecclesiastical reform, moreover, dedicated works to Judith von Bayern, who was presumably very well educated before she married Louis I; her mother, Heilwig von Wittelsbach (c. 780–843), also seems to have been well educated, since she was appointed abbess of the royal monastery at Chelles, as was Ermintrude de Orléans (d. 869), first wife of Charles le Chauve (d. 877), who succeeded Heilwig.36


The most comprehensive resource for women’s scriptoria in early medi­e val Saxony is Bodarwé, Sanctimoniales litteratae. 35  The most recent edition, which also provides an English translation, is Dhuoda, Dhuoda, Handbook for her Warrior Son: Liber Manualis, ed. by Marcelle Thiébaux, Cam­bridge Medi­eval Classics, 8 (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 1998). See also Janet L. Nelson, ‘Dhuoda’, in Lay Intellectuals in the Carolingian World, ed. by Patrick Wormald and Janet L. Nelson (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2007), pp. 106–20; and Janet L. Nelson, ‘Organic Intellectuals in the Dark Ages?’, History Workshop Journal, 66 (2008), 1–17. 36  Nelson, ‘Gender and Genre’. Royal women in general, lay as well as ecclesiastical, seem to have been exceedingly well educated in this period. Gisèle, sister of Charles le Chauve, with her husband, Eberhard de Friouli, amassed an impressive collection of books, which they left to their children in a will that survives: about which, see Pierre Riché, ‘Les bibliothèques de trois aristocrates laics carolingiens’, Le Moyen Age, 69 (1963), 87–104 (pp. 97–101); Pierre Riché and G. Tate, ‘La bibliothèque du Duc Evrard de Frioul’, in Textes et documents d’histoire du Moyen Age, ve–xe siècles, Régards sur l’histoire, 2 vols (Paris: Sedes, 1974–76), ii (1976): Milieu viiie–xe siècle, pp. 414–16; Rosamond McKitterick, The Carolingians and the Written Word (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 1989), pp. 245–48; and Paul J. E. Kershaw’s discussion of the will, ‘Eberhard of Friuli, a Carolingian Lay Intellectual’, in Lay Intellectuals in the Carolingian World, ed. by Wormald and Nelson, pp. 77–105.

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Certainly Rudolf, writing half a century after Leoba’s death and for specific purposes, filters her story of exceptional intellectual pursuits through the attitudes and values governing ecclesiastical impetus and the development of monasticism in his own day. Yet even as he envisions more rigid gender segregation than was true for the Anglo-Saxon double monastery and emphasizes the importance of strict enclosure of female monastics, he portrays Leoba as an exception to both Rules for women espoused by ecclesiastical reformers of his day. His attention to women’s learning — and learnedness — seems to contradict the dominant attitudes as articulated most explicitly in the Rule for Canons and Rule for Canonesses of 816. Thus, Rudolf, on behalf of Hraban, promotes a different kind of reform, one that highlights intellectual development for women, provided it was carefully managed. Hraban was not the first to see that well-educated ecclesiastics, female as well as male, lay as well as monastic, were necessary to stem the flow of heterodox beliefs and practices. Another chief reformer, Hraban’s teacher Alcuin of York, shared his treatise against the Adoptionist Controversy (which promoted the idea of Jesus as God’s adopted son as well as his generative son) with a woman, acknowledging the importance of women and men in protecting the integrity of the faith.37 Circumscribing learning for canonesses and nuns would also have limited their ability to serve the larger spiritual cause. Rudolf ’s bio­graphy, therefore, begins not with Leoba or her parents, but with the famous Anglo-Saxon magistra Tetta, establishing learning and literacy as the foundation for Leoba’s life and accomplishments. ‘Magistra’, like its masculine counterpart, means ‘leader’ as well as ‘teacher’. Indeed, a leader was generally selected on the basis of intellectual achievement. Monastic leaders were often teachers first: Alcuin of York, counsellor to Charlemagne (d. 814) and head of the palace school, became abbot of Tours; Eigil von Fulda (d. 822) was magister before becoming abbot of that house; and Hraban Maur, probably the most accomplished scholar of his day, also advanced from schoolmaster to abbot of Fulda. For women, learnedness seems to have also been a key factor in selecting a leader for a commu37 

Alcuin writes: ‘Misi Candidum vestrum, iubente domino meo David, cum libello contra adsertores adoptionis in Christo exarato, nesciens, ne forte quid novi ex prioribus pravitatis radicibus alicubi pululasset. Tu vero in fide catholica inviolata mente permaneas habens semper responsiones paratas, quibus adversarius vinci possit’ [‘I have sent your Candidus, at the command of my lord David, with a treatise I have drawn up against the defenders of Adoptionism, lest perhaps it may eradicate some new depravity from its first roots. May you remain inviolate in the Catholic faith, keeping [these] prepared responses always to hand with which the opponent may be bested’] (our translation); see Alcuin of York, Alcuini sive Albini Epistolae, Letter 204, pp. 337–40 (p. 338).

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nity. Anglo-Saxon England’s religious communities before Leoba’s time offer numerous examples despite the dearth of evidence: Hild of Whitby (d. 680); Mildthryth of Thanet (d. before 733); Hildelith of Barking (fl. 700); Eadburh of Thanet (d. 751); and the abbess of Worcester, sometimes thought to be Cyneburh (fl. 750s?). Thus, Leoba and her colleagues follow in a strong tradition of learning and educated leadership. That Rudolf ’s account of Leoba retains and even develops the connection between learnedness and leadership, instructional and abbatial authority, therefore, seems simply to be following a long-standing tradition. Rudolf uses the term ‘magistra’ in both senses, as context demands. He tells us that Leoba excelled in learning and was invited to join Boniface’s circle because of her intellect as much as kinship ties: as we noted in the first part of this project, Rudolf ’s Leoba is an accomplished teacher; she speaks publicly; she indulges in neither idle reading nor idle chatter; she is famous for her intellect and wisdom, becoming for that reason a counsellor at Charlemagne’s court and personal adviser to Queen Hiltigard von Vintzgouw (d. 783); and she is designated as Boniface’s successor over the women’s monasteries, with Sturm (d. 779) overseeing the men’s monasteries and Lul taking over the diocesan responsibilities.38


Rudolf tells us that ‘Igitur sicut desideraverat monasteriis custodiam et regularis disci­ plinae normam instituit; et monachis quidem Sturmi abbatem praetulit, Leobam vero virginem spiritalem virginum matrem esse decrevit, statuitque ei monasterium in loco qui vocatur Biscofesheim, ubi non parvus ancillarum Dei numerous collectus est’ [‘In furtherance of his [missionary] aims [Boniface] appointed persons in authority over the monasteries and established the observance of regular discipline: he placed Sturm as abbot over the monks and Leoba as abbess over the nuns. He gave her the monastery at a place called Bischofsheim, where there was a large community of nuns’]; see Rudolf von Fulda, Vita Leobae abbatissae Biscofesheimensis auctore Rudolfo Fuldensi, ed. by Georg Waitz, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores, 15.1 (Hannover: Hahn, 1887), pp. 118–31 (p. 126). An English translation is provided in ‘The Life of Saint Leoba by Rudolf, Monk of Fulda’, in The Anglo-Saxon Missionaries in Germany: Being the Lives of SS Willibrord, Boniface, Sturm, Leoba, and Lebuin, together with the Hodoeporicon of St. Willibald and a Selection from the Correspondence of Boniface, ed. and trans. by C. H. Talbot (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1954), pp. 204–26 [reprinted as ‘The Life of Saint Leoba’, in Soldiers of Christ: Saints and Saints’ Lives from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. by Thomas F. X. Noble and Thomas Head (Uni­ver­sity Park: Penn State Uni­ver­sity Press, 1995), pp. 255–77, but the original 1954 edition is quoted here]. The vita is preserved in multiple manu­scripts, which are detailed in Rudolf von Fulda, Vita Leobae, ed. by Waitz, pp. 119–20. The earliest version, copied in the tenth century, is München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 18897, fols 3r–44v. For further discussion of Leoba as an intellectual and a leader, see Blanton and Scheck, ‘Leoba and the Icono­graphy of Learning’.

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Thus Rudolf ’s life, commissioned by Hraban Maur in the interests of ecclesiastical development and reform, offers a description of Leoba’s education that is politically and ecclesiastically framed. He notes her association with Charlemagne’s court, for example, and draws a very clear parallel between Leoba and Sturm, suggesting, perhaps, cooperation of men and women in their shared goals and advocating the primacy of monasticism in furthering the faith, even while emphasizing the separation of male and female monastics. Sturm, according to his bio­grapher, was sent to Montecassino to learn the purest form of Benedictinism so that he could advance observance of the Rule in the male communities of the missionary regions. He then went on to found Fulda and become its first abbot. Leoba was charged with leading the women’s communities, apparently, but Rudolf does not tell us how she was trained to do so, only that she already was an exemplary leader, promoting the highest ideals, and that she would make sure all present and future women’s communities would accord with her principles. She was given Tauberbischofsheim to rule as abbess. For Rudolf, Leoba’s learning, together with her chastity and upright living, propagates not only new Christians and talented and effective abbesses, but also new monastic communities. But the evidence that survives suggests a number of prominent women involved in the mission in some way who were not necessarily trained by Leoba. That is, Leoba was one of several women enlisted by Boniface for the Anglo-Saxon mission in Germany, and other women were recruited even before Boniface came to the continent. In fact, Thecla, one of the key figures by which we know anything about Leoba, is likely the same woman who became abbess of Kitzingen, where she also served the Anglo-Saxon mission in Germany. She may even have been Leoba’s senior. In the manner of a good storyteller, Rudolf simplifies the narrative to promote one prominent, exemplary woman as an icon of reform in the Fulda region. Rudolf ’s Leoba, then, becomes a sign through which the unruly monasticism of the missionary period could be consolidated into a model for women’s future spiritual and intellectual endeavours in the next stage of monastic development in the Saxon regions. About fifteen years after he composed Leoba’s vita, independent of Hraban but in keeping with his agenda, Rudolf would redeploy the vita as a model for a certain Hadamout, probably daughter of Liudolf von Sachsen (d. 866) and Oda von Billung (d. 913), the progenitors of the Ottonian dynasty, as she was stepping into her leadership role as the first abbess of what would become the Saxon royal monastery at Gandersheim. Rudolf ’s dedication of that copy to her, extant only in an eleventh-century manu­script (München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Codex latinus monacensis (Clm) 11321), makes clear that he intends for her to follow in Leoba’s footsteps as he has drawn them:


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Libellum quem de vita et virtutibus sanctae et venerandae virginis Leobae conscripsi nomini tuo, religiosa virgo Christi Hadamout, dedicare curavi, ut et habeas quod et libenter legere et religiose possis imitari, quatenus, opitulante gracia ­Christi, cuius consors effecta propositi paritate, coheres merearis fieri beatitudinis et premii.39 [The small book which I have written about the life and virtues of the holy and revered virgin Leoba has been dedicated to you, O Hadamout, virgin of Christ, in order that you may have something to read with pleasure and imitate with profit. Thus by the help of Christ’s grace you may eventually enjoy the blissful reward of him whose spouse you now are.]

Leoba’s legacy was formed, therefore, around her role in the Anglo-Saxon mission to Germany and, posthumously, in the Carolingian Benedictine Reform movement; she was, like the Anglo-Saxon missionary turned hermit St Sualo, part of what Lynda Coon calls an ‘attempt by the Hrabanus circle to create a new spiritual landscape for Germania with Fulda as its hallowed hub’.40 Hraban Maur may have initiated veneration of this particular woman — one who supports her female community by teaching them the scriptures and one who rejects a life at court as an advisor to the queen — because she represented an idealized form of woman and could therefore be readily transformed into an icon for the propagation of the faith and through which to control spiritual and ecclesiastical power in the region. Even if Hraban Maur did not initiate veneration of Leoba, he may have recognized a cult already forming around the figure of Leoba half a century after her death and wanted to control the shape it would take, thereby maximizing the benefits of her repute to the Church — and to the spiritual centre at Fulda in particular — by establishing a site for veneration and publishing a sanctioned story of her life and miracles, giving substance to her legacy in body and book. If that were the case, the reduction of the icono­graphy of women’s learning into an ecclesiastical icon may have been a way to train as well as restrain women’s scholarly and spiritual activity within acceptable boundaries, making it static rather than dynamic, a statue rather than a system. The reliquary programme designed by Hraban Maur, together with the story Rudolf tells, suggests that by the mid-ninth century Leoba had become 39  Rudolf von Fulda, Vita Leobae, ed. by Waitz, p. 121, ll. 48–51; for the translation, see ‘The Life of Saint Leoba by Rudolf ’, ed. and trans. by Talbot, p. 205. 40  Lynda L. Coon, ‘Historical Fact and Exegetical Fiction in the Carolingian Vita S. Sualonis’, Church History, 72 (2003), 1–24 (p. 6 and n. 28).

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one of the key figures in the now legendary Anglo-Saxon mission led by Boniface and, perhaps more than Sturm even, a principal icon of that movement. If Raaijmakers is right that through his carefully conceived installation of relics throughout the church on the Ugesberg Hraban created a church of all saints, then Leoba’s place in that church becomes even more important.41 Representing the only contemporary would-be saint in that scheme, Leoba’s relics symbolized the promise of the Church in Saxony. Indeed, the placement of her body in that reliquary programme effectively elevated her to the level of saint with tremendous regional importance. Hraban could have used that area of his new church in other ways. Relics of Sturm, for example, might have tied in Eigil’s earlier bio­graphy of that saint or he could have procured relics to assist in the development of the cult of Lul, uniting the ecclesiastical see of Mainz, which also happened to be Hraban’s birthplace, with Fulda in a politically efficacious fashion. Kinship may have been a factor, but most of the missionaries enlisted by Boniface were related to him in some way, so Leoba’s familial connection would not have been particularly remarkable. Certainly the translation of Leoba’s relics conveniently assisted the segregation of gender, which was an important concern during the Carolingian Reform movements; it also no doubt reified the most conservative sort of intellectual endeavour for women, letting more innovative and possibly radical developments fade into oblivion along with the less conventional champions of the Anglo-Saxon mission. If the restriction of and control over women’s learning — the reduction of icono­graphy to icon — was part of Hraban’s and then Rudolf ’s agenda, however, it achieved only marginal success. That is, while Fulda under Hraban’s leadership enjoyed regional dominance and no doubt shaped Christian education for men and women alike through official written works and deeds, including designing a reformed ethos that would affect lay as well as monastic communities, Hraban did not manage to contain women’s learning and access to texts of all sorts. The devastations of raids, civil war, plague, and famine that afflicted Carolingian Francia in the middle of the ninth century made survival of communities — and their possessions, including books — more precarious than the distance of more than a millennium already does. As communities faltered and then dissolved, their valuable possessions, along with their legacy, were simply absorbed elsewhere into cathedral libraries and treasuries or into libraries of an associated (usually male) monastic house. Because library markings and catalogues are rare in this period, collections from women’s commu41 

Raaijmakers, The Making of the Monastic Community of Fulda, p. 220.

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nities are impossible to reconstruct. If the reforms had really taken hold and the antifeminist attitudes and limitations on women’s learning pronounced at Aachen in 816 and articulated in the resulting Rule for Canons and Rule for Canonesses compiled by Amalar von Metz (d. 850) pervaded monastic practices and informed perceptions of women more generally, surely women’s access to advanced education would have been all but stifled. But that is not at all the case. Female communities at Essen and Herford strengthened their holdings, with Essen also developing a scriptorium of merit and Herford educating noble women, future queens, and abbesses. Other female communities emerged in Saxony: Gandersheim is founded as a proprietary convent around 852 and Quedlinburg as a proprietary memorial community in 936. Essen, Gandersheim, and Quedlinburg all would become important monastic sites with imperial ties, protections, and grants of immunity, and all would build substantial libraries and scriptoria and support advanced education.42 Like their Merovingian and Carolingian forebears, these women continued to collect apocryphal or censored materials; like their forebears, they exerted considerable influence over the shaping and selection of materials they gathered and disseminated and the Rule(s) they practised. If they toed the official lines drawn by Church and crown in order to maintain that power, they also likely explored the full range of abilities afforded by their privilege and produced much more than we know. Whatever the historical Leoba achieved, this is her legacy which grew out of Hraban’s plan for the spiritual landscape of the Main River valley of the ninth century, a legacy produced through both her book and her body. Despite Hraban’s best intentions, such a legacy could not be contained within an iconic form, but was deeply rooted in and continued to grow out of an icono­graphy of learning promulgated by Leoba herself.


Much has been written about the importance of these women’s communities. On education, development of scriptoria, and library holdings at Essen, Gandersheim, and Quedlinburg, see Bodarwé, ‘Lesende Frauen’; Bodarwé, Sanctimoniales litteratae; Röckelein, ‘Die Heilige Schrift in Frauenhand’; and Phyllis Brown, ‘Authentic Education: The Example of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim’, in Fromme Frauen als gelehrte Frauen: Bildung, Wissenschaft und Kunst im weiblichen Religiosentum des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit, ed. by Edeltraud Klueting and Harm Klueting, Schriften der Erzbischöflichen Diözesan- und Dombibliothek zur rheinischen Kirchen- und Landesgeschichte sowie zur Buch- und Bibliotheksgeschichte, 37 (Köln: Diözesan- und Dombibliothek, 2010), pp. 83–110.

‘Faciat eas litteras edoceri’: Literate Practices in the Clarissan formae vitae Julie Ann Smith


he formation of the Ordo Sanctae Clarae or Order of St Clare was an extended and contested process, starting with the conversion of Chiara Offreduccio or Chiara d’Assisi (1194–1253) in 1212 and culminating in the authoritative institutionalization of the Order in 1263 under the rubric of Pope Urban IV (1261–64). It was a complex process of integrating separate interests and moulding separate groups, with divergent visions for a poor penitent women’s monastic life, into a single Order. During this formative period, the sisters of the various communities and orders that would become the Order of St Clare were provided with a number of Rules and forma vitae by several authors, both female and male.1 These Rules and formae vitae, in keeping with their genre, provided behavioural and spiritual guidelines that shaped particular vocations and modelled specific religiones.2 While the various Clarissan formae vitae shared a basic principle of formulating a poor penitent religio for women, they were by 1 

In 1215 the Fourth Lateran Council decreed that all new monastic communities and orders were required to adopt an approved Rule; see Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, i: Nicaea to Lateran V, ed. and trans. by Norman P. Tanner (London: Sheed and Ward, 1990), 242. In effect, this meant either the Benedictine or the Augustinian Rule, which had been designated as approved rules at the Second Lateran Council in 1139 (Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, i, 203). All were permitted to supplement a Rule with an order- or community-specific customary. A Franciscan or Clarian customary is here generically entitled forma vitae. A Rule and forma vitae were understood as complementary. 2  The term religio is here used to denote the entire spiritual and practical elements of a particular form of monastic life. Julie Ann Smith ([email protected]) is Senior Lecturer in Medieval History in the Department of History at the University of Sydney.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 23–41 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS



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no means identical.3 Among the features of the monastic life for which these variant texts provided was the place for literacy, reading, and learning. In seeking to understand what the Clarissan Rules and formae vitae were authorizing for the sisters in relation to literate practices, it is essential to develop a cultural framework against which to read the texts, and this cultural framework, as it relates specifically to literate practices in the thirteenth century, is the focus of the first part of the essay. Armed with this background knowledge, the reader may begin to engage with the Clarissan Rules in all their cultural specificity. Moreover, at the heart of this study lie the Rules and forma vitae as documents of theory. A medi­eval Western monastic Rule establishes a model of praxis and spirituality; its purpose is to guide the monastic to fulfil an order-specific vocation through living a particular lifestyle. It is, at all times, an ideal, and the real lives of the women and men committed to it will be processes of compromise, of forbearance, and of amelioration. The analysis here concentrates on these theoretical texts and the principles they prescribe, not the lived experience of the Clarissan sisters during the Middle Ages. The Rules and formae vitae did, indeed, shape the way of life of Franciscan women and men, but these experiences do not inform the present essay.4 The argument is that, as foundational texts that manifestly shaped nuns’ behaviours and choices, the Clarissan Rules and formae vitae provide a ground for our understanding of the possibilities enabled for their religious lives, and for their literate practices. The texts that formulated the religious lives of the Clarissan sisters, and constitute the basis for the present study, were all produced between 1212 and 1263. While later medi­e val reform movements endeavoured to recover the ideals of the thirteenth-century forma vitae, after the authoritative 1263 Rule there were no significant changes to the texts as produced during the formative period, and this last version continued to shape the observance for the majority of the Order of St Clare into the modern period. 3 

There were several groups of women whose lives were shaped by a number of Rules and formae vitae between 1212 and 1263. This essay uses the following generic terms: (1) Clarian, for communities and texts associated with Chiara or St Clare; (2) Clarissan, to describe all female groups and formae vitae covered here. The edition of the Clarissan documents used here is Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Ignacio Omaechevarria (Madrid: Biblioteca de autores cristianos, 1982). The edition of Francesco’s Rules for the friars, the Regula Non Bullata and Regula Bullata, used is Die Opuscula des hl. Franziskus von Assisi, ed. by Kajetan Esser (Grottaferrata: Ad Claras Aquas, 1976). 4  For an excellent recent history of the Clarissans, see Bert Roest, Order and Disorder: The Poor Clares Between Foundation and Reform, The Medi­eval Franciscans, 8 (Leiden: Brill, 2013).

‘Faciat eas litteras edoceri’


A fundamental step in appreciating the possibilities for literate practices formulated through the Clarissan Rules and forma vitae is to understand the contexts for literacy and learning during the thirteenth century.5 Access to the content of written texts was achieved through a spectrum of literacies and capacities. It has long been understood that visual reading (that is, visually decoding written words) and the physical act of writing were by no means the sole expressions of literacy during the central to late Middle Ages, and that these two skills did not always function simultaneously. While the scholarly measure of literacy may have been the ability to communicate in Latin, there was a range of degrees of literacy operating in monastic, scholarly, and lay contexts that included, but was by no means solely linked with, knowledge of Latin. Additionally, learning might be ac­cessed, and the content of written texts comprehended, in both Latin and vernacular contexts, through means other than personally visually reading. Indeed, ‘ocular’ reading was only the first phase in the range of possible engagements with a text and was usually also voiced, even for personal reading.6 On a pragmatic level, voiced reading, as a means of sharing the contents of a text, was a major element of medi­eval learning, education, and social practice.7 By listening to a reading from a text, an entire group might be apprised of, and share in, the content simultaneously. This sort of sharing took place at all levels of literacy, from those who did not possess visual reading skills to the university lecture room. Where there were few books in the possession of a group, reading aloud to everyone (or reciting texts from memory) allowed for a wider access to their contents. Orality did not simply exist as opposite to literacy; oral delivery of written texts made aural reception and understanding possible (achieved through individual intellectus or meditatio) without the necessity of access to a physical document or visual reading of the written words — thus D. H. Green can write of the ‘aural reader’.8 The communities that shared texts in this 5 

Literate practice is a portmanteau term used here to encompass reading, listening, study, meditation, writing (as outlined in this section). The term also encompasses access to both Latin and vernacular texts. The word litteras as used in texts of the period can take a spectrum of meanings spanning from Latin reading skills to the study of learned works. 6  D. H. Green, Women Readers in the Middle Ages (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2007), pp. 20 and 43. 7  Oral delivery as a means of accessing texts has been securely documented. See, for example, Constant J. Mews, ‘Orality, Literacy, and Authority in the Twelfth-Century Schools’, Exemplaria, 2 (1990), 475–500; Ruth Crosby, ‘Oral Delivery in the Middle Ages’, Speculum, 11 (1936), 88–110 (p. 88), establishes that many people ‘read by means of the ear rather than the eye, by hearing others read or recite rather than by reading to themselves’. 8  Green, Women Readers in the Middle Ages, p. 20.


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way were literate in that they had access to the content of written texts, could receive the information and ideas contained therein, and made use of or benefited from them through individual intellectual and spiritual investment.9 In order for the substance of any reading to be of value for contemplation, it had to be remembered, and voiced reading, whether individually or communally, aided the memorization of texts.10 Orally dispersing knowledge from texts, and aurally receiving and absorbing it into personal ideals and praxis, were modes of learning that were not simply functional in the Middle Ages; they were reputable and prevailing means of acquiring learning — and were embedded in daily monastic life. It is thus essential to bring a broad appreciation of the literacies available in the period to this study, allowing a more culturally grounded reading of the potential for literate practices that were made available in the Clarissan Rules and forma vitae. The Rules and formae vitae for the Clarissans and Franciscans were written by a variety of authors with various interests at heart, and the scholarship on the Rules is substantial.11 This second section of the essay and its broadening analysis briefly relates the writing of each text, with a central focus on the provisions and possibilities for forms of literacy permitted for both the sisters and the friars, the inter-relationships between them, and their consonances with prevailing literate practices. The archetypal text that shaped the vocation of the Clarian community at San Damiano on the outskirts of Assisi was the brief injunction of Francesco d’Assisi (c. 1181–1226), which was probably written in 1212 around the time of Chiara’s entry to San Damiano, and survives only as it is quoted in Chiara’s Rule of 1253. It is a simple statement urging the sisters to continue to live the life of poverty ‘secundum perfectionem sancti Evangelii’ [‘according to the per9  Cheryl Glenn, ‘Medi­eval Literacy Outside the Academy: Popular Practice and Individual Technique’, College Composition and Communication, 44 (1993), 497–508; Joyce Coleman, ‘Interactive Parchment: The Theory and Practice of Medi­eval English Aurality’, The Yearbook of English Studies, 25 (1995), 63–79 (p. 65); Green, Women Readers in the Middle Ages, p. 43. 10  Mary J. Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medi­eval Culture, Cam­ bridge Studies in Medi­e val Literature, 10 (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 1990), pp. 1, 70–71, and 176. 11  A few key works include, for the Clarissans: Maria Pia Alberzoni, Clare and the Poor Sisters in the Thirteenth Century (New York: Franciscan Institute, 2004); Joan Mueller, A Companion to Clare of Assisi: Life, Writings, Spirituality (Leiden: Brill, 2010); and for the Franciscans: Michael J. P. Robson, The Cam­bridge Companion to Francis of Assisi (Cam­bridge: Cam­ bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2012).

‘Faciat eas litteras edoceri’


fection of the holy gospel’].12 Francesco provides no further guidelines for a monastic praxis, assuming that each aspect of their lives could be shaped by gospel tenets. He presumes a knowledge of the gospels that could have been learned by visual or aural reading, one it seems he expected of the pious Chiara and her high-born early companions. It is understood that this forma vitae was the sole basis for the life of Chiara and her sisters at San Damiano until the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) declared that all monastics should follow either the Benedictine or Augustinian Rule. Shortly after this, Francesco prevailed on Chiara to accept the abbacy of her community, which points to the imposition of the Benedictine Rule at San Damiano.13 For the next few years, San Damiano’s religio was shaped by this Rule and Francesco’s simple forma vitae. Under the Benedictine Rule, the monastic day encompasses many times when books and reading are core elements of its praxis. Chapter 38 of the Rule concerns the appointed reader of the week who conducts the readings during the Offices, in Chapter, and at meals. After compline he will read from ‘collationes vel vitas patrum aut certe aliud quod aedificet audientes’ [‘collations [of Cassian], lives of the Fathers, or other edifying works’].14 The reader must be chosen only from those monks who can read in an edifying manner. In the chapter on daily manual work, detailed attention is paid to the fixed time that each monk is to spend in daily reading ; from the earliest times reading was regarded as inherent in the monastic work ethic.15 The Rule allocates times for both group and personal reading, and ‘accipiant omnes singulos codices quos per ordinem ex integro’ [‘all should receive a single codex from the library which 12  Forma Vitae Ordinis Sororum Pauperum, in Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria, pp. 266–89 (p. 278). With the exception of Chiara’s canonization proceedings, all translations are mine. 13  The key evidence for this comes from the acts of the process of the canonization of St Clare. The first witness, Sister Pacifica, who had entered the monastery at the same time as Chiara, states that three years after their entry (that is, in 1215) ‘at the prayers and insistence of St Francis, who almost forced her, she accepted the direction and government of the sisters. Asked how she [Pacifica] knew this, she said she was present’, translated in Chiara d’Assisi, Clare of Assisi, the Lady: Early Documents, ed. and trans. by Regis J. Armstrong (New York: New City Press, 2006), p. 146. The text of the Process survives only in an Umbrian version, for which see Zeffirino Lazzeri, ‘Il processo di canonizzazione di S. Chiara d’Assisi’, Archivum Franciscanum Historicum, 13 (1920), 403–507 (p. 443): ‘alli preghi et instantia de sancto Francesco, lo quale quasi la constrense, recevve lo regimento et governo delle sore [sic]’. 14  See Benedict, The Rule of Benedict, ed. by the Monks of Glenstal Abbey (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1994), chap. 42. 15  See Benedict, The Rule of Benedict, ed. by the Monks of Glenstal Abbey, chap. 48, passim.

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is to be read through entirely’] during the following year. Monks may receive and write letters with the permission of the abbot.16 So there is the expectation that literate practices will form a substantial part of Benedictine life. Benedict does not specify the education of novices in the monastery, nor does he make provision for a schoolroom or a master. However, children are accepted into the monastery, and they would need to receive such education as might allow for the reading and listening expected of each monk on a daily basis, and the deep meditation that is the fruit of these literate practices. This was the Rule that guided the life of Chiara and her sisters, and would have shaped their literacies, for almost forty years. During 1218–19, Cardinal Hugolino dei Conti di Segni (c. 1170–1241), under papal auspices, founded a new women’s order in the vale of Spoleto and Tuscany, entitled the Pauperibus monialibus reclusis [Poor Enclosed Nuns]. He assigned them the Benedictine Rule in conjunction with a forma vitae from his own pen which endorsed the penitential religio the sisters had already been living.17 Hugolino’s forma vitae was designed to supplement the Benedictine Rule, providing for female-specific elements of the life of the ‘sorores pauperes’ that the Rule did not. The specifications for literate practices in the Rule was expected to apply to the sisters’ praxis. Hugolino simply emphasizes that ‘eae, quae psalmos legere noverint, Officium faciant regulare. […] quae autem psalmos nesciunt, orationem dominicam’ [‘those who have knowledge to read the psalms, should celebrate the Office according to the Rule; those who do not should say the Lord’s Prayer’].18 The abbess may appoint a suitable magistra to teach the novices and older sisters ‘litteras’ if they are capable.19 This last point was important both in that ‘litteras’ implies Latin or scholarly learning, and in that Hugolino explicitly requires the provision of such teaching where Benedict had not made any educational provisions.


See Benedict, The Rule of Benedict, ed. by the Monks of Glenstal Abbey, chap. 54, passim. Hugolino, Formam vivendi, in Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria, pp. 214–29. 18  Hugolino, Formam vivendi, in Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria, p. 218. 19  Hugolino, Formam vivendi, in Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria, p. 218, ‘Quod si iuvenculae aliquae, vel etiam grandiores, capaces ingenii et humiles fuerint, si abbatissae visum fuerit, faciat eas litteras edoceri’ [‘If the young girls, and even some of the older ones, are capable and humble, and if the abbess sees fit, make them learn their letters thoroughly’]. 17 

‘Faciat eas litteras edoceri’


At some point, possibly as early as 1219 but certainly by 1228, Chiara’s community was absorbed into the Hugolinian Order, which was renamed the Order of San Damiano in order to link the papal order with the recently canonized St Francesco and his holy companion, Chiara. The latter does not appear to have resisted this unlooked-for amalgamation. She and her sisters had been living according to the Benedictine Rule, which enabled a range of literate practices, and accepted the Hugolinian forma vitae after securing a commitment from Pope Gregory IX (1227–41) that San Damiano could retain its fundamental principle of radical gospel poverty.20 Given the historical links between Francesco and San Damiano, and the institutional links that popes were continually endeavouring to forge between the Clarissans and the Franciscans, it is necessary at this point to take into consideration Francesco’s Rules for the Ordo Fratrum Minorum, in particular their representation of, and allowances for literate practices. Francis wrote two Rules for his Order, the Regula non Bullata and the Regula Bullata. Honorius IV approved the second version in 1223 as the Rule for the Ordo Fratrum Minorum.21 Both of Francesco’s Rules are considered here to aid in understanding his perceptions of books and learning. The requirements and possibilities for literate practices in his Rules should be read with an awareness of Francesco’s personal literacy and his perception of the place of learning in his vocation. From the start Innocent III must have deemed Francesco and his early followers to have sufficient knowledge for them to undertake a preaching mission. Likewise, the hagio­graphical representation of Francesco as the simple, unlearned man should be tempered with a recognition (as indicated in his writings) that he was familiar with the New Testament, the Book of Psalms, the Rule of Benedict, and the writings of Anselm and Bernard (not all of which can be ascribed to his more learned companions). Francesco encouraged his companions to write down his words and accounts of his activities.22 He implicitly acknowledged the necessity of knowledge of doctrinal matters for a preaching vocation whilst warning against pursuit of learning for its own sake,23 20 

Joan Mueller, The Privilege of Poverty: Clare of Assisi, Agnes of Prague, and the Struggle for Franciscan Rule for Women (Uni­ver­sity Park: Penn State Uni­ver­sity Press, 2006), chap. 2. 21  Die Opuscula des hl. Franziskus von Assisi, ed. by Esser, p. 366. 22  Bert Roest, ‘Francis and the Pursuit of Learning’, in The Cam­bridge Companion to Francis of Assisi, ed. by Michael J. P. Robson (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2012), pp. 161–77 (p. 167). 23  Regula Bullata, in Die Opuscula des hl. Franziskus von Assisi, ed. by Esser, chap. 10, verse 7, ‘non curent nescientes litteras litteras discere’.

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substantiating this with his preference that the lay friars, who would not preach, should not seek learning.24 While there is also no reference to the training of novices in either of his Rules, the passages that address literate practices do show that he expected his friars to have the ability to read Latin texts. He permitted them to ‘have’ books necessary for the performance of the Office and for the fulfilment of their ‘labours’, but they were not to accept money to purchase them.25 Francesco insists that the friars’ preaching must always be according to the Church’s teachings, and this could only have been assured if they had adequate knowledge.26 Francesco’s concern was not to disavow forms of literacy, but rather that attention to study or the concomitant need for material support would not compromise their poverty, the fundamental premise of their vocation. Over the ensuing years the Franciscans came increasingly to perceive that their foundational ideals of a life of radical poverty and a preaching mission were not mutually achievable; proper preaching preparation required places of study and books, as well as time to pursue suitable training, all of which was irreconcilable with their commitment to mendicancy. By 1260 supplementary constitutions specified requirements for study in Paris and in the provincial studia,27 and there was the first rule for the training of novices.28 After Francesco’s death, the Franciscan Order shifted quickly to a learned one. The mounting emphasis of the Franciscans on their preaching vocation meant that they were increasingly resistant to demands placed on them to 24 

Roest, ‘Francis and the Pursuit of Learning’, pp. 168–69. Regula non Bullata, in Die Opuscula des hl. Franziskus von Assisi, ed. by Esser, chap. 3, verse 7, ‘libros tantum necessarios ad implendum eorum officium possint habere’ [‘it is permitted to have books necessary for the fulfilment of the Office’]; and chap. 8, verse 3, ‘nullus Fratrum […] aliquo modo tollat nec recipiat nec recipi faciat pecuniam aut denarios neque occasione vestimentorum nec librorum’ [‘let none of the Friars […] in any way take or receive or cause to receive payment or coins either for clothing or books’]. 26  Regula non Bullata, in Die Opuscula des hl. Franziskus von Assisi, ed. by Esser, chap. 17, verse 1, ‘nullus frater praedicet contra formam et institutionem sanctae ecclesiae’ [‘let no friar preach against the form and institute of the Holy Church’]; and chap. 19, verse 1, ‘omnes fratres sint catholici, vivant et loquantur catholice’ [‘let all friars be catholic, live and speak in a catholic manner’]. 27  ‘Statuta generalia ordinis edita in capitulis generalibus celebratis Narbonae’, ed. by Michael Bihl, Archivum Franciscanum Historicum, 34 (1941), 50–94, De occupationibus fratrum, Rubric vi, chaps 12 and 19 (p. 72). 28  Regula novitiorum, in S. Bonaventurae: opera omnia, ed. by Collegium a S. Bonaventura, 10 vols (Quaracchi: Ad Claras Aquas, 1882–1902), viii (1898), 475–90. 25 

‘Faciat eas litteras edoceri’


provide spiritual and temporal cura for the sisters. In 1247, in an attempt to shore up links between the friars and the Clarissans, Innocent IV (1243–54) determined that the sisters’ Rule would now be the Franciscan Rule, and he augmented Hugolino’s forma vitae, leaving guidelines for literate practices unchanged.29 Both groups took exception to this — the friars continued to resist the duty of spiritual cura for the sisters, and most communities of sisters applied for permission to retain earlier provisions.30 Innocent had clearly not thought through the implications of his provisions for the sisters’ religious life, as there is little in the Franciscan Rule that might pertain to a female praxis (especially given the focus of the Franciscan Rule on preaching and other nonenclosed work of the Friars). Shortly after Innocent’s attempted compromise, Chiara commenced an endeavour that was extraordinary: she wrote a Rule that was ‘suitable for women’ inspired by her experience of forty years of monastic life.31 Her forma vitae (as she called it) harmonized a number of disparate sources, and she expected that it would constitute the sole Rule for her community. In it, she maintains her original commitment to radical poverty and a gospel vocation, incorporating word-for-word Francesco’s foundational injunction, which she calls his formam vivendi.32 She aligns her vocation with that of the Friars Minor by absorbing elements from the Franciscan Rule and ensures that her Rule will conform to papal expectations for a female monastic praxis by drawing upon her experience of the Hugolinian forma vitae and the Benedictine Rule — and still, it is entirely Clarian in voice and principle. Chiara’s forma vitae expresses utterly the very specific vocation she had chosen in 1212 as it had consolidated over the intervening years. Two days before her death in 1253, she received the papal bull authorizing her forma vitae for the Ordo sororum pauperum as a formal Rule, though Innocent restricted its use to San Damiano alone. 29 

Mueller, The Privilege of Poverty, pp. 107–09. Mueller, The Privilege of Poverty, pp. 113–14. 31  In the mid-twelfth century Heloise asked Abelard to provide a ‘rule that shall be suitable for women’ [‘regulam … que feminarum sit propria’]; see The Letter Collection of Peter Abelard and Heloise, ed. by David Luscombe (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2013), Letter 6, pp. 218–59 (p. 220). Abelard’s attempt (The Letter Collection, Letter 8, pp. 358–517) failed, and Heloise wrote a set of institutes for her abbey and daughter houses to complement the Benedictine Rule (The Paraclete Statutes: institutiones nostrae, ed. by Chrysogonus Waddell (Trappist, KY: Cistercian, 1987)), but Chiara’s was the first papally endorsed Rule written by a woman. 32  Forma Vitae Ordinis Sororum Pauperum, in Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria, pp. 266–89 (p. 278), ‘scripsit nobis formam vivendi’ [‘he wrote for us a form of living’]. 30 

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There are two vantage points from which Chiara’s approach to literate practice in her forma vitae should be considered. Throughout her monastic career, Chiara had remained committed to her original understanding of her vocation — to live according to the teachings of the gospel and in imitation of Christ’s own earthly vocation. She provided a monastic environment that allowed her sisters to do the same, but never expected them to exceed a Benedictine praxis that they made exceptional through their personal poverty. All other elements of the religio of San Damiano, including literate practices, would have been entirely in keeping with Benedictine principles. Benedict’s Rule formulates literate practices for all monastics, and Chiara had lived in obedience to it for over thirty years when she commenced writing her own forma vitae, which would continue to reflect the Benedictine religio. Her forma vitae is not novel; rather, it describes the daily practice she had observed since 1212. The second factor that should be considered is Chiara’s own literate skills and the literacies she encouraged in her communities. Given her family’s class and wealth, it would be entirely realistic to expect that Chiara would be literate and that her early devotional life would have been supported through spiritual reading in Latin.33 Her writings are all Latin, and they clearly reflect her own authorial voice and concerns even if, as is possible, she did not wield the pen herself. Edith A. van den Goorbergh and Theodore H. Zweerman write of the education she would have received in her father’s household and her ability to read and write, ‘her writings show that she had mastered Latin very well’,34 and of the standard of her literacy that equipped her for her forthright communication with people of high station.35 Alfonso Marini is convinced of Chiara’s Latin skills and argues that the stylistic uniformity of her writings indicates that primarily she wrote them herself.36 Timothy J. Johnson 33 

Isidoro Rodríguez Herrera, ‘Aspetto literario de los escritos de Santa Clara’, in Las Clarisas en España y Portugal: congreso internacional, Salamanca, 20–25 de septiembre de 1993 (Madrid: Asociación Hispanica de Estudios Franciscanos, 1994), pp. 147–66 (pp. 150–52). 34  Edith A. van den Goorbergh and Theodore H. Zweerman, Light Shining Through a Veil: On Saint Clare’s Letters to Saint Agnes of Prague (Leuven: Peeters, 2000), p. 6. Likewise, an education in keeping with her social rank is emphasized in the introduction to Chiari d’Assisi, Claire d’Assise: écrits, ed. by Marie-France Becker, Jean-François Godet, and Thaddée Matura (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1997), p. 34. 35  Goorbergh and Zweerman, Light Shining Through a Veil, p. 11. 36  Alfonso Marini, ‘“Ancilla Christi, Plantula Sancti Francisci”: gli scritti di Santa Chiara e la Regola’, Chiara di Assisi: atti del xx convegno internazionale, Assisi, 15–17 ottobre 1992 (Spoleto: Centro Italiano di studi sull-alto medioevo, 1993), pp. 107–56 (p. 154).

‘Faciat eas litteras edoceri’


and Ingrid Peterson emphasize the personal and creative way in which Chiara deploys the ars dictaminis in her letters.37 Ilia Delio writes of Chiara’s insights on Franciscan Christological theology in her letters, yet Chiara the teenage novice would require years of deep text-based knowledge and contemplation after her conversion to achieve such theological sophistication.38 The contemplative spirit of Chiara’s letters does not eclipse the intellect that underlies their distinctive substance. Chiara drew from the dual wells of her reading and her own lived experience to author a small but unique corpus of works. However, it has been assumed that Chiara’s Rule and her letters were coauthored. For example, Rinaldo dei Conti di Segni (1185–1261) has been attributed with contributing to the writing of Chiara’s Rule and assuring its juridical quality, and with contributing to the letters to her sister Caterina (1197–1253), who adopted the name Agnes on her entry to the monastery.39 Likewise, Leo d’Assisi (died c. 1270), one of Francesco’s early companions and friend and supporter of Chiara, has been assigned a role in the fourth letter as scribe.40 Lezlie Knox posits that Chiara ‘mistrusted intellectual activities’ and that she felt it ‘detracted from their spiritual life’ as Francesco did.41 However, while Chiara did differentiate between the liturgical practice of literate and illiterate sisters, as did writers of other rules, she did not reject learning, echoing Francesco in recommending that, in vigilance against pride, ‘nescientes litteras non curent litteras discere’ [‘those who do not know letters should not be 37 

Timothy J. Johnson, ‘Clare, Leo, and the Authorship of the Fourth Letter to Agnes of Prague’, Franciscan Studies, 62 (2004), 91–100 (pp. 97–98); Ingrid Peterson, ‘Clare of Assisi’s Letters to Agnes of Prague: Testaments of Fidelity’, in The Writings of Clare of Assisi: Letters, Form of Life, Testament and Blessing, ed. by Michael W. Blastic and others (St Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute, 2011), pp. 19–59 (pp. 26–27). 38  Ilia Delio, ‘Mirrors and Footprints: Metaphors of Relationship in Clare of Assisi’s Writings’, Studies in Spirituality, 10 (2000), 167–81 (p. 180). 39  Rinaldo was Cardinal Protector of the Order (1227–61) and later Pope Alexander IV (1254–61). 40  Mueller, The Privilege of Poverty, p. 114; Johnson, ‘Clare, Leo, and the Authorship of the Fourth Letter to Agnes of Prague’, p. 99; Lezlie Knox, Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medi­eval Italy, The Medi­eval Franciscans, 5 (Leiden: Brill, 2008), p. 41. The authors in notes 33–37 assume Chiara’s authorship of the letters. It does seem highly unlikely that Rinaldo would collaborate in offering advice to ignore the pope’s wishes, as Chiara does in her second letter to Agnes; see Chiara d’Assisi, Clare’s Letters to Agnes: Texts and Sources, ed. by Joan Mueller (St Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute, 2001), p. 58. 41  Lezlie S. Knox, ‘Clare of Assisi and Learning: A Foundation for the Intellectual Life within the Franciscan Second Order’, The Cord, 46 (1996), 171–79 (p. 173).

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eager to learn’].42 Unlike Francesco, she made allowance for the education of novices: the abbess should provide a magistra to instruct them in their monastic life.43 Moreover, the lettered sisters could have breviaries for the Office.44 Sisters could send and receive letters with the permission of the abbess.45 Chiara made provision for learning to read, and offered sisters the choice — the possibility — for appropriate learning. Chiara’s subtle approach to literate practices should be seen in the light of her unswerving commitment to the vocation she had shared with Francesco from the beginning. There is nothing inherent to Chiara’s life of gospel poverty that denies the possibility or value of forms of literacy or access to books and writing materials any more than she rejects other practical work, or functional goods such as oil jars and cloth-working implements.46 Her commitment to simplicity and the abnegation of goods surplus to necessity do not require its adherents to eschew practical material goods entirely. For the satisfactory fulfilment of monastic praxis and spirituality, books can be understood as func42 

Forma Vitae Ordinis Sororum Pauperum, in Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria, chap. 10, p. 285; again, using the term ‘litteras’ implicitly differentiates between basic reading skills and scholarly learning. 43  ‘Et tam ipsis quam aliis novitiis abbatissa sollicite magistram provideat […] quae in sancta conversatione et honestis moribus iuxta formam professionis nostrae eas diligenter informet’ [‘And for these and for other novices let the abbess carefully provide a teacher […] who shall diligently instruct them in holy conversation and virtuous behaviour according to our form of profession’], Forma Vitae Ordinis Sororum Pauperum, in Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria, chap. 2, p. 270. 44  ‘Sorores litteratae faciant divinum Officium secundum consuetudinem fratrum minorum, ex quo habere poterunt breviaria’ [‘Let the literate sisters perform the divine Office according to the customs of the Friars Minor, for which they may have breviaries’], Forma Vitae Ordinis Sororum Pauperum, in Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria, chap. 3, p. 271. 45  ‘Non liceat alicui sorori litteras mittere vel aliquid recipere aut extra monasterium dare sine licentia abbatissae’ [‘It is not permitted for any sister to send letters or to receive or give away anything outside the monastery without permission of the abbess’], Forma Vitae Ordinis Sororum Pauperum, in Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria, chap. 8, p. 281. 46  In Chiara’s forma vitae, material items are mentioned or implied in various sections of the text such as clothing (on reception and profession), writing materials (on sending and receiving letters), work implements (on manual work, and on the necessity of a garden for food), bedding (on caring for sick sisters). Various functional items are also mentioned in the sisters’ witness statements for Chiara’s canonization proceedings; see Chiara d’Assisi, The Lady: Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, ed. and trans. by Armstrong, pp. 141–90.

‘Faciat eas litteras edoceri’


tional goods, and the concomitant literate skills as likewise practical. Chiara’s concern was that the sisters should avoid the pride that learning might engender; humble learning, and its humble deployment, were entirely in accord with Franciscan and Benedictine principles. Chiara’s knowledge of the gospel fed the contemplative heart of her religious practice, and she expected that it would do the same for her sisters. Her competence in Latin enabled her correspondence, the writing of her Rule, and her performance of the liturgy. Her forma vitae was clearly not addressed to, nor assumed, an audience that was non-literate. It draws its juridical format from other rules and formae vitae, and, in keeping with its contemporary literate contexts, allows for a variety of literate practices. Chiara makes few requirements for literate activities, but likewise makes no restrictions (beyond the fundamental injunction to strive for humility). Accordingly, she leaves a range of possibilities available to the sisters and at the discretion of the abbess. Shortly after Chiara’s, albeit restricted, success, Isabelle de France (1224–70), sister of Louis IX (1214–70), sought to establish a women’s community at Longchamps in Paris that was Franciscan in spirit but was not committed to radical poverty.47 Supporting her in this project was her brother, whose patronage of the Franciscan presence in Paris and in the university was advantageous to them. Isabelle’s vision for a women’s religio that resonated with that of the Franciscans was not entirely consonant with Chiara’s. Isabelle’s bio­g rapher, Agnès d’Harcourt (d. c. 1291), explains that during 1257–58, Isabelle collaborated with several Franciscan masters of divinity, including Bonaventura di Bagnoregio (1221–74), on a new riule, for which they consulted the previleges.48 In 1259 Alexander IV approved Isabelle’s Rule, though he did not accede to her wish that the nuns be entitled ‘Sorores Minores’.49 Undaunted, in 1263 47 

The only detailed study is Sean L. Field, Isabelle of France: Capetian Sanctity and Franciscan Identity in the Thirteenth Century (Notre Dame, IN: Uni­ver­sity of Notre Dame Press, 2006), chap. 3, pp. 61–94. 48  The Writings of Agnes of Harcourt: The Life of Isabelle of France and the Letter on Louis IX and Longchamp, ed. by Sean L. Field (Notre Dame, IN: Uni­ver­sity of Notre Dame Press, 2003), chap. 23, pp. 64–66; Field, Isabelle of France, p. 69. Given that Isabelle’s Rule draws from antecedent Clarissan formae vitae, it seems likely that the previleges were the papal bulls that recorded the full texts. 49  Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria, p. 294. Alexander approved the rule for ‘monasterio Humilitatis Beatae Mariae Virginis, Parisiensis’ [‘the monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Paris’].

Julie Ann Smith


Isabelle resubmitted an emended version of her Rule, and Urban IV acceded to her wishes.50 Agnès is careful to convey Isabelle’s education and literate interests, and Sean L. Field emphasizes her fluency in Latin and broader literary interests.51 Given the status of the women of the royal court who would enter Longchamps, it seems likely that they might expect to be entitled to commensurate literate skills. The provisions for literate practice in the Isabelline Rule reflect Clarissan guidelines. During the year-long novitiate, the sisters are to be taught their customs by a magistra,52 and sisters who can read and sing should celebrate the Office according to Franciscan custom.53 Letters relating to the convent should be read out in Chapter, and a seal is to be kept for correspondence. The abbess must first read all letters to and from individual sisters.54 Isabelle draws from her exemplars in her specifications for literate practices, with the same implications that literate activities were embedded in their daily lives. Urban IV, continuing papal efforts to reaffirm links between the sisters and the Franciscans, required the friars to perform visitation and sacramental duties for the sisters provided they were not obligated to fulfil their cura. In the light of this semantic shift, and taking advantage of Chiara’s recent canonization, 50 

The Writings of Agnes of Harcourt, ed. by Field, chap.24, p. 66; Field, Isabelle of France, pp. 99–106. 51  The Writings of Agnes of Harcourt, ed. by Field, chap.5, p. 54; Field, Isabelle of France, pp. 21–26. See also William Chester Jordan, ‘Isabelle of France and Religious Devotion at the Court of Louis IX’, in Capetian Women, ed. by Kathleen Nolan (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. 209–23. 52  ‘Tunc etiam prudens magistra concedatur eisdem ex devotioribus Sororibus una, quae ipsas Sorores in sanctis moribus instruat, et in fervore devotionis inflammet; ac ea […] in suavitate caritatis ferre doceat’ [‘Also a prudent teacher, chosen from among the more devout sisters, shall be permitted to instruct the sisters in holy precepts, and inflame them with the ardour of devotion, and […] let her teach them to manifest sweet charity’], Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria, p. 298. 53  ‘Sorores qui legere scient et canere Officium secundum consuetudinem fratrum minorum […] celebrent reverenter’ [‘Let the sisters who know how to read and sing the Office according to the customs of the Friars Minor […] reverently celebrate’], Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria, p. 302. 54  ‘Sigillum vero conventus custodiatur […]. Omnis litera, quae ex parte conventus dirigitur, primo in capitula legatur. Nulla soror aliquas litteras dirigat, seu recipiat, nisi primo eas abbatissa legat’ [‘A seal may be kept by the convent […]. All letters that are sent on behalf of the convent should first be read in chapter. No sister may send letters or receive them unless the abbess reads them first’], Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria, p. 322.

‘Faciat eas litteras edoceri’


Urban promulgated the bull ‘Beata Clara’, ordaining an authoritative Rule based almost entirely on the Isabelline Rule, absolving the sisters from all previous vows to any Rule or forma vitae, and uniting them in a single Order of St Clare.55 The precepts with regard to literate practices of Urban’s Rule did not vary from those in the Clarian or Isabelline formae vitae. While the texts considered so far have all been regulatory in some form, the final work that contributes to the argument was by Bonaventura. He negotiated the compromise with Pope Urban regarding the friars’ cura of the sisters in 1262–63, and, in that process, he seems antipathetic to the women’s order.56 Yet he wrote several letters to Clarissans, and a treatise, De perfectione vitae ad sorores, between 1259 and 1266 that indicate his commitment to his duty of care. In writing the De perfectione vitae, he takes for granted that the sisters will deploy their literate skills to benefit from his teaching.57 He opens with a reminder that the full benefit of reading can only be achieved through meditation, ‘per devotae mentis affectum’ [‘the affection of the devout mind’].58 In Chapter 1 he admonishes them: recogitare, quam negligens fueris in oratione, quam negligens in lectione et quam negligens in operis exsecutione. In his enim tribus debes diligentissime te ipsam exercere et excolere, si vis fructum bonum facere et dare in tempore suo, ita quod nequaquam unum sufficit sine alio istorum.59


‘Beata Clara’, in Bullarium Franciscanum Romanorum Pontificum, ed. by Giovanni Sbaraglia and Konrad Eubel, 7 vols (Roma: Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide, 1758), ii, 509–21 (p. 509), ‘Votis super eis emissis misericorditer absolventes, certam vobis vivendi formam ad tollendum omnem de vestris conscientiis scrupulum largiremur. […] Ut idem ordo vester […] de cetero decrevimus Ordinem Sanctae Clarae uniformiter nominandum’ [‘Mercifully absolving them from vows taken, relieving all scruples of conscience, we have given dispensation from your form of life. […] At the same time […] we decree your order uniformly named the Order of St Clare’]. This Rule is incompletely represented in Escritos de Santa Clara y documentos complementarios, ed. by Omaechevarria. 56  Knox, Creating Clare of Assisi, pp. 72–77. 57  De perfectione vitae ad sorores, in S. Bonaventurae: opera omnia ed. by Collegium a S. Bonaventura, 10 vols (Quaracchi: Ad Claras Aquas, 1882–1902), viii (1898), in the prologue and all chapters. 58  De perfectione vitae ad sorores, in S. Bonaventurae, ed. by Collegium a S. Bonaventura, Prologue, viii (1898), 107. 59  De perfectione vitae ad sorores, in S. Bonaventurae, ed. by Collegium a S. Bonaventura, viii (1898), 108.


Julie Ann Smith

[to reflect how you have been negligent in prayer, how negligent in reading, how negligent in executing your work. For in those three you should exercise great care if you are to produce good fruit in due season, and by no means is any of these sufficient without the other.]

In Chapter 3, where he asks ‘Nunquid non legistis, nunquid non audistis Dominum Iesum loquentem Apostolis suis in Evangelio Matthaei?’ [‘have you not read, have you not heard what the Lord said to his apostles in the Gospel of Matthew?’], he addresses two of the ways in which the sisters may acquire literate knowledge.60 Bonaventura presumes the sisters will read for personal development and meditation. He quotes heavily from the Old and New Testaments, Augustine, Bernard, and to a lesser extent from Richard de SaintVictor (c. 1110–73), all significant texts with which he assumes the sisters will be familiar. Bonaventura, as spiritual caretaker for the sisters, was presupposing their capacity to access the content of the texts and to discern their theological implications. To return then to the broader cultural environments of the Clarissan sisters — in a monastic context, reading (visual, oral, aural) was perceived as the basis for the core purpose of the life of the religious: meditation and prayer. St Benedict took as the opening principle of his Rule that the monastic would listen to its precepts (Obsculta, o fili), and that part of the Rule would be read orally to the community on a daily basis to ensure thorough knowledge of its meaning.61 The Benedictine liturgy incorporated readings from the Bible and from the Church Fathers, Cassian, and others, that each monastic was expected to remember and ponder in her/his quiet hours. The satisfactory fulfilment of the monastic life presupposed that at least some members of any community would possess the ability for ocular reading. As long as some members of a community were able to read, then all members of that community could have access to a variety of literate skills, and to education and knowledge that was potentially learned. In an environment in which oral-aural reading was a sig60  De perfectione vitae ad sorores, in S. Bonaventurae, ed. by Collegium a S. Bonaventura, viii (1898), 114. The processes of acquiring literate knowledge as outlined above are ocular reading, voiced reading, aural reading, memorization, and meditation. 61  See Benedict, The Rule of Benedict, ed. by the Monks of Glenstal Abbey, Prologue: verse 25. As Brian Stock points out, ‘for a rule to impact on an audience’s intentions and convince them to live particular lives, readers (visual and aural) must have some background knowledge in order to “make the hermeneutic leap from what [a] text says to what they think it means”’; see Brian Stock, The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Princeton: Princeton Uni­ver­sity Press, 1983), p. 522.

‘Faciat eas litteras edoceri’


nificant element of textual engagement, and in which memory formed the crux of the intellectual and spiritual life, there was considerable potential to learn from a textual basis, and to discuss, construe, and meditate on a text, without personally visually reading a copy of that text. Hence, a rule that shaped the literate practices of an order or community would not necessarily specify what those practices would entail given the manifold understandings of the means of accessing and benefiting from the content of texts.62 Chiara based her forma vitae in the gospel — indeed, she perceived the Gospel to be the Rule, and her forma vitae as simply a means of enabling a scriptural life. Her Rule was written to justify her Order’s position in relation to the Franciscans, to reinforce her own authority as founder, and to document the religio in place since 1212. In a way her Rule is autobio­graphical, a vindication of the forty years she has given to the gospel life. As a Rule and as a historical documentation of the life of San Damiano, Chiara’s forma vitae provides insights into both their real lived experience and the ideal Clarian community. The strong resonances between the Rules of Chiara, Isabelle, and Pope Urban indicate that the form of life that Chiara had lived would provide ongoing inspiration. As had been the case with Innocent’s intervention, many communities sought permission to retain earlier formae vitae in preference to Urban’s Rule; the Isabelline, and Urbanite, and to a lesser extent the Clarian Rules continued to be observed throughout the later Middle Ages.63 During the fifteenth-century Observant Reforms, St  Colette de Corbie returned to Chiara’s forma vitae when she founded the Colettines, and this was also reflected in other parts of Europe.64 Chiara and Francesco had particular goals for their forms of gospel life and, while learning had not been a specified vocational element, it was not inapposite to a lived religio. Francesco’s gospel religio required him to have sufficient 62 

While there is not a great deal of information regarding the holding or copying of manu­ scripts in Clarissan communities during the thirteenth century, the lifestyles of these communities as defined in the various formae vitae suggest quite strongly that they would at least hold some written materials for liturgical practice and daily readings. See Bert Roest, ‘Education and Religious Formation in the Medi­eval Order of Poor Clares: Some Preliminary Observations’, Collectanea Franciscana, 73 (2003), 47–73 (p. 62), for an account of the substantial library at Longchamps c. 1281–1325. Likewise, while there may be no evidence for copying texts in Clarissan communities, they were permitted materials for writing letters and, hence, other texts as well. 63  See Roest, ‘Education and Religious Formation in the Medi­eval Order of Poor Clares’, p. 49, for networks of observance of the three Rules. 64  Roest, ‘Education and Religious Formation in the Medi­e val Order of Poor Clares’, pp. 49–50.


Julie Ann Smith

knowledge to support his preaching work, and his mastery of the teachings of the scriptural Jesus implies sufficient education to facilitate such knowledge. Francesco was not a scholar, and neither were his early followers, but the Order quickly attracted educated and scholarly men who perceived the necessity of study as the sound basis for an Order whose purpose came increasingly to be the preservation of orthodoxy. The putative ambivalence of Francesco to learning, and a reticence of authors of the Clarissan formae vitae, should not deflect our attention from the possibilities for forms of literacy given their cultural environment. For Francesco, Chiara, Hugolino, and Isabelle, all of whom encouraged a humble approach to learning, reading was functional for performance of the liturgy — and devotion and meditation required input, from either aural or visual access to suitable texts. In truth, none of the Clarissan formae vitae could have alone provided for a full monastic observance; they each left much of day-to-day praxis to the discretion of the abbess. The Hugolinian forma vitae in combination with the Benedictine Rule made the most satisfactory provision for a full daily praxis. Chiara’s Rule evoked a gospel religio, and, because of this commitment, it specified facets of her praxis that were most implicated in the vocation of Christlike poverty; she enjoined humility in relation to learning but did not preclude literate practices. The Rules of Isabelle and Urban drew from the inheritance of fifty years of experimentation and adjustments that had gradually shaped a Clarissan religio and afforded the same literate possibilities. In both Chiara’s and Urban’s Rules, each sister promises obedience directly to both the abbess and the Rule. It is the abbess’s duty to ensure that each sister lives according to the Rule, but in matters not specifically prescribed, her authority becomes discretionary. The Clarissan formae vitae specifically mention learning for the purpose of enabling the proper performance of the liturgy; the possibility or sanctioning of any other reading or study is left to the discretion of the abbess. In the case of Francesco’s Rules, he provides for learning for the friars beyond liturgical need, doing so for specific purposes and with explicit constraints, and he also specifically excludes the lay friars from learning to read. These limitations and exclusions are not present in the Clarissan formae vitae and Rules. In each text it is assumed that there will be people in a community who can read, and maybe some who can write. While the vocation of radical gospel poverty was perceived as rejecting all ownership, it did not per se eschew books and learning. The utilization of practical things was permitted, so books, in keeping with this position, should be regarded as everyday adjuncts to a functional monastic life. Likewise, on a pragmatic level, the formae vitae assume that there will be some sisters in any community who can read

‘Faciat eas litteras edoceri’


visually, as it is expected that the Office will form the basis for communal devotions. The allowance of recitation of Pater nosters for sisters without such skills is in each case a concession, not a desideratum. Neither did the Rules preclude the possibility of reading and writing in either Latin or the vernacular. Use of literate practices might have been variable from community to community, and the Rules and formae vitae did not place burdens on those who did not have the ability, or on those that did not wish to engage with literate activities beyond basic requirements for the fulfillment of their religio. That is, the possibilities for forms of literacy, and the realization of their rich spiritual potential, were manifold.65 No matter how learning and reading might have been perceived as part of Clarissan praxis (or in any monastic praxis for that matter), it was only the fruits of any visual/aural reading a sister might undertake that were of spiritual value; only literate practice was solely a means to an end. A sister who could not read did not need to learn in order to achieve the spiritual fulfillment of her vocation; she could glean knowledge and understanding as a basis for contemplation through those sisters who could read, through their oral-aural sharing of texts.

65  Roest, Order and Disorder, in chap. 6, deems the rules and norms of the Clarissans to have placed limitations on the sisters, concluding that we can only know of their literate achievements through the ‘substantial harvest’ of their ‘literary and artistic output’ during the medi­eval period, at pp. 287–88. However, as this essay has shown, these achievements were not against the grain of the Rules and formae vitae.

Religious Order and Textual Identity: The Case of Franciscan Tertiary Women Alison More


round 1380 Rudolf van Watselaer and his wife had founded a beguinage on the Hessenberg hill outside the city walls of Nijmegen.1 Shortly before 1450, this house (also known as Sint-Petersberg) adopted the so-called Rule of St Francis issued by Pope Nicholas IV in 1289.2 Other houses of beguines or penitents in the northern Low Countries also implemented this Rule during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.3 Traditional scholar-

1  ‘Nog vindt men in een ouden brief van 1380 […] dat Rudolphus […] en zijne huis­vrouw an de Bagijnen op den Hessenberg hebben gegeven eene open plaats onder de muren der stad gelegen’ [‘Now people can see from an old letter from 1380 […] that Rudolph […] and his wife gave an open space under the walls of the city [of Nijmegen] on the Hessenberg to the beguines’]; quoted in Guus Pikkemaat, Geschiedenis van Noviomagus (Nijmegen: Dekker van de Vegt, 1988), p. 68. 2  Pikkemaat, Geschiedenis van Noviomagus, p. 68. 3  We are told in Annales Minorum, ed. by Luke Wadding, 32 vols (Firenze: Quarrachi, 1932), xiii, no. lxxiii, p. 179: ‘Noviomagi, Colonien. diocesis ante annos certum inchoatum erat Beguinagium Groesteckshoff vulgariter nuncupatum, in quo puellae et honestatae feminae in caritate et unitate pacis Deo pariter famulabantur. Hoc anno die Martis prima mensis Julii, septem quae adhuc supererant, jurarunt in vota Tertii Ordinis sancti Francisci in manibus Jacobi Brenter Guardiani Conventus Vallis Josaphat praedicti oppidi Noviomagensis’ [‘[This house] had begun as a beguinage (commonly known as Groesteckshoff ) a number of years previously. Here, girls and honest women lived in charity and the unity of peace. On the first Tuesday of the month of July in this year, the remaining seven women professed the vows of the Third Order of St Francis in the hands of Jacob Brenter, Guardian of the Convent Vallis Josaphat in the aforementioned town of Nijmegen’]. Examples of non-monastic women who became increasingly monastic under the care of the Observant friars in the mid-fifteenth century include:

Alison More ([email protected]) is Assistant Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of St Michael’s College at the University of Toronto.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 43–59 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS




Alison More

ship often discusses such communities as ‘becoming Franciscan tertiaries’ or ‘joining the Third Order’.4 However, even a cursory glance at such houses suggests a more complex picture: many continued to be referred to by names such as ‘beguines’ or simply ‘sisters’, and there is little consistency in whether they formed ties with Franciscan friars.5 As well as the practical difficulties about the unity of the Order, a trail of canonical complexities renders both its foundation and expansion difficult to trace. This essay seeks to contribute to an understanding of the ways in which order identity was received by examining texts owned by and copied in tertiary houses in the later medi­eval Low Countries. The discussion that follows indicates that the vitae and texts of religious instruction owned and copied by women’s tertiary communities does not show a consistent pattern of identification with any particular Order. In itself, this is not a compelling argument against communities identifying with a particular Order identity. However, when examined in conjunction with both the frequency with which women’s communities changed affiliation and the inconsistent names by which they were known, it suggests a different picture than the commonly accepted model of definitive identity. As the myth of a singular and unified ‘Franciscan Third Order’ founded by Francesco d’Assisi is so firmly established in modern scholarship, a brief critical discussion of its foundation narrative is necessary to illustrate a very different Aardenburg in Zeeland (tertiaries), Arnhem in Gelderland (tertiaries), and Hulst in Zeeland (beguines). For a complete list and biblio­graphic references, see Koen Goudriaan’s Kloosterlijst [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. 4  Robert Stewart, ‘De illis qui faciunt Penitentiam’: The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order (Roma: Istituto historico dei Cappucini, 1991); Ingrid Peterson, ‘The Third Order of Francis’, in The Cam­bridge Companion to Francis of Assisi, ed. by Michael J. P. Robson (Cam­ bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2012), pp. 193–207. 5  On the ambiguous and shifting names of communities associated with the Franciscan Orders, see Bert Roest, Order and Disorder: The Poor Clares Between Foundation and Reform, The Medi­e val Franciscans, 8 (Leiden: Brill, 2013), p. 15. A number of examples are given in Bert Roest, ‘De clarissen in de Noordelijke Nederlanden’, in Monastiek observantisme en Moderne Devotie in de Noordelijke Nederlanden, ed. by Hildo van Engen and Gerrit Verhoeven, Middeleeuwse Studies en Bronnen, 110 (Hilversum: Verloren, 2008), pp. 43–68. Koen Goudriaan notes a similar tendency between houses of beguines and women who are commonly thought to belong to the Devotio moderna; see Koen Goudriaan, ‘Beguines and the Devotio Moderna at the Turn of the Fifteenth Century’, in Labels and Libels: Naming Beguines in Northern Europe, ed. by Leta Böhringer, Jennifer Kolpacoff Deane, and Hildo van Engen, Sanctimoniales, 1 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014), pp. 187–217.

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picture.6 The earliest official document that mentions such an Order was the 1289 bull Supra montem, in which the Franciscan pope Nicholas IV claimed to give canonical recognition to the Order that Francesco d’Assisi had founded for lay people.7 There is no evidence that Francesco had founded a canonical Third Order, or even that a Third Order or ‘Order of Penitents’ existed in the early thirteenth century. While there were certainly groups of devout men and women who sought religious perfection in the secular world, they had neither official status within the Church nor links to a religious order.8 Throughout the thirteenth century, these groups became increasingly subject to regulation. In 1228 Pope Gregory IX confirmed a document known as the Memoriale propositi. The Memoriale is often referred to as the ‘first Rule of the Third Order’.9 However, it was not a canonical rule, but simply a set of statutes for living in the world in a pious manner. It was not connected to any one group, but widely used as the basis for non-monastic forma vivendi throughout Europe in the thirteenth century.10 The association between peni6 

This is traced in Alison More, ‘Institutionalizing Penitential Life in Later Medi­e val Europe’, Church History, 83 (2014), 297–323. 7  ‘Ideoque gloriosus Christi Confessor Bl. Franciscus huius ordinis institutor, viam ascendendi ad dominum verbo pariter et exemplo demonstrans, in ipsius sinceritate fidei suos filios erudivit, eosque illam profiteri, constanter tenere firmiter et opere voluit adimplere, ut per eius seminatam salubriter incedentes, mererentur post vite praesentis erastulum, eternae beatitudinis effici possessores’ (quoted in Dossier de l’ordre de la pénitence au xiiie siècle, ed by G. G. Meersseman, Spicilegium Friburgense: textes pour servir à l’histoire de la vie chrétienne, 7 (Fribourg: Editions Universitaires, 1961), p. 75) [‘Blessed Francis, the renowned witness to Christ was the founder of this Order, showing the way of ascent to the Lord both in word and example, instructed his own children in the sincerity of his own faith, so that they would also follow it faithfully, and wish to fulfill it with work, so that by the seeds they planted while travelling on this path would merit that they posses eternal life after the hardship of this present life’]. See also Mariano D’Alatri, ‘Genesi della regola di Niccolò IV: aspetti storici’, in La ‘Supra Montem’ di Niccolò IV (1289): genesi e diffusione di una regola: atti del 5° convegno di studi Francescani, Ascoli Piceno 26–27 ottobre 1987, ed. by Raefelle Pazzeli and Lino Temperini, Analecta Tertii Ordinis Regularis Sancti Francisci, 144 (Roma: Analecta Terz’Ordine Regolare, 1988), pp. 93–107. 8  Elizabeth Makowski, ‘A Pernicious Sort of Woman’: Quasi-Religious Women in the Later Middle Ages (Washington, DC: The Catholic Uni­ver­sity of America Press, 2005), pp. 3–67. 9  D’Alatri, ‘Genesi della regola di Niccolò IV’, p. 95. 10  Despite the fact that the Memoriale is often claimed as Franciscan, it later served as the basis for regulatory documents associated with both Franciscan and Dominicans, including a Rule written in 1284 by Caro, the Franciscan visitator to the penitents of Florence, and the Ordinationes of the Dominican Master General, Munio de Zamora, from 1286. For Caro’s Rule, see the ‘Regula fratrum de poenitentia’ (Dossier de l’ordre de la pénitence au xiiie siècle,


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tents and Franciscans came later and was the result of papal intervention rather than the efforts of Franciscan friars. In 1247 Innocent IV mandated that the penitents be placed under the exclusive supervision of Franciscan confessors.11 Although welcomed by some, this decision resulted in such an outrage that by 1260 penitents were again able to choose confessors from both the Franciscans and Dominicans.12 In practice, groups had an even wider choice of confessors: beguine groups in northern Europe often had no official ties with either Order but remained under the cura of Cistercians or secular clerics with the blessing of the local bishop. The Rule that Nicholas IV issued in 1289 was not dissimilar to these statutes. Its particular innovation was that it claimed to be for an ‘Order’, which had both a saintly founder (Francesco) and papal approval. However, the connection it made between the penitents and Franciscans was problematic: the Rule advised penitents to seek the cura of the friars, yet did not oblige the Franciscans to become involved with penitential groups. More importantly, they did not develop regulatory structures such as General Chapters, as was characteristic of religious orders by the thirteenth century. Franciscan tradition states that the Third Order spread widely in the later thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Scholarship has also drawn attention to a perceived decline in beguinages or houses of secular penitents being founded at this time.13 The general consensus is that the diverse and dynamic climate of lay piety that had characterized the thirteenth century was replaced by tertiaries who followed either the 1289 Rule or the Rule of St Augustine. This period did see many communities take on approved rules; however, it appears that this was a response to changing canonical circumstance rather than an attraction to a particular form of spirituality. In 1298 Boniface VIII issued the decretal Periculoso, which mandated enclosure for all women claiming to live as moniales (female monastics, or canonically recognized religious women). Although the ed. by Meersseman, pp. 128–42). For a discussion of the regulatory process associated with the Dominican ‘tertiaries’, see Maiju Lehmijoki-Gardner, ‘Writing Religious Rules as an Interactive Process: Dominican Penitent Women and the Making of their “Regula”’, Speculum, 79 (2004), 683–86. See also Augustine Thompson, Cities of God: The Religion of the Italian Communes (Uni­ver­sity Park: Penn State Uni­ver­sity Press, 2005). 11  Dossier de l’ordre de la pénitence au xiiie siècle, ed. by Meersseman, pp. 22, 25, and 57–59. See also D’Alatri, ‘Genesi della regola di Niccolò IV’, p. 99. 12  Dossier de l’ordre de la pénitence au xiiie siècle, ed. by Meersseman, p. 9; see also pp. 38–40 and 65–67. 13  Koen Goudriaan traces the various strands of scholarship on the beguines; see Goudriaan, ‘Beguines and the Devotio Moderna’, pp. 187–205.

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sisters who followed Nicholas’s 1289 Rule were not given an explicit exemption from this requirement, certain canonists argued that the approval of a ‘Third Order’ meant that women who belonged to it were not bound to observe enclosure.14 The 1289 Rule became even more attractive after the Council of Vienne condemned beguines in 1311. Although the Council’s legislation seems to have had been directed towards specific heretical groups, the word ‘beguine’ did not have a clear definition and was widely interpreted as applying to any house of women without a recognized religious rule.15 The Rule of 1289 was an ideal instrument of regularization: it created the appearance of belonging to an Order with an official Rule that was approved at the highest levels of the Church without requiring that communities adopt a new spirituality or submit themselves to the care of a particular Order.16 A number of convents founded as beguinages at the beginning of the fourteenth century had adopted the 1289 Rule by its end. Moreover, houses with this Rule were founded in a number of cities in the fourteenth-century Low Countries, including: Opbrussel (Brussel Sint-Gillis) in 1343;17 Luik (Liège) around 1345/49,18 and Echternach (Luxemburg) in 1346.19 The same canonical changes ensured that the Rule of St Augustine became popular at this time. In some cases, communities preferred the Rule of St Augustine to the 1289 Rule due to the perceived Franciscan hegemony that it implied. In others it was simply a matter of convenience: the Rule of St Augustine was already followed by groups who lived very different forms of spirituality. Moreover, as is the case for the 1289 Rule, the Rule of St Augustine created the appearance of uniformity without requiring official and drastic changes. 14 

Elizabeth Makowski, Canon Law and Cloistered Women: Periculoso and its Commentators, 1298–1545 (Washington, DC: Catholic Uni­ver­sity of America Press, 1997). 15  Jacqueline Tarrant, ‘The Clementine Decrees on the Beguines: Conciliar and Papal Versions’, Archivum Historiae Pontificae, 12 (1974), 300–08. 16  See Makowski, ‘A Pernicious Sort of Woman’, pp. 51–71. 17  For official papal permission, see Bullarium Franciscanum, i–iv (1689–1764), ed. by Johannes Sbarglia, and v–viii (1898–1904), ed. by Conrad Eubel (Quaracchi: Ad Claras Aquas, 1689–1904), vi (1902), p. 143. For a discussion of the literary and scribal activities of the Opbrussel community, see Paul Lindemans, ‘De pachthoven van het klooster der Urbanisten (Rijke Klaren) te Brussel’, Eigen schoon en de Brabander, 25 (1942), 236–38. Additional references can be found in Roest, Order and Disorder, p. 143 n. 265. 18  Annales Minorum, ed. by Wadding, vii (1733), p. 384. Further references can be found in Roest, Order and Disorder, p. 144 n. 269. 19  Annales Minorum, ed. by Wadding, xi (1734), p. 196. See Roest, Order and Disorder, p. 144 n. 270.

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While the term ‘Augustinian tertiaries’ is used to refer to women in houses that followed the Rule of St Augustine, they are rarely discussed as a distinct religious Order or (necessarily) thought to be connected to one another. 20 Individual houses of women such as beguines are also recognized as having some degree of autonomy. While often referred to as a group, scholars generally recognize that there is little uniformity in beguine spirituality.21 The situation is very different for the Franciscans. The Third Order of St Francis is generally discussed as a unit and thought to include any house that followed the 1289 Rule.22 The numerous references to a ‘Franciscan Third Order’ in quasi-official documents connected with the friars suggests that there is something more to this picture than simple misinterpretation of hagio­graphic sources. The creation of a distinct mythology attached to the Franciscan Third Order was largely connected to the Observant Reform movement. As the name suggests, Observant reformers were anxious to return to a strict observance of religious rules and concerned with restoring the Church to an (imaginary) age of pristine ideals.23 The Observant Movement has traditionally been regarded as taking place within religious orders; however, as scholars such as Bert Roest have pointed out, reformers were also concerned about the laity, and about nonmonastic women in particular.24 Giovanni da Capistrano’s Defensorium tertii ordinis recounts model behaviour for tertiaries.25 Building on Capistrano’s work, a veritable canon of Observant texts depict saintly laywomen such as Erzsébet (Elisabeth) of Hungary/Thuringia (1207–31) and Margherita da Cortona as 20 

Ian Holgate, ‘The Cult of Saint Monica in Quattrocento Italy: Her Place in Augustinian Icono­g raphy, Devotion and Legend’, Papers of the British School at Rome, 71 (2003), 181–206; Achim Wesjohann, Mythen als Element institutioneller Eigengeschichtsschreibung der mittelalterlichen Franziskaner, Dominikaner und Augustiner-Eremiten (Münster: LIT, 2012). 21  The volume Labels and Libels: Naming Beguines in Northern Europe (see above, n. 5) addresses the many differences in forms of life between beguine communities and continually as the question ‘what is a beguine?’. 22  Peterson, ‘The Third Order of Francis’, p. 202. 23  Alison More, ‘Dynamics of Regulation, Innovation, and Invention’, in A Companion to Observant Reform in the Late Middle Ages and Beyond, ed. by James D. Mixson and Bert Roest, Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition, 59 (Leiden: Brill, 2015), pp. 85–110. 24  Bert Roest, ‘Observant Reform in Religious Orders’, in Christianity in Western Europe, c. 1100–c. 1500, ed. by Miri Rubin and Walter Simons (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2009), pp. 446–57. 25  Giovanni da Capistrano, Defensorium tertium ordinis (Venezia: Antonium Ferrarium, 1580).

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belonging to the Third Order. Franciscan Observants also encouraged tertiary women to identify with saints such as Francesco and Chiara d’Assisi.26 At the same time, prominent figures in the Observance used their connections in the papal court to advocate for ecclesiastical support and official canonical recognition of quasi-religious groups. As a response to Observant pressure, Martin V issued a bull that placed tertiaries who called themselves Franciscan or wore a recognizably Franciscan habit under the care of the friars in 1428.27 This was approved by the Franciscan Chapter General in 1430.28 The aforementioned example of the Hessenberg community shows that despite the cohesive and coherent fictive histories, the identities of the women who lived in such communities seem somewhat ambiguous. After adopting the 1289 Rule, the Hessenberg sisters seem to have taken on elements of a ‘Franciscan’ identity. While there is little evidence of the sisters’ daily activities, this change is suggested by additions to their library and alterations in the inscriptions in their books.29 In the mid-fifteenth century the books begin to reflect the communities’ Franciscan sensibilities. A text copied by Sister Foels Hoeymans that is now in the Nijmegen Municipal Archives contains the following note: ‘Item dijt boeck is vol schreven int jaer ons heren vijftien hondert ende vier opten heiligen derthien avont. Een ave maria voer suster foels hoeymans die dit boeck uut mynnen ende om gods wil greschreven heft’ (Nijmegen, Regionaal archief, MS 29, fol. 342v) [‘Likewise, this book was written in the year of our Lord 1504 on the vigil of Epiphany. Say an Ave Maria for Sister Foels Hoeymans who wrote this book lovingly and for God’s glory’]. An insertion by a second hand in the leaf of the book states: ‘Item did boeck hoert te nymegen opten hessen berch anders geheiten sancte peters berch den susteren vander regelen sancte Franciscus’ (Nijmegen, Regionaal archief, MS 29, inserted leaf ) [‘Likewise, this book belongs to the sisters of the Rule of St Francesco on the Hessenberg, otherwise known as Sint-Petersberg’]. Similar inscriptions attesting to the Franciscan identity of the convent can be found in manu­scripts and printed books owned by the sisters.30 26 

More, ‘Institutionalizing Penitential Life in Later Medi­eval Europe’, pp. 305–07. Bullarium Franciscanum, ed. by Eubel, vi (1902), pp. 715–16. 28  Annales Minorum, ed. by Wadding, x (1734), pp. 482–83. 29  Karl Stooker and Theo Verbeij, Collecties op orde: Middelnederlandse handschriften uit kloosters en semi-religieuze gemeenschappen in de Nederlanden, Miscellanea Neerlandica, 15–16, 2 vols (Leuven: Peeters, 1997), ii, nos 952–62. 30  See A. J. Geurts and Peter Nissen, Middeleeuwse handschriften en oude drukken uit het Gemeentearchief Nijmegen (Nijmegen: Gemeentarchief, 1984), p. 10 n. 1. 27 


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At around the same time, the library began to acquire a number of printed texts explicitly relating to Franciscan spirituality, including various vernacular vitae of Francesco, a translation of the Franciscan Speculum perfectionis, a Dutch translation of Francesco’s Admonitiones, various tales of the miracles of St Antonio di Padova, and a rhyming vita of Francesco. Later additions to the library include the Latin Pomerii sermones de sanctis written by the Hungarian Observant Franciscan Pelbartus de Themeswar (d. 1504). This collection was extremely popular, and at least twelve editions were printed before 1520.31 In keeping with its emphasis on Franciscan identity, it dedicates six sermons to Francesco d’Assisi, one of which has been hailed as a virtual prototype for Franciscan identity.32 Closely following Bonaventura’s Legenda maior s. Francisci, Pelbartus reaffirms the idea of Francesco as an alter Christus, emphasizing his stigmata as both a reminder of Christ’s triumph over death, and a sign to strengthen the faith of the whole Church. His sermons not only convey Francesco’s life story and sanctity, but also his importance as a saint for the spiritual climate of his day. The same collection includes sermons on Bonaventura, whom Pelbartus refers to as the heir of Francesco, and Louis de France, who is portrayed as both entering the Franciscan Order, and embodying its spirituality.33 Pelbartus’s Pomerii also seems to have endeavoured to create a shared sense of order identity. Pelbartus’s sermon on Chiara d’Assisi stresses her link with Francesco and their mutual desire to repair Christ’s Church. Perhaps more importantly, it emphasizes Chiara as a model for feminine virtue and praises her modesty, chastity, and obedience.34 Even more significantly for the Hessenberg community, Pelbartus’s three sermons on Erzsébet of Hungary/Thuringia portray Erzsébet as a member of the Franciscan Order, saying that ‘ordinis tertii sancti Francisci intravit ad vivendum in castitate, oboedientia et paupertate’ [‘she entered the Third Order of St Francis to live in chastity, obedience, and poverty’] and ‘pauperimam vitam ordinis sancti Francisci elegit’ [‘she chose 31  Pelbartus de Themeswar, Sermones Pomerii de sanctis, 2 vols (Augsburg: Johann Otmar, 1502). For a discussion of its popularity and early editions, see Bert Roest, Franciscan Literature of Religious Instruction Before the Council of Trent (Leiden: Brill, 2004), p. 99 n. 257. 32  Zoltán Kosztolnyik, ‘Some Hungarian Theologians in the Late Renaissance’, Church History, 57 (1988), 5–18. 33  Pelbartus de Themeswar, ‘De sancto Bonaventura’, in Sermones Pomerii de sanctis, ii, 175; Pelbartus de Themeswar, ‘De sancto Ludovico ordinis minorum’, in Sermones Pomerii de sanctis, ii, 209–10. 34  Pelbartus de Themeswar, ‘De sancta Clara virgine’, in Sermones Pomerii de sanctis, ii, 418–20.

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the poorest life of the Third Order of St Francis’].35 Pelbartus’s first Erzsébetsermon included a legenda that drew upon a vita of Erzsébet by an anonymous Franciscan in the thirteenth century (c. 1250). This text portrayed Erzsébet as a female counterpart to Francesco (particularly in her service to the poor) thus making her an honorary member of his Order.36 Of particular interest to tertiary women, it should be noted that Pelbartus’s Erzsébet-sermons describe her married life in detail. Quasi-religious communities were often home to a diverse group of women, representing both variations in social class and life experience.37 All three of Pelbartus’s Erzsébet sermons acknowledge her married life, and the third is particularly focussed on the religious elements of the widowed state. Taking as its theme from Luke 21. 3, ‘Vidua haec pauper plus quam omnes misit’ [‘this poor widow has given more than all’], this sermon goes on to discuss the ways in which Erzsébet had used her state of life to adapt to God’s will and praise those women who followed her example. While such texts might suggest that women of the Hessenberg took on a Franciscan identity, they are really only evidence of Franciscan influence. The community library also owned numerous non-Franciscan writings, including sermons associated with the Augustinian branch of the Observant Movement, as well as texts by the Cistercian Bernard de Clairvaux, vitae of saints from the early Church, and the Marian writings of the Dominican Alan de la Roche (d. 1475).38 An analysis of these printed texts, shows emphasis on religious instruction and formation rather than anything resembling an order identity. The aforementioned scribe, Sister Foels, does not appear to have internalized Franciscan identity. The colophon of a second manu­script from the Hessenberg community states: Item, dyt boecken is volscreven int iaer ons Heren vyftien hondert ende xxx, ende heeft geeynt op Sante Antonys avont, ende heeft gescreven suster Foelsken Hoey35  Pelbartus de Themeswar, ‘Mulier gratiosa inveniet gloriam’, in Sermones Pomerii de sanctis, ii, 266–67 (see also pp. 267–70). 36  Ottó Gecser, ‘Aspects of the Cult of St. Elizabeth with a Special Emphasis on Preaching, 1231–c. 1550’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Central European Uni­ver­sity Budapest, 2007), p. 28. 37  Nicole Bériou, ‘La prédication au béguinage de Paris pendant l’année liturgique 1272–1273’, Recherches Augustiniennes, 13 (1978), 105–229. 38  Information for this archive can be found in the digital study room (Digitale Studiezaal) of the regional archives of Nijmegen: [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. The relevant collection is online under ‘W. J. Meeuwissen and H. G. M. de Heiden, Catalogus van de Collectie Codices van het Gemeentearchief Nijmegen’.

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mans, diet uut mynnen om Gods wil int sieck huys gescreven heeft, in hoeren enen tachtigsten jaeren. [Likewise, this book was written in the year of our Lord 1530 and was completed on St Anthony’s eve and was written by Sister Foelsken Hoeymans for the love of God in the hospital in her eighty-first year.]

The manu­script also contains a psalter of St Augustine and (as was probably related to her situation at the time) a litany of the sick.39 A similar lack of consistency regarding order identity can be seen in texts owned by other houses. The tertiaries of Sint-Clara in Amsterdam owned copies of the Franciscan Regula bullata, a 1247 Rule for the Clares, and the 1289 Rule for tertiaries.40 The tertiaries of Barbaradaal in Eikendonk (near ’s-Hertogenbosch) appear to have embraced Franciscan spirituality, and what little remains of their library indicates a profoundly Franciscan identity.41 Nevertheless, these women were not associated with the Franciscans. Although they professed the 1289 Rule, they were part of the Chapter of Zepperen and under the spiritual guidance of the Devotio moderna.42 The community of Sint-Barbara in Delft which was part of the Chapter of Utrecht and also received spiritual care and instruction from the Devotio moderna owned a number of Franciscan texts but also the writings of Jan van Ruusbroec, the lives of non-Franciscan saints including Marie d’Oignies, and Lidwina van Schiedam, as well as various postillae and sermons associated with St Augustine.43 The fact that the community owned the levens [lives] of Marie d’Oignies and Lidwina is particularly significant. Unlike texts associated with Francesco or Bonaventura, these women did not have a religious order to promote them. It seems that stories of both women would be appealing to communities of quasireligious women. Jacques de Vitry (d. 1240), the popular preacher and bishop of Acre, wrote the vita of Marie d’Oignies in 1216. Dedicated to Fulk de Toulouse, 39 

London, British Library, MS Additional 25904. For the association of this manu­script with the Hessenberg, see Stooker and Verbeij, Collecties op Orde, ii, no. 953. 40  Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 75 G 63. See Stooker and Verbeij, Collecties op orde, ii, no. 107. 41  L. van de Meerendonk, Het klooster op de Eikendonk te Den Dungen (Tilburg: Stichting Brabants Historisch Contact, 1964), pp. 58–60. 42  Hildo van Engen, De derde orde van Sint-Franciscus in het middeleeuwse bisdom Utrecht, Middeleeuwse Studies en Bronnen, 95 (Hilversum: Verloren, 2006), pp. 344–50. 43  W. Moll, De boekerij van het St. Barbara-klooster te Delft (Amsterdam: Van der Post, 1857), pp. 12–14.

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this vita records and promotes a form of holiness appropriate to a laywoman living in the secular world.44 Although Marie desired to become a Cistercian nun, her parents arranged for her to be married. Marie immediately convinced her husband Johannes to live in chastity, and the two dedicated their lives to serving lepers. Jacques’s portrayal of Marie embodied the spiritual currents of the period: she was married yet chaste; active yet contemplative; in the world but not of it.45 Most importantly, she devised a way of living the gospel life that differed considerably from the options presented by the established Church. Lidwina van Schiedam was born to a family of middling social status in 1380. Her parents had once been wealthy but had suffered financially. Lidwina, the fourth of eight children, was born on Palm Sunday and given a name which meant ‘great patience’ or ‘suffering’. After a relatively normal childhood, Lidwina’s name revealed itself as being exceptionally appropriate. In her youth, Lidwina suffered a nasty fall. This resulted in a wound from which she never recovered. Instead of healing, this wound began to swell and fester, and the resulting putrification bred worms.46 Not surprisingly, Lidwina soon stopped eating. Instead of being limited by her suffering, Lidwina used it for the service of others. She dedicated herself to the Lord but did not enter a religious order or pursue even semi-official ties with one. Despite not entering traditional religious life, she earned a reputation for holiness. Lidwina’s service made her an embodiment of ‘being in the world, but not of it’. Hagio­graphic accounts of Lidwina portray her as living a life that imitated Christ both in service and suffering. Although both Marie and Lidwina are obvious models for women who lived as religious in the secular world, Sint-Barbara in Delft is one of the unique examples of either text being owned by a female community. Suzan Folkerts has pointed out only three female communities owned complete copies of vernacular versions of Marie’s vita.47 Koen Goudriaan’s comprehensive study on Lidwina’s vita suggests that it circulated widely among communities of men 44  Jacques de Vitry, ‘De b. Maria Oigniacensi in Namurcensi Belgii Diocesii’, in Acta Sanctorum, Iunii, ed. by the Society of Bollandists, 63 vols (Antwerp: Petrum Jacobs, 1643–1940), June, ed. by Daniel Papebroeck, 4 vols (1707), iv, 630–84. 45  Michael Lauwers, ‘L’Institution et le genre: à propos de l’accès des femmes au sacré dans l’Occident’, Clio: femmes, genre, histoire, 2 (1995), 279–317. 46  For an overview of the various vitae of Lidwina and an overview of her life, see Koen Goudriaan, ‘Het leven van Liduina en de Moderne Devotie’, Jaarboek voor middeleeuwse geschiedenis, 6 (2003), 161–236 (pp. 161–98). 47  Suzan Folkerts, ‘The Manu­script Transmission of the Vita Mariae Oigniacensis in the Later Middle Ages’, in Mary of Oignies: Mother of Salvation, ed. by Anneke B. Mulder-Bakker, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 7 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2006), pp. 221–41.

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connected with the Devotio moderna.48 It is impossible to say exactly how these books were used and acquired by the Sint-Barbara community. The fact that these are fitting models for women who lived as tertiaries does not necessarily mean they were popular models. In the same way, the textual presence of saints associated with religious orders should not be viewed as indicators of the identity of their readers. Franciscan Observant reformers attached particular importance to Chiara d’Assisi. The work of Lezlie Knox has made it clear that the Observant Reform movement led to a virtual recreation of Chiara.49 Instead of a radical virgin committed to the gospel life as her own writings suggest, Chiara was transformed into an icon of obedience, poverty, and contemplation, which mirrored Observant ideals for women. To the reformers, Chiara provided a model through which Francesco could extend his charism to women. Knox’s findings in relation to Clarissan houses are equally valid for houses of monasticized Observant tertiaries. Like the Clares, Observant tertiaries were encouraged to adopt clausura and spiritual poverty. To those encouraging such behaviour amongst women, Chiara was an ideal model. A number of communities were re-dedicated to Chiara, often leading to confusion as to whether the community in question was originally a tertiary or a Clarissan foundation.50 At the same time, the ‘new’ Chiara began to figure prominently in Observant preaching to Clares and tertiaries. A German translation of a sermon, ‘Fünf Wunder der heiligen Klara’ [‘Five Marvels of St  Chiara’], is attributed to Giovanni da Capistrano, who is credited with introducing the Third Order to the eastern regions of Europe.51 This text emphasizes both Chiara’s bond with Francesco (whom she looked to as a model) and her commitment to serving the poor as a form of Imitatio Christi (although stressing that this was carried 48 

Goudriaan, ‘Het leven van Liduina en de Moderne Devotie’, 161–236. For the use of the vita Lidwinae as pastoral literature in a male community, see Mathilde van Dijk, ‘“Persevere! … God Will Help You!” Thomas a Kempis’s Sermons for the Novices and his Perspective on Pastoral Care’, in A Companion to Pastoral Care in the Late Middle Ages (1200–1500), ed. by Ronald J. Stansbury, Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition, 22 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 363–88. 49  Lezlie Knox, Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medi­eval Italy, The Medi­eval Franciscans, 5 (Leiden: Brill, 2008), pp. 123–56. 50  Roest, Order and Disorder, pp. 71–77. 51  Praha, Národní knihovna České republiky, MS XVI.D.16, fols 171v–173r. Digitized at [ac­ cessed 1 April 2017]. Roest, Franciscan Literature of Religious Instruction, pp. 64–67 and 187–90.

Religious Order and Textual Identity


out in a spiritual manner through prayers and asceticism). In this way, Chiara is portrayed as both contemplative and dedicated to her ideals. Most importantly, the increased emphasis on her relationship with Francesco highlights both her connection to an institutional Order in the Church and the Observant belief that the Clarissans and tertiaries were both part of an ‘order family’ that Francesco had founded. The sermon ‘Fünf Wunder der heiligen Klara’ also suggests the influence of Bertrand de la Turre (d. 1333), who spoke of Chiara as a rose that was spiritually nourished by the Franciscan friars.52 At the same time, drawing on the ‘angelic’ examples of Chiara d’Assisi her original community at San Damiano, another Franciscan Observant, Bernardino da Siena (d. 1444), encouraged women to return to the ‘original’ ideals of the Order.53 Cherubino da Spoleto (d. 1484) and Pelbartus de Themeswar lauded Chiara as a model of humility, obedience, and ideal monastic piety for all women connected to the Franciscan family, Clarissan nuns and tertiary sisters alike.54 The changing ideals associated with Chiara are evident in adaptations of her vita, which emphasized her conformity to Observant ideals. In his survey of manu­scripts of Chiara’s Legenda, Giovanni Boccali notes that this text was frequently translated into languages including Italian, German, Dutch, and French.55 As well as translating the text, these editions often adapted the stories to adhere more closely to Observant models. Given the prominence and popularity of Chiara among the Observants, it is perhaps surprising to note that the few Middle Dutch versions of the leven of Chiara were owned by tertiaries with no ties to the Franciscan Third Order. A Middle Dutch version of Chiara’s Legenda is recorded in Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 21875. This manu­script dates from the later fifteenth cen52 

Praha, Národní knihovna, MS XVI.D.16, fols 171v–172v. See Patrick Nold, ‘Poverty, History and Liturgy in a Sermon Work of Bertrand de la Tour’, in Franciscans and Preaching, ed. by Timothy J. Johnson, The Medi­eval Franciscans, 7 (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 175–206. 53  Dionisio Pacetti, ‘La praedicazione di s. Bernadino a Perugia e ad Assisi nel 1425’, Collectanea Franciscana, 9 (1938), 494–520. 54  For a discussion of Chiara in early modern sermons, see Nirit Ben-Aryeh Debby, ‘St. Clare Expelling the Saracens from Assisi: The Story of a Religious Confrontation, in Word and Image’, Sixteenth Century Journal, 43 (2012), 643–65. On Cherubino da Spoleto, see Roest, Franciscan Literature, pp. 529–30. 55  Giovanni Boccali, ‘Tradizione manoscritta delle legende di Chiara di Assisi’, in Clara Claris Praeclara: l’esperienza cristiana e la memoria di Chiara di Assisi in occasione del 750 anniversario della morte, Convivium Assisiense, 6 (Assisi: Edizione Porzioncola, 2004), pp. 419–500 (pp. 475–500).

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tury. Johannes Gessler has argued that the prevalence of female models, particularly its emphasis on St Monica as a model for religious women56 suggest that it was intended for a female audience.57 Its Augustinian associations are generally assumed from the fact that it contains a number of references to ‘ons heylighe vader Sint Augustinus’ [‘our holy father St Augustine’] and the fact that it included the text Sint Augustinus ons heylighe vader legende [The Legend of our Holy Father St Augustine].58 As is the case with Franciscan Observant writings, the Middle Dutch leven of Chiara emphasize her connection with Francesco and the friars, as well as her adherence to the humility and obedience commonly associated with religious women.59 The leven of Chiara seems to be conspicuously absent from houses that followed the 1289 Rule but are found in other tertiary houses. In particular, copies were owned by the tertiaries of Barbaradaal (Eikendonk) and Sint-Barbara in Delft, both of which were associated with the Devotio moderna rather than the Franciscan Order.60 A second saint commonly thought to be a marker of Franciscan tertiary identity was Erzsébet of Hungary/Thuringia. As in the aforementioned sermons by Pelbartus de Themeswar, Erzsébet was commonly associated with the Franciscan Order. However, Erzsébet’s historical links to the Franciscans were somewhat tenuous. Not only did she die in 1231, over half a century before the Franciscan Order of Penitents was given any official recognition, but her earliest vitae — by Cistercian and Dominican hagio­graphers — made no mention of Erzsébet being affiliated with a particular Order. Despite claims to the contrary, the service to the poor and voluntary renunciation of material wealth depicted in Erzsébet’s many vitae were characteristic of the spiritual climate of the early thirteenth century, and not exclusively Franciscan. 56 

At this stage St Monica’s role as patron of mothers was not emphasized so much in these communities; on this topic generally, see Clarissa W. Atkinson, ‘“Your Servant, My Mother”: The Figure of Saint Monica in the Ideology of Christian Motherhood’, in Immaculate and Powerful: The Female in Sacred Image and Social Reality, ed. by Clarissa Atkinson (Boston, MA: Beacon, 1985), pp. 139–72. 57  Jean Gessler, ‘Une version inédite de la légende de sainte Wilgefortis ou Ontcommer’, Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique, 31 (1935), 93–99. 58  Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 21875, fols 63v, 82r–98v. 59  Ludo Jongen, ‘Like a Pharmacy with Fragrant Herbs: The Legenda sanctae Clarae virginis in Middle Dutch’, Collectanea Franciscana, 65 (1995), 225–45. 60  Eikendonk: Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 73 E 34 (Stooker and Verbeij, Collecties op orde, ii, no. 431); Delft: Utrecht, Het Utrechts archief, Archief der Oud-Bisschop­ pelijke Clerezij, viii, 4 (Stooker and Verbeij, Collecties op orde, ii, no. 291).

Religious Order and Textual Identity


The Franciscan associations of Erzsébet seem to have come about as a result of the manipulations of Frederic II.61 In 1236, Frederic wrote to Elias da Cortona and stressed both Erzsébet’s affinity for the Franciscan movement and his direct familial connections with her. It is particularly important to keep in mind that it would have been in Frederic’s best interests to form ties with the new international (and rapidly spreading) Franciscan Order. Moreover, Elias, its minister general, had proved useful in mitigating relations between Frederic and Gregory IX. A text known as the Zwettl vita, quite possibly written by someone in Frederic’s immediate circle, suggests that Erzsébet had indeed been a Franciscan tertiary and emphasizes the affection in which she held the Order.62 Nevertheless, widespread portrayals of Erzsébet as a Franciscan tertiary are not seen before the end of the thirteenth century. Although Erzsébet was a popular model in houses of tertiary women, it would seem that this was due to her active spirituality rather than a shared order affiliation. The most popular leven was a translation of the vita by Dietrich von Apolda (d. 1302), which existed in over ninety manu­script copies. Middle Dutch copies of this text were owned by several communities that were not under the spiritual care of the Franciscans including Sint-Maria Magdalena op het Spui in Amsterdam (Devotio moderna); Onze Lieve Vrouw Ter Rosen Gheplant in Jericho in Brussels (Augustinian); and Barbaradaal in Eikendonk (Devotio moderna).63 As is discussed earlier, Dietrich’s vita does not emphasize Erzsébet’s connections with the Franciscan Order. Instead, it draws attention to her active service as a laywoman in the world. The relatively fluid indications of order identity are not limited to saints’ lives. Sabrina Corbellini has also drawn attention to the Observant Franciscan Jan de Wael (d. 1510), who put forward a comprehensive programme for the intellectual formation of the tertiary community of Sint-Agnesklooster in 61 

Gecser, ‘Aspects of the Cult of St. Elizabeth’, pp. 20–21. Lori Pieper, ‘A New Life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary: The Anonymous Franciscan’, Archivum Franciscanum Historicum, 93 (2000), 29–78; Gecser, ‘Aspects of the Cult of St. Elizabeth’, pp. 15–36 and 102–03. 63  Amsterdam: Darmstadt, Hessische Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek, MS  1912, fols 2r–141v (Stooker and Verbeij, Collecties op orde, ii, no. 75); Jericho: Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 1683–87, fols 171r–208v (Stooker and Verbeij, Collecties op orde, ii, no. 215; Patricia Stoop, Schrijven in commissie: de zusters uit het Brusselse klooster Jericho en de preken van hun biechtvaders (ca. 1456–1510), Middeleeuwse Studies en Bronnen, 127 (Hilversum: Verloren, 2013), pp. 386–87); Eikendonk: Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 73 E 34 (Stooker and Verbeij, Collecties op orde, ii, no. 431). 62 


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Amersfoort, near Utrecht.64 This programme included a comprehensive list of books to be read by the sisters, many of which had no Franciscan associations. The texts Jan advised the sisters to read included the Profectus religiosorum by David von Augsburg (d. 1272), the Liber de spiritualibus ascensibus by Devotio moderna author Gerard Zerbolt van Zutphen (d. 1398), as well as a number of spiritual classics by Jean Gerson (d. 1429), many of which are found in the libraries of various tertiary houses. The same fluidity and complexities are apparent when examining traces of this textual identity in houses of women. In the same way tertiary communities associated with all orders often owned either a Latin or vernacular copy of the Speculum virginum, a text of spiritual instruction for religious women.65 The Speculum offered strict guidelines on the ideal forms of religious life for women on matters such as claustration, contemplation, and other aspects of religious life.66 However, it neither had a specific affiliation with a religious order, nor contained models or discussions of spiritual practices often regarded as markers of order identity. The many and varied texts associated with women’s houses illustrate both an openness to diverse spiritual models and a reality of changing order identities in women’s communities. The names and affiliations used to refer to communities of women changed frequently. Instead of becoming known as Franciscan tertiaries after adopting the 1289 Rule, many houses tend to be referred to as beguines or penitents. Often, the various names were combined. In 1407 a community of extra-regular women in Groningen was referred to as 64  For a full analysis and contextualization, see Sabrina Corbellini, ‘The Manual for the Young Ones by Jan de Wael (1510): Pastoral Care for Religious Women in the Low Countries’, in A Companion to Pastoral Care in the Late Middle Ages (1200–1500), ed. by Ronald J. Stansbury, Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition, 22 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 389–411, and her essay in this volume. 65  Copies of the Speculum virginum were owned by many tertiary communities. For a fuller discussion, see Sabrina Corbellini, ‘Een oude spiegel voor nieuwe maagden: het gebruik van het “Speculum virginium” in gemeenschappen van tertiarissen’, Ons Geestelijk Erf, 80 (2009), 171–98. Libraries of ‘tertiary’ houses also included the works of the thirteenth-century Franciscan novice master David von Augsburg, which had been appropriated by fifteenthcentury Franciscan Observants. Copies of this text were owned by tertiaries communities in Delft, Nijmegen, Weesp (near Amsterdam), Utrecht, Berlin, and Sint-Truiden. For further discussion of this text, see Urban Küsters, ‘The Second Blossoming of a Text: The “Spieghel der Maechden” and the Modern Devotion’, in Listen, Daughter: The Speculum Virginum and the Formation of Religious Women in the Middle Ages, ed. by Constant Mews (New York: PalgraveMacmillan, 2001), pp. 245–61. 66  See the essays in Listen, Daughter, ed. by Mews.

Religious Order and Textual Identity


‘beghina de tertia regula sancti Francisci’ (‘beguines of the Third Order Rule of St Francis’).67 Mariengaarde in Monnickendam, which adopted the Rule in 1403, and the community of Maria of Nazareth in Delft, which was described as ‘zusteren in der oirde van penitencien sente Franciscus’ [‘sisters of the Order of Penitents of St Francis’], were founded with the Rule of the Third Order, although they did not have any other affiliation with the Franciscan Order.68 Instead of indicating a Franciscan identity, the names and texts merely suggest that the community had some Franciscan influence. The same is true of a number of other communities that are generally discussed as Augustinian, Dominican, or belonging to the Devotio moderna. The examples of inconsistent images of order identity in the libraries, rapiaria (personal books of reflection), and other texts associated with communities of religious women outside of the traditional orders is almost impossible to list or analyse. Indeed, this study has shown that tertiary identity is far more complex than is currently presented in most modern scholarship. While it would seem that certain Observant preachers felt establishing a fixed order identity was important for houses under its care, this thought does not appear to have been shared by the female tertiary communities. Instead, while the creation of Third Orders resulted in canonical changes, the spirituality and daily lives of the women themselves appears to have retained its earlier amorphous character.

67  Folkert Bakker, Bedelorden en begijnen in de stad Groningen tot 1594 (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1988), p. 160. 68  Van Engen, De derde orde van Sint-Franciscus in het middeleeuwse bisdom Utrecht; Corbellini, ‘Een oude spiegel voor nieuwe maagden’, p. 182.

‘To yowr gostly comforte and proffite’: Devotional Reading for the Nuns of Syon Abbey Ann M. Hutchison


t  Birgitta of Sweden (1302/03–73), founder of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour (Ordo Sanctissimi Salvatoris), felt she had been divinely inspired by Christ himself to establish a ‘new vineyard’, or a new monastic Order,1 and she envisioned this new Order as a vehicle of reform.2 At a time when monastic standards had become lax, or, to quote from the Middle English translation of the Rule, ‘the walle of the vyneȝerdes is distroyed, þe kepers slepe, and theuys entyr in  […]’ [‘the wall of the vineyards is destroyed; the keepers sleep, and thieves enter in […]’], there was urgent need for renewal.3 For this, Birgitta looked back to the post-Ascension Community as a model, with Mary at the head of the thirteen apostles (including St Paul) and the seventy-two dis1 

The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure and A Ladder of Foure Ronges by the Which Men Mowe Clyme to Heven, ed. by James Hogg, Analecta Cartusiana, 183 (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, 2003), chap. 1, pp. 6 (fol. 41r) and 61 (a transcription of the manu­script passage on fol. 41r) [hereafter The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure, ed. by Hogg (2003); unless otherwise noted, this edition will be used for Middle English quotations of the Rule, with the page number of the transcription added in each case]. See also The Rewyll of Seynt Savioure and Other Middle English Brigittine Legislative Texts, ed. by James Hogg, 3 vols (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, 1978–80), a facsimile of Cam­bridge, Uni­ver­sity Library, MS Ff.6.33. 2  See Claire L. Sahlin, Birgitta of Sweden and the Voice of Prophecy (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2001), especially the Introduction, where Sahlin notes that ‘communications directly from God and other divine beings […] recorded in her Celestial Book of Revelations (Liber celestis reuelacionum) — authorized and empowered her to speak and write as God’s prophet of moral reform’ (p. 2). 3  The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure, ed. by Hogg (2003), pp. 6 (fol. 41r) and 61. Ann M. Hutchison ([email protected]) is Academic Dean at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies and Associate Professor of the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 61–82 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS



Ann M. Hutchison


ciples. The new Order, the first to be founded by a woman, would be an enclosed, contemplative one, presided over by the abbess, the representative of the Virgin Mary, and would consist of no more than sixty nuns who would be assisted by thirteen priests, four deacons, and eight lay brothers, making a total of eightyfive, and thus mirroring the seventy-two disciples and thirteen apostles.4 The Order was thus intended primarily for women, whose main task was to worship the Virgin Mary to whom the Order was dedicated.5 Once established, the Order spread quickly beginning with the mother house in Vadstena, Sweden, where formal vows were first taken in 1378, only five years after Birgitta’s death, and appearing throughout Scandinavia, in the Baltic countries, and including the Low Countries, Spain, and Italy.6 In England, where Birgitta’s Revelationes were widely circulated and very early translated into Middle English, there had from early in the fifteenth century been interest at the highest levels in setting up a house of the Order.7 Finally in 1415, Henry V, who was very keen to reestablish a firm grip on orthodoxy, and attracted by the asceticism and strict observance of the new Order,8 laid the foundation stone of Syon Abbey, and by 1420 the only English house of the Order became enclosed.9 4 

The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure, ed. by Hogg (2003), chap. 10, pp. 32–33 (fol. 54r–v) and 71. The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure, ed. by Hogg (2003), chap. 1, pp. 8 (fol. 42r) and 61. See also Sancta Birgitta: Opera Minora, i: Regula Salvatoris, ed. by Sten Eklund, Samlingar utgivna av Svenska Fornskirftsällkapet, 2nd ser., Latinska Skrifter, viii.1 (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1975), chap. 1, p. 105: ‘Hanc igitur religionem ad honorem amantissime Matris mee per mulieres primum et principaliter statuere volo’ [‘I wish to establish this religious order to the honour of my most beloved Mother first and principally through women’]; or, to quote the Middle English, the Order was ‘ordeynyd […] pryncipally to the worship of his holy moder’ and this was to be carried out ‘fyrst & principally by women’ (The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure, ed. by Hogg (2003), chap. 1, pp. 8 (fol. 42r) and 61. 6  The Order received its first approval in 1370, was formally recognized in 1378, and then other houses were soon established; see, for example, Sahlin, Birgitta of Sweden and the Voice of Prophecy, p. 17. 7  See F. R. Johnston, ‘The English Cult of St Bridget of Sweden’, Analecta Bollandiana, 103 (1985), 75–93; also Eric Graff, ‘A Neglected Epistle in the Prehistory of Syon Abbey: The Letter of Katillus Thornberni in Uppsala Uni­ver­sity Library Pappasbret 1410–1420’, Mediaeval Studies, 63 (2001), 323–36. 8  See Jeremy Catto, ‘Religious Change under Henry V’, in Henry V: The Practice of Kingship, ed. by G. L. Harriss (Oxford: Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press, 1985), pp. 97–115; see especially pp. 110–11. 9  For histories of Syon Abbey, see, for example, George James Aungier, The History and Antiquities of Syon Monastery, the Parish of Isleworth, and the Chapelry of Hounslow, Compiled from Public Records, Ancient Manu­scripts, Ecclesiastical and Other Authentic Documents (London: Nichols, 1840); John Rory Fletcher, The Story of the English Bridgettines of Syon Abbey 5 

‘To yowr gostly comforte and proffite’


As enclosed contemplatives, the nuns were charged with the duties of meditation and prayer, and they were given, also through divine agency, a special Office to perform daily in honour of Mary. This Birgittine Office is made up of two parts, the Sermo angelicus and the Cantus sororum. The Sermo angelicus comprises twenty-one lessons concerning the life of the Virgin Mary to be read at matins, three each day of the week. These were said to have been dictated by an angel over a period of time to Birgitta when she first came to Rome — hence the title, and hence also the icono­graphy in woodcuts associated with Birgittine printed works.10 The Cantus sororum, comprised of antiphons, responsories, and other liturgical material to accompany the Sermo, was compiled and composed by Master Peter Olafsson (d. 1378), one of Birgitta’s Swedish confessors who she felt was also divinely inspired.11 To engage in true meditation and to make their prayers efficacious, however, the nuns needed to be well prepared and above all to gain true wisdom. For her own meditation, Birgitta firmly believed in the importance of reading, of understanding what was being read, and of choosing appropriate texts, and she wished to instill in the members of her new Order habits that she considered fundamental for their contemplative life. For this purpose, the priest-brothers and deacons, though strictly segregated, were members of the Order and available to offer spiritual counsel to the nuns.12 Most often at Syon Abbey, as (South Brent: Syon Abbey, 1933); The Bridgettine Breviary of Syon Abbey from the MS with English Rubrics F.4.ii at Magdalene College, Cam­bridge, ed. by A. Jefferies Collins, Henry Bradshaw Society, 96 (Worcester: Stanbrook Abbey Press, 1969), Introduction, pp. i–ix. 10  St Birgitta is seated at a desk copying down a revelation she is receiving from an angel; her eyes are raised to behold God the Father with the crucified Christ in his arms; the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove is coming toward her; see, for example, Roger Ellis, who discusses the icono­g raphy of the images in ‘Further Thoughts on the Spirituality of Syon Abbey’, in Mysticism and Spirituality in Medi­eval England, ed. by William F. Pollard and Robert Boenig (Cam­bridge: Brewer, 1997), pp. 222–26. 11  In a revelation the Virgin Mary says to Birgitta (referring to Master Peter Olafsson): ‘ille spiritus, qui tibi pronunciauit lecciones, idem spiritus infudit sibi dictare cantum cum signis et indiciis mirabilibus’ [‘that same spirit, who proclaimed the lessons to you, also imparted the Cantus, with wonderous signs and tokens, to him to proclaim’]; see Birgitta of Sweden, Den Heliga Birgittas Reuelaciones Extrauagantes, ed. by Lennart Hollman, Samlingar utgivna av Svenska Fornskirftsällkapet, 2nd ser., Latinska Skrifter, v (Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1956), chap. 113b, p. 230. 12  The four deacons represented the four doctors of the Western Church (Sts Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory, and Jerome) and specifically embodied the Order’s commitment to wisdom; and, while the priest-brothers were to provide the sacramental context for the Order, they


Ann M. Hutchison

surviving evidence indicates, their guidance seems to have taken the form of especially written texts.13 In this regard, a significant feature of the Birgittine Rule, a rule in which poverty is stressed, is the provision made for an unlimited supply of books for study.14 This liberality is more striking when one realizes that even the number of service books is stringently restricted to ‘as many as be necessary to doo dyvyne office and moo in no wyse’, while for ‘Thoo bookes […] in whiche ys to lerne or to studye’ they may have ‘as many as they wylle’.15 As Roger Ellis has importantly pointed out, it is desire, not necessity which governs the books the nuns may have for study, and, as he continues, since the Rule ‘regularly talks of desire, or want, when encouraging spiritual observance’, to use this term for reading indicates that the Order sets ‘the very highest store by the getting of wisdom’; in other words, ‘true learning’ was regarded as ‘a quasi-sacramental act’.16 Books alone, however, were not enough; they needed to be chosen with care and read with understanding, a matter crucially important to Birgitta, who believed that an understanding of the Bible and of the liturgy recited day after day was essential to meditation and spiritual development. While still in Sweden, she had commissioned a translation of the Pentateuch into Swedish, indicating her early interest in promoting use of the vernacular, a practice that was later to characterize her Order.17 Perhaps in supporting the use of the were equally responsible for the pursuit of wisdom through study; see Roger Ellis, Syon Abbey: The Spirituality of the English Bridgettines, Analecta Cartusiana, 68.2 (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, 1984), p. 28. 13  It is noteworthy that the nuns had to be at least eighteen and the brothers at least twenty-five at their profession; these ages, more advanced than for most orders, presuppose a certain maturity among the members of a Birgittine community; see The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure, ed. by Hogg (2003), chap. 19, pp. 50 (fol. 63r) and 78. 14  The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure, ed. by Hogg (2003), chap. 19, pp. 50 (fol. 63r) and 77. 15  See The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure, ed. by Hogg (2003), chap. 18, pp. 49–50 (fols 62v– 63r) and 77; see also Sancta Birgitta: Opera Minora, i: Regula Salvatoris, ed. by Eklund, chap. xxi, p. 127, para­graphs 227 and 228: ‘Libri quoque, quotquot necessarii fuerint ad diuinum officium peragendum, habiendi sunt, plures autem nullo modo. Illos autem libros habeant, quotquot voluerint, in quibus addiscendum est vel studendum’ [‘Also, they may have as many books as are necessary for Divine Service, but absolutely no more. On the other hand, they may have as many books as they may desire in which to learn or to study’]. 16  For further discussion of the wisdom envisaged, see Ellis, Syon Abbey: The Spirituality of the English Bridgettines, pp. 28–29. 17  Bridget Morris, St Birgitta of Sweden, Studies in Medi­eval Mysticism, 1 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1999), p. 57.

‘To yowr gostly comforte and proffite’


materna lingua, as the Rule puts it, Birgitta, who, as noted above, had modelled her Order on the post-Ascension Community, again looked back to this Community who had been, to quote Acts 2. 4, ‘et repleti sunt omnes Spiritu Sancto et coeperunt loqui aliis linguis prout Spiritus Sanctus dabat eloqui illis’ [‘and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Holy Spirit gave them voice’].18 While Latin certainly remained dominant in the liturgy and so forth, on Sundays, the priest-brother conducting the service was ‘bound to expoune […] the gospel of the same day in the same messe to alle herers in their modir tounge’ [‘obligated to explain in detail […], to all present, the gospel of the particular day during the Mass of that day in their mother tongue’], and the sermons given by the brothers at designated feast days during the year were also to be in the vernacular.19 Similarly, Birgitta encouraged translation of devotional texts. In fact, it has been claimed that as Birgittine houses spread, the need to provide for the education of the Order’s members came to influence the language and national literature in all the Scandinavian countries, and in England, many spiritual classics were translated especially for the nuns of Syon.20 As members of a contemplative Order, the nuns, and especially the choir sisters (those who recited the Latin liturgy every day during the appointed hours), spent most of their time in the church, or in prayer and meditation.21 Although there was time for recreation built into each day, silence was privileged. To help the nuns develop the skills necessary for this rather austere way of life they had chosen, and to enrich their meditation and empower their prayers, guides were prepared to help them develop the technique for meditative reading, and texts considered appropriate for such reading were compiled and translated. Reading itself was deemed an essential step in the process of devotion, a process which would ‘nourish’ the soul with the ‘fode of lyfe’ [‘food of life’].22 This essay will 18 

Acts 2. 4, the Rheims (1582), Douai (1609) version: ‘And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak.’ 19  The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure, ed. by Hogg (2003), chap. 13, pp. 38 (fol. 57r) and 73. 20  See The Bridgettine Breviary of Syon Abbey, ed. by Collins, p. xxxi and n. 2. In a note Collins cites Eric Colledge: ‘Some of the most celebrated spiritual classics of the late Middle Ages can be shown to have been translated into English at Syon’; see Eric Colledge, A Syon Centenary (1861–1961) (South Brent: Syon Abbey, [1961]), p. 11. 21  The hours include: matins and lauds (said together), prime, terce, sext, none, evensong, and compline. 22  The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by J. H. Blunt, Early English Text Society, e.s., 19 (Lon-


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discuss an important text directed specifically at elucidating and translating the unique service of the nuns, the Sermo angelicus and the Cantus sororum; it will then turn to a well known work translated and especially adapted for the use of the Syon Abbey nuns; and finally consideration will be given to some of the texts prepared in manu­script form by the brothers, many of whom had been scholars and lecturers at Oxford and Cam­bridge, and later printed for the community and others who craved devotional texts and reassurance in the face of the looming upheavals in religion that began taking place in the early sixteenth century. One of the earliest texts prepared for the nuns of Syon Abbey is both a spiritual guide and a translation written by a priest-brother, probably quite soon after the first professions were made in 1420 and the elections of the first regularly appointed abbess and confessor general were confirmed in 1421.23 This is The Myroure of oure Ladye, a treatise on the devotional practice the nuns should strive for, along with a translation of their unique breviary and an extensive commentary.24 The Myroure is prefaced by two prologues: in the first, the author explains the meaning of the title and sets out the purpose of the translation and the method he intends to follow; the second discusses the translation and, in spite of the modesty topos, we sense the author’s humility as he submits his work for correction to Church officials who are wiser and able to ‘feel better’.25 don: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1873; repr. 1998), p. 23. For this essay all quotations will be from this edition. 23  See The Bridgettine Breviary of Syon Abbey, ed. by Collins, pp. iii–iv, nn. 1 and 3. 24  The Myroure of oure Ladye survives in only one manu­script made in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century by Robert Taylor (fl. early sixteenth century), a frequent scribe of Syon and other devotional texts, for Sister Elizabeth Montoun (or Mountoun; fl. early sixteenth century; d. before 1539). At some point in the past it was separated into two parts: Aberdeen, Uni­ ver­sity Library, MS 134 contains the first part; and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson C.941, the second. An early print by Richard Fawkes in 1530, made at the request of the abbess, Agnes Jordan (d. 1546), and the confessor general, John Fewterer (d. 1536), survives in at least thirteen copies (see below for further comment); see Alfred W. Pollard and G. R. Redgrave, A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475–1640, 2nd edn revised and enlarged by W. A. Jackson, F. S. Ferguson and Katharine F. Pantzer, 3 vols (London: Biblio­graphical Society, 1986–91) (hereafter STC), 17542. The manu­script had not been fully edited when J. H. Blunt made his edition for the Early English Text Society, and only the first part was known to exist, and so Blunt based his edition mainly on the early printed version. I am currently editing the manu­script version. 25  The appeal is to the reason and the emotion of the clerics; see The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 8.

‘To yowr gostly comforte and proffite’


The main work is divided into three parts. Part i, for which a table of chapters is given, describes the divine origin of the service and provides a rationale for its importance, explaining along the way the necessity of saying it fully, that is, not skipping over or abbreviating any part, and maintaining complete attention. Part ii, the major section, translates and explains the ‘Hours’ as they are said, or sung, on each day of the week, with a brief section on various feasts, and it is preceded by a short but fascinating treatise on ‘how ye shall be gouerned in redyng of this Boke and and of all other bokes’ [‘how you shall be directed to read this book and all other books (of devotional reading, understood)’].26 Part iii translates and, where necessary, explicates special Masses and Offices observed at Syon. Throughout, the author writes with meticulous care, pointing out potential hazards and providing recognized authority for the guidance he offers. His tone is assured but understanding, and his strong desire to foster the spiritual progress of his spiritual sisters is readily apparent. He makes clear, in fact, that he has no wish to dominate: Nowe thynke yt not that I am aboute to make lawes and ordenaunce vpon you by thys wrytyng for I do not so. But I wryte to youre enformacyon what the lawe of holy chyrce [sic] by saying of doctours ordenyth and dyposeth to be kepte, in sayng of dyuyne seruyce of you, and all that ar bounde therto.27 [Now do not think that I am attempting to make rules and regulations for you in writing, for I do not. Instead, I am writing to inform you of the laws of Holy Church as decreed and set forth by the learned men (of the Church) to be observed in the performance of Divine Service by you and all who have vowed to follow it.]


The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 65. The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 52. Although the identity of the author is never revealed, from information he gives along the way, we know he was definitely one of the brethren, for he makes a number of inclusive references, such as ‘we that are professed in her relygyon’ (The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 164), and, as A. J. Collins, editor of the Latin Birgittine Breviary, noted in commenting on the Myroure of oure Ladye, the author had ‘achieved [a] masterly knowledge of the Birgittine rite and ceremonial’; see The Bridgettine Breviary of Syon Abbey, ed. by Collins, p. xxxviii. J. H. Blunt believed it was Dr Thomas Gascoigne, Vice-Chancellor, then Chancellor of the Uni­ver­sity of Oxford, who was known to have written a bio­graphy of St Birgitta (no longer extant), but since the author was clearly a brother of the Order, it could not have been Gascoigne; see The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. ix. It is now thought that the possible candidates for author are Thomas Fishbourn (d. 1428), the first Confessor-General, Simon Wynter (d. 1448), an early priest brother, or Clement Maidstone (d. 1456), a deacon and an expert liturgist. 27 

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As noted earlier, the author’s chief concern is to help the nuns, in particular the choir sisters, develop a full knowledge of the importance and significance of every aspect of their service, including an understanding of the rationale behind its various parts and the gestures connected with it, but primarily focusing on elucidating the meaning of the Latin words they would recite or hear, as will be discussed below. Indeed, as he makes clear paraphrasing St Bernard: ‘yt profyteth but lytel, to syng only with the voice, or to say only with the mouthe, wythout entendaunce of the harte’28 [‘there is little benefit to sing only with the voice, or to recite only with the mouth, without the attention of the heart’]. Moreover, he points out that in order to praise Our Lady, they ought to ‘see’ her, and to achieve this ‘sight’ they need to develop inner understanding; and he tells the sisters that to help them come to this understanding and also for the ‘gostly comforte and profyte of youre soules’ [‘spiritual comfort and benefit of your souls’], he has drawen youre legende and all youre seruyce in to Englyshe, that ye shulde se by the vnderstondyng therof, how worthy and holy praysynge of oure gloryous Lady is contente therin, & the more deuoutely and knowyngly synge yt & rede yt and say yt to her worshyp.29 [translated your lessons [that is, for matins] and your entire service into English, so that you will be able to see, as a result of understanding it, how excellent and holy is the worship accorded to our glorious Lady in this service, and thus more devoutely and knowledgeably sing it and read it and say it in her honour.]

As articulated in the beginning of the Rule, the mission St Birgitta sought for her Order was, before all else, ‘the constant praise of God by women with and through the Virgin Mother’, and in this, as Roger Ellis points out, their responsibility was not only for themselves or their community but for the whole Christian world.30 This intention is clearly in keeping with Birgitta’s especially inclusive design of the Order’s church.31 28 

The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 40. The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, pp. 2–3. 30  See The Bridgettine Breviary of Syon Abbey, ed. by Collins, pp. ix–x for the quotation; and also Ellis, Syon Abbey: The Spirituality of the English Bridgettines, p. 117. 31  The church had areas exclusively for the enclosed nuns and for the enclosed brethren, while maintaining a central space for the laity and orienting itself to reach out to embrace the entire Christian world; see Mereth Lindgren, ‘Altars and Apostles: St. Birgitta’s Provisions for the Altars in the Abbey Church at Vadstena and their Reflection of Birgittine Spirituality’, in In Quest of the Kingdom: Ten Papers on Medi­eval Monastic Spirituality, ed. by A. Härdelin, Biblio29 

‘To yowr gostly comforte and proffite’


The short treatise on devotional reading which precedes Part ii, the translation of the Office, offers insight into this practice at Syon Abbey and suggests the kind of books that were felt to be suitable.32 It begins: ‘Deuoute redyng of holy Bokes ys called one of the partes of contemplacyon. for yt causyth moche grace. and comforte to the soulle yf yt be well and dyscretely vsed’ [‘Devout reading of holy books is included as one of the parts of contemplation since it brings about spiritual virtue and comfort to the soul if it is practised appropriately and with discernment’]. In order to profit from reading, the author notes five things that must be kept in mind: first, they must choose their books with care and avoid worldly, or purely secular, books;33 second, before beginning to read or listen to ‘bokes of gostly fruyte’ [‘books of spiritual value’]34 they should prepare themselves with humility, deep respect, and dedication, for just as in prayer, man speaks to God, so in reading, God speaks to man, and this spiritual preparation will assist their understanding; third, is the need to ‘laboure to vnderstande’ [‘work hard to understand’], achieved by not reading too quickly, by rereading as often as needed, or by seeking assistance; fourth, the aim of the reading is to inform oneself, not to show off to others; and fifth, books must be chosen with ‘dyscressyon’ [‘sound judgement’], for some inform the mind and offer spiritual direction, while others stir up the emotions, or passions, of the soul, and the author describes in some detail how his own book should do both.35 Toward the end, he cautions that this translation should not replace but supplement the Latin version of their Office; and finally, he assures the nuns that he ‘asked & theca Theologiae Practicae, Kyrkovetenskapliga studier, 48 (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1991), pp. 245–82 (pp. 255–82). 32  The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, pp. 65–71. The rubric concludes: ‘and fyrst how ye shall be gouerned in redyng of this Boke and of all other bokes’ [‘and first how you shall be directed in reading this book and all other books’] (see p. 65). 33  Here one finds an echo of Simon Wynter’s Lyfe of St Jerome, written for Margaret, duchess of Clarence (d. 1439), who retired to Syon in her widowhood; as the vita begins, we learn that he gave up ‘worldly bokes’ of poets and philosophers for ‘holy bokes’; see Virgins and Scholars: A Fifteenth-Century Compilation of the Lives of John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Jerome, and Katherine of Alexandria, ed. by Claire M. Waters, Medi­eval Women Texts and Contexts, 10 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2008), p. 186. 34  See The Orcherd of Syon, which is discussed below; both ‘The translator’s Prologue’ and the ‘Prolog’ refer to ‘fruyt’ (and ‘herbis’); see The Orcherd of Syon, ed. by Phyllis Hodgson and Gabriel M. Liegey, Early English Text Society, o.s., 258 (London: Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press, 1966), pp. 1–2 and 16. 35  The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, pp. 66–69.

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haue lysence of oure bysshop to drawe suche thynges in to englysshe to your gostly comforte and profyt so that bothe oure consyence in the drawynge and youres in the hauynge may be the more sewre and clere’ [‘asked and has received the imprimatur of the bishop to translate such things into English for your spiritual wellbeing and benefit, so that both our conscience in the translating and yours in possessing [such things] may be the more safe and free from confusion’].36 The Myroure, as far as we know, is one of only two books from this period to refer to the licensing of scriptural translations. The other, Nicholas Love’s Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ, his translation of the pseudo-Bonaventuran Meditationes vitae Christi, completed before 1410, is, however, an earlier work and probably received the imprimatur of Archbishop Arundel in 1409, when his constitutions had been definitively reissued.37 In both works, as Christopher G. Bradley has pointed out, the authors took it for granted and believed that their readers would have other devotional works to explore that would help them with their spiritual development, and, by way of illustration from The Myroure, he cites parts of the fifth point on ‘dyscressyon’, or sound judgement, in choosing appropriate reading matter, suggesting that there were other texts available.38 This discussion of finding books worthwhile to read clearly indicates that our author assumes an advanced degree of literacy in his audience, as well as a concern for the strict orthodoxy in his writing and in his pastoral duties, both of which came to characterize Syon Abbey.39


The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 71. See Jeremy Catto, ‘1349–1412: Culture and History’, in The Cam­bridge Companion to Medi­eval English Mysticism, ed. by Samuel Fanous and Vincent Gillespie (Cam­bridge: Cam­ bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2011), pp. 113–31 (p. 127). 38  See Christopher G. Bradley, ‘Censorship and Cultural Continuity: Love’s Mirror, the Poor Caitif, and Religious Experience Before and After Arundel’, in After Arundel: Religious Writing in Fifteenth-Century England, ed. by Vincent Gillespie and Kantik Ghosh, Medi­eval Church Studies, 21 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), pp. 115–32 (p. 125 and n. 26). The author of The Myroure of oure Ladye, for example, refers to ‘saynt Mawdes boke’ [‘St Maud’s book’], that is, the Liber spiritualis gratiae, or The Booke of Gostlye Grace (originally known as Liber specialis gratiae, or The Book of Special Grace) by Mechthild von Hackeborn (d. 1298 or 1299). On both occasions, he assumes they know the work well; for example, he says ‘as ye rede in saynt Mawdes boke’ [‘as you read in St Maud’s book’]; see The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, pp. 33 and 38. 39  See Susan Powell, ‘After Arundel but before Luther: The First Half-Century of Print’, in After Arundel: Religious Writing in Fifteenth-Century England, ed. by Vincent Gillespie and Kantik Ghosh, Medi­eval Church Studies, 21 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), pp. 523–41 (p. 531 and n. 39). 37 

‘To yowr gostly comforte and proffite’


In these instructions, one can also sense the central place of reading in the daily lives of the Birgittine nuns, and, at the same time, it is clear that reading is only effective if the reading matter is, as is stated at the outset, ‘well and dyscretely vsed’ [‘employed properly and with sound judgement’].40 The author works to instill good reading habits as an integral part of the nuns’ devotional life. While they may read whatever suitable devotional works they desire, their principal ‘labour’ is focused on ‘the holy houres of dyuyne seruyce’ [‘the canonical hours’].41 Embedded in the Birgittine Rule, as the author of The Myroure points out, are the instructions from Christ himself that the best way to maintain the grace of God is by ‘contynuall studyes, with deuoute prayers, and with godly praisynges’ [‘by constant study, with heartfelt prayers, and with fervent worship of the Lord’].42 Indeed, the author draws attention to the order in which the three are mentioned — ‘Firste he saieth study, and then prayer, & then praysyng’ [‘First he mentions study, and next prayer, and then worship’] — before he elaborates: For inwarde gostly study techeth to pray. and contynuaunce of this study causeth to pray deuoutly. & deuoute prayer bryngeth gostly strenghte and comforte in the soulle wherby yt is lyfte vp and restyth, and delyteth in loue & praysynge of god. And whyle the soulle is thus occupyed; the treasure of grace ys kepte full seurely therin.43 [For silent spiritual study teaches one to pray, and persistence of this study brings one to pray devoutly, and devout prayer results in spiritual strength and comfort in the soul which causes it to be lifted up and to rest and delight in the love and worship of God. And while the soul is so occupied, the treasure of [God’s] grace is securely contained there.]

Thus to ensure that their ‘laboure’ be not in vain or ‘without fruyte’ [‘without results’], his sisters must ‘inwardly and bysely, & contynewally trauayle in thys spyrytuall study to stable the harte in god’ [‘silently and vigourously, and con40 

The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, pp. 65–66. The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 63. The word ‘labour’ is routinely used to indicate that the contemplative life requires work, continuous attentiveness, and concentration. 42  Here The Myroure author is quoting directly from the Middle English version of the Birgittine Rule, Chapter 18; see The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure, ed. by Hogg (2003), chap. 18, pp. 49 (fol. 62v) and 77. 43  As noted above, the word ‘labour’ is important since the monastic life is typically described as one of ‘laborare et orare’ [‘work and prayer’], and this passage describes what that life involves; The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 64. 41 

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tinuously toil in this spiritual study to make the heart secure in God’], especially ‘in tyme of thys holy seruice’ [‘at the time of Divine Service’], and here the author, with typical humility, adds, ‘And for charyte pray that I may do the same’ [‘And for kindness, pray that I may also do so’].44 While, as mentioned above, The Myroure’s translation of the Birgittine Office in Part ii is not intended to replace the Latin service, the author has done what he can to key it to the Latin of the Office, so that for the ‘legende’, that is, the Sermo angelicus, those who have already ‘redde theyre legende before’ [‘read the lesson beforehand’] can follow the text during the reading of ‘theyre legende […] at mattyns’ [‘their lessons […] at matins’] that are read in Latin and ‘fede her mynde therewyth’ [‘with them nourish her mind’], that is, concentrate on what they say.45 For this purpose, he has included the Latin at the beginning of each clause so that the nun can ‘go forthe with the reder clause by clause’ [‘follow the reader clause by clause’], thus keeping pace with the reading. He again makes clear, however, that listening to the Latin takes precedence, so that for those who have not prepared: ‘I wolde not counsell them to leue the herynge of the latyn for entendaunce of the englysshe’ [‘I would not advise them to ignore listening to the Latin in order to pay attention to the English’].46 Indeed, throughout the translation of the entire Office, he gives the Latin word or phrase at the beginning of each clause so that the reader can correctly follow the Latin text with the translation. Thus the first lesson for Sunday matins begins in the Latin version with ‘Verbum de quo’ [‘The word of which’];47 this phrase also begins the translation in The Myroure, but here it is followed by the translation, ‘The worde that Iohn the euangelyste maketh mynde of in his Gospel was endelesly wyth the father and wyth the holy gooste one god’ [‘The Word that John the Evangelist makes mention of in his gospel ceaselessly concerned the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God’]; then comes the beginning of the next phrase, ‘Tres enim’ [‘Certainly three’], and so forth.48 Sometimes, he elaborates on the meaning, but he points out that this is not a part of the actual lesson and tells his readers that he uses different, smaller lettering for the expla44 

The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 65. The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 71. 46  The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 71. 47  The full Latin reads: ‘Uerbum de quo euangelista iohannes in euaungelio suo facit mencionem. ab eterno erat cum patre et spiritu sancto vnus deus’ [‘The word concerning which the evangelist John made mention in his gospel: from eternity one God was with the Father and the Holy Spirit’] (The Bridgettine Breviary of Syon Abbey, ed. by Collins, p. 16). 48  The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 103. 45 

‘To yowr gostly comforte and proffite’


nation so that ‘the bare englysshe of the latyn’ [‘the actual, or word for word, English translation of the Latin’] can be distinguished from ‘the exposycyon of the latyn’ [‘the explanation of the meaning of the Latin words’].49 In other words, the author of The Myroure wishes to make a clear distinction between the English words used to translate the Latin of the actual lessons dictated by the angel and his clarification or elucidation of their meaning. In the early printed version a different font is used to differentiate the actual translation from the commentary, but Blunt does not follow this pattern in his edition. Despite the fact that, as we know from a later account,50 Birgittine novices were instructed in Latin, and also that a number of the nuns possessed texts in Latin for their study,51 it was recognized from the early years that not all gained complete proficiency in the language. Though records for the pre-Reformation years at Syon are few, some insight can be gained from those that survive at Vadstena, where, as both Monica Hedlund and Ingela Hedström suggest, ‘all the evidence seems to confirm that at least a passive and practical understanding of Latin was the norm among the Vadstena sisters’.52 Thus, in the Latin versions of the Office, 49 

The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 70. The story of Mary Champney (d. 1580), a nun who eventually joined the Birgittine Order when it was in Spanish Flanders, describes how she was placed with nuns near Antwerp ‘to learne her songe and her grammer’, that is, as the text explains, ‘for vnderstandinge of her lattin service, for her preparacion to be fitt for Religion’; quoted in The Bridgettine Breviary of Syon Abbey, ed. by Collins, p. xxxi; see also London, British Library, MS Additional 18650, fol. 3r; ‘The Life and Good End of Sister Marie’, ed. by Ann M. Hutchison, Birgittiana, 13 (2002), 33–89 (p. 39). A further account is given in Ann M. Hutchison, ‘Syon Abbey Preserved: Some Historians of Syon’, in Syon Abbey and its Books: Reading, Writing and Religion, c. 1400–1700, ed. by E. A. Jones and Alexandra Walsham, Studies in Modern British Religious History, 24 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2010), pp. 228–51 (pp. 230–38). 51  To cite two examples: Catherine Palmer, one of the younger nuns in 1539 who later became the first Post-Dissolution abbess, had a Latin copy of the German mystic Johannes Tauler (1290–1361); see Ann M. Hutchison, ‘What the Nuns Read: Literary Evidence from the English Bridgettine House, Syon Abbey’, Mediaeval Studies, 57 (1995), 205–22 (p. 212 and n. 38). Joanna Sewell (professed in 1500), as surviving books she read during her novitiate with James Grenehalgh (a Carthusian) suggest, comments in the margins, and their joint monograms seem to imply that they both read the texts; and later, in his presentation copy of The Scale of Perfection for her profession, Grenehalgh wrote in Latin on the title page; see Hutchison, ‘What the Nuns Read’, pp. 214–15 and notes; see also Michael G. Sargent, James Grenehalgh as Textual Critic, Analecta Cartusiana, 85, 2 vols (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, 1984), especially i, 85–109. 52  See Monica Hedlund, ‘Nuns and Latin, with Special Reference to the Birgittines of Vadstena’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, 50 


Ann M. Hutchison

it is often the case that the rubrics are in English. This is true, for example, of the copy at Cam­bridge, Magdalene College, MS F.4.11, which was edited for the Henry Bradshaw Society by A. Jefferies Collins.53 In this manu­script the English rubrics — which, on the basis of an inserted prayer, Collins speculates were by a Syon brother — often reproduce the Latin directions found in other manu­script breviaries from Syon; occasionally an untranslated title remains, but more frequently the English seems to be intended to clarify the sense of the Latin instructions, as Collins notes, ‘with little or no respect for their wording’; he thus suggests that these rubrics should be regarded as ‘a recasting or revision’ of Latin originals, rather than an actual translation.54 It is important to note, however, that not all breviaries possessed by the nuns had English rubrics.55 All this would seem to indicate that not all the choir sisters were equally proficient in Latin. They would all, of course, be very familiar with the Latin of the actual brievary, but for some, direction or explanation would be more useful in the vernacular. Nor, during the later fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries does this practice of putting rubrics in the vernacular appear to be unique to Syon; rubrics in the vernacular can be found in breviaries of other orders in England and on the Continent in this period. Concern to provide appropriate texts for the nuns of Syon and to guide them in their reading is evident in another text thought to have been composed Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 26 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 97–118 (p. 113). See also Ingela Hedström, ‘Vadstena Abbey and Female Literacy in Late Medi­eval Sweden’, in the same volume, pp. 253–72 (p. 271 and passim). 53  See The Bridgettine Breviary of Syon Abbey, ed. by Collins, pp. 13–116 (the Office); pp. 117–37 (Principal Feasts); p. 138 (Processions); pp. 139–45 (Masses); while nearly all the rubrics in this manu­script are in the vernacular, the actual headings vary; for example, ‘the first lesson’ (p. 16), and ‘leccio secunda’ (p. 17). 54  The Bridgettine Breviary of Syon Abbey, ed. by Collins, p. xxxiii. 55  The Bridgettine Breviary of Syon Abbey, ed. by Collins, provides a list of some manu­scripts surviving from Syon Abbey and notes the language of the rubrics in each case. While he shows that MS 3, which was until very recently at Syon Abbey (and is now Exeter, Exeter Uni­ver­sity Library, MS 262/3 of the Syon Abbey Medi­e val and Early Modern Manu­script Collection), was actually made on the Continent and probably not at Syon until the eighteenth century, he lists seven manu­scripts that were formerly at Syon Abbey and suggests that on the grounds of handwriting, almost every Breviary now known is assigned to ‘the first decade or two after the foundation’; these are: Cam­bridge, Magdalene College, MSS F.4.11 and F.4.12; Cam­ bridge, Uni­ver­sity Library, MS Additional 7634; Exeter, Exeter Uni­ver­sity Library, MS 262/6 Syon Abbey Medi­e val and Early Modern Manu­script Collection; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Auct. D.4.7 and MS Rawlinson C.781; Oxford, Uni­ver­sity College, MS 25; see pp. xli–l.

‘To yowr gostly comforte and proffite’


in the early fifteenth century, The Orcherd of Syon, a translation of Il Dialogo, or revelations, of St Caterina da Siena.56 The translator is unknown and, if not one of the Syon brethren, may possibly have been a Carthusian at Sheen, the house across the Thames from Syon: members of a silent, eremitical Order, the Carthusians often copied or translated texts for Syon. Whoever the translator, he certainly knew and understood the Syon community well, as he opens the prologue with an informed address to the Religyous modir & deuoute sustren clepid & chosen bisily to laboure at the hous of Syon, in the blessed vyneȝerd of oure holy Saueour, his parfite rewle which hymsilf enditide to kepe contynuly to ȝoure lyues eende vndir þe gouernaunce of oure blessid Lady, hir seruise oonli to rede and to synge as hir special seruauntis and douȝtren […].57 [Religious mother and devout sisters called and chosen to labour industriously at the house of Syon in the blessed vineyard of our Holy Saviour, his perfect Rule, which he himself composed, to keep forever until your lives’ end under the preeminence of our Blessed Lady, her service alone [that is, the Sermo angelicus and the Cantus sororum] to read and to sing as her special servants and daughters […].]

In 1519 the work was printed by Wynkyn de Worde at the request of the steward of Syon, Sir Richard Sutton, who, according to the colophon, claimed he had found the manu­script by itself in a dusty corner of the monastery and had it printed for the benefit of ‘many relygyous and deuoute soules’ [‘of many religious and devout souls’].58 As this address suggests, by the sixteenth century, the Syon community (or readers of Syon Abbey’s texts) seems to have grown beyond the confines of the monastery. From the outset, the translator has carefully organized and set out the text with an eye to assisting its readers, who were, at the time of composition, the enclosed sisters: ‘Þis book of reuelaciouns 56 

The dating of the Orcherd is based on the early dates of two of the three surviving manu­ scripts (London, British Library, MS Harley 3432 and Cam­bridge, St John’s College, MS C.25) and from the wording of the Middle English Prologue addressed to the abbess and sisters ‘clepid & chosen bisily to laboure at the hous of Syon’ [‘called and selected to work busily at the house of Syon’]; see The Orcherd of Syon, ed. by Hodgson and Liegey, pp. v, vii, and 1. 57  The Orcherd of Syon, ed. by Hodgson and Liegey, pp. vii and 1. 58  The Orcherd of Syon, ed. by Hodgson and Liegey, p. v. Sutton, one of the founders of Brasenose College, Oxford, was steward of Syon from 1513. See Here begynneth the orcharde of Syon in the whiche is conteyned the reuelacyons of seynt [sic] Katheryne of Sene, with ghostly fruytes [and] precyous plantes for the helthe of mannes soule (London: Wynkyn de Worde, 1519), STC 4815.

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as for ȝoure goostly cumfort to ȝou I clepe it a fruytful orcherd’ [‘This book of revelations is intended for your spiritual well-being; for you I call it a productive orchard’].59 Within the allegorical framework of the orchard, the translator created seven sections each with five chapters (which he outlines in detail in a calendar following the prologue), resulting in an orchard with thirty-five alleys in which the nuns are invited, when they wish to be spiritually consoled to imagine they are strolling and picking both fruit and herbs. His metaphor of reading as tasting or eating and of meditation as chewing is a traditional monastic one, and one that is also found in The Myroure and other Syon texts.60 In his prologue the translator urges readers first to ‘assaye & serche þe hool orcherd’ [‘inspect and search through the whole orchard’], or, in actual fact, to read carefully the book as a whole and then come back, as they wished, to particular parts, ‘o tyme in oon, anoþir tyme in anoþir’ [‘one time in one, another time in another’] — here the discrete divisions would be helpful as finding aids (as well as memory devices). In a second prologue he also cautions that in the ‘goostly orcherd’ [‘spiritual orchard’] as he gathered ‘delitable fruyt’ [‘delectable fruit’] he came upon ‘full bittire wedis. Bittir & soure þei been to taste, but profitable to knowe’ [‘very bitter weeds. Although they are unpleasant and sour, it is worthwhile to know them’]. These weeds, he continues, ‘I purpose to sette among good fruyt. not for feedynge, but to ȝoure knowing’ [‘I intend to place among the good fruit, not for the purpose of eating, but for your detection’]; that is, to assist the sisters in recognizing ‘eny gostli enemye’ [‘any spiritual enemy’] who might try to impede their path to grace.61 He, like the author of The Myroure, clearly must have had confidence in their ability to discern, that is, know what is good or useful to their spiritual development, as he, with the true humility of a religious, asks for their prayers and that they ‘recommend’ him in their ‘gostli exercise’ [‘spiritual devotions’] to the Virgin Mary. Also, following the paradigm for contemplatives — reading, prayer, and meditaton as steps leading to the possibility of the grace of contemplation — the translator, in concluding, encourages the nuns to move from ‘bisye & ofte redyng’ to ‘meditacioun & inward þinkyng’ to ‘deuoute preiinge’ [‘intensive and frequent reading, to meditation and silent thinking, to fervent praying’], so that eventually they ‘mowe ascende bi liȝt of contemplacioun to holy desires & parfiȝt loue 59 

mine). 60  61 

The Orcherd of Syon, ed. by Hodgson and Liegey, ‘The Translator’s Prologue’, p. 1 (italics The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt; see, for example, pp. 23, 40. The Orcherd of Syon, ed. by Hodgson and Liegey, ‘Prolog’, p. 16.

‘To yowr gostly comforte and proffite’


of God’ [‘may through the light of contemplation [that is, through the agency of grace] ascend to spiritual longing and the perfect love of God’].62 Just as the steward of Syon took advantage of the medium of print to bring The Orcherd to ‘relygyous and deuoute soules’ [‘those in religious orders and other devout souls’] for their benefit and ‘conforte’ [‘well-being’], so others at Syon recognized the value of print in making key devotional texts more readily available for the nuns themselves, and for lay people wishing to follow a more spiritual life.63 By this time, the actual practice of reading seems to have become something that was taken for granted, and with the growing religious tensions as the turbulent years of the sixteenth century approached, Syon was quick to realize the potential of printing as a viable means of maintaining their position of orthodoxy. Even before this, Abbess Elizabeth Gibbs (c. 1497–1518) had become associated with the commissioning of printed books, as a woodcut bearing the initials ‘E’ ‘G’ bound by a knot under the figure of St Birgitta, who is seated at a desk receiving divine dictation, suggests.64 Later, in 1530, Abbess 62 

The Orcherd of Syon, ed. by Hodgson and Liegey, p. 421. In the past, such works would have been copied by hand, and Syon Abbey was one of the first monastic houses to recognize the value of being able to produce multiple copies of the printed text. There is a telling note in Richard Whitford’s A dayly exercise and experience of dethe (London: J. Waylande, 1537), STC 25414, in which he explains that he wrote the work more than twenty years earlier at the request of Abbess Gibbs (d. 1518) for the nuns, but that lately he has been ‘compelled (by the charytable instance and request of dyuers deuout persones) to wryte it agayne and agayne. And bycause that wrytynge vnto me is very tedyouse, I thought better to put it in print’ [‘compelled (by the kind entreaties and requests of various devout people) to write it over and over again. And because I find writing very tedious, I thought it would be better to put it in print’] (sig. A. iv). This work may also have been printed in 1534? and 1538? by Robert Redman, respectively STC 25413.7 and 25415, but no copies seem to have survived. 64  See Edward Hodnett, English Woodcuts, 1480–1535 (Oxford: Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press, 1935; repr. with additions and corrections, 1973), no. 1349, p. 323. This woodcut accompanies the 1516 print by Richard Pynson of The Lyfe of Seynt Birgette, which is printed alongside another collection of saints’ lives; see Here begynneth the kalendre of the newe legende of Englande (London: Richard Pynson, 1516), STC 4602; see also ‘The Lyfe of Seynt Birgette: An Edition of a Swedish Saint’s Life for an English Audience’, ed. by Ann M. Hutchison and Veronica O’Mara, in Booldly bot Meekly: Essays on the Theory and Practice of Translation in the Middle Ages in Honour of Roger Ellis, ed. by René Tixier and Catherine Batt, The Medi­eval Translator/ Traduire au Moyen Âge, 14 (Turnhout: Brepols, forthcoming). This woodcut, with the border reversed so that the ‘E’ ‘G’ is backwards, also occurs, for example, in the 1526 (but not the 1531) print of William Bonde’s Pylgrimage of Perfection; see Here begynneth a deuout treatyse in Englysshe, called the Pylgrimage of perfection very p[ro]fitable for all christen people to rede: and in especiall, to all religious p[er]sons moche necessary (London: Richarde Pynson, 1526), STC 3277; and A deuoute treatyse in Englysshe, called the Pilgrymage of perfeccyon very profitable for 63 


Ann M. Hutchison

Agnes Jordan (1520–46) and Confessor General John Fewterer (d. 1536) were responsible for the printing of The Myroure.65 Although, as I have pointed out, this was a work written about a century earlier specifically for the nuns — like The Orcherd, which dates from about the same time — a wider readership seems to have been envisioned for this version. At least, in the case of The Myroure, its printer, Richard Fawkes, cherished this hope, for the colophon at the end of Part ii reads: ‘Very necessary for all relygyous persones and other good deuoute people’ [‘Important for all persons in religious orders and other seriously devout people’].66 A number of printed editions survive, some with marginal comments or underlinings, suggesting Fawkes had indeed gauged the mood of the time. Other members of Syon Abbey also had works printed for the nuns, but also with an eye on a broader community. In 1499 Wynkyn de Worde printed The Lyfe of St Jerome, a compilation by Simon Wynter (d. 1448), a deacon of Syon and the only fifteenth-century Syon author whose name can with certainty be attached to a devotional work, written in the 1420s or 1430s for Margaret, duchess of Clarence (d. 1439), who as a widow had been given permission to live near Syon.67 In the next year (1500) Thomas Betson’s (d. 1516) Ryght Profytable Treatyse was printed by de Worde for an audience ‘that ben come & shall come to relygyon’ [‘which includes those in religious orders and those intending to become so’].68 Another brother, William Bonde (d. 1530), wrote a treatise specifically for his sisters in religion, Pylgrimage of Perfection, claiming that ‘the ende of religion […] be the lyfe contemplatyue’ [‘the goal of

all christen people to rede: … The auctour of this present treatyse hath added vnto it the exposicyon of the Aue and the Crede. … (London: Wynkyn de Worde, 1531), STC 3278; another woodcut with the ‘E’ ‘G’, this time not reversed, is found in Richard Fawkes’s 1530 print of The Myroure of Oure Ladye (STC 17542). For information on Syon’s woodcuts, see Martha W. Driver, The Image in Print: Book Illustration in Late Medi­eval England and its Sources (London: British Library, 2004), p. 149. 65  Here after folowith the boke callyd the myrroure of Oure Ladye very necessary for all relygyous persons (London: Richarde Fawkes, 1530). STC 17542. 66  The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. by Blunt, p. 291. 67  The catalogue number of this edition is STC 14508; see Simon Wynter, The fyrst chapitre is the lyf of saint Ierom as it is take of legenda aurea The second is of his lyf also as saint austyn wryteth … (Westminster: Wynkyn de Worde, 1499?). For Wynter see also above, n. 33. 68  Quoted in Vincent Gillespie, ‘1412–1534: Culture and History’, in The Cam­bridge Com­panion to Medi­eval English Mysticism, ed. by Samuel Fanous and Vincent Gillespie (Cam­ bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2011), pp. 163–94 (p. 185). The catalogue number is STC 1978.

‘To yowr gostly comforte and proffite’


religion […] is the contemplative life’]69 which, as Jan Rhodes notes, marked a high point in ‘late medi­e val teaching on the religious life’.70 This was first printed by Pynson in 1526, but it was reprinted in 1531, a year after Bonde’s death, by Wynkyn de Worde.71 By far the most prolific brother of this late period, however, was Richard Whitford (d. 1543?), one of the cadre of Cam­bridge academics who came to Syon in the early sixteenth century; he was a humanist who had studied in Paris and was a friend of Thomas More and Desiderius Erasmus. In the 1520s he prepared a number of translations for the community and wrote for the devotional needs of the laity.72 He was also very aware of the need for rear-guard action to combat what he terms ‘these newe fangle persones’ [‘those who are not orthodox’] who ‘write newe oppinions’ [‘adopt reformist positions’] and in so doing ‘corrupt the high religion of all religions’, that is, the orthodox Catholic religion.73 For this task, in 1532, on the eve of Henry VIII’s break with Rome, he organized the printing of a work he had written ‘yeres ago’ [‘years ago’] for a ‘Good deuout religious doughter’ [‘Good, sincere woman in a religious order’]


See William Bonde, Here begynneth a deuout treatyse in Englysshe, called the Pylgrimage of perfection, fol. 72v, passim; STC 3277–78. 70  J. T. Rhodes, ‘Syon Abbey and its Religious Publications in the Sixteenth Century’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 44 (1993), 11–25 (p. 22). 71  De Worde on two occasions tells the reader that the text has been ‘amended in dyuerse places where as faute was’ [‘corrected in various places where errors were [found]’] and again that ‘the hole treatyse of the pilgrymage of perfeccyon the whiche hath ben of late diligently correcte[d]’ [‘the entire treatise of The Pylgrimage of Perfection which has recently been carefully corrected’], indicating the importance Syon attached to producing texts that were correct, as well as useful; see William Bonde, A deuoute treatyse in Englysshe, called the Pilgrymage of perfeccyon … (London: Wynkyn de Worde, 1531), fol. CC.xcvii verso; and fol. CCC.viii recto. 72  Richard Whitford translated the Syon Martiloge; see The martiloge in englysshe after the vse of the chirche os salisbury [and] as it is redde in Syon, with addicyons (London: Wynkyn de Worde, 1526), STC 17532; the Rule of St Augustine with the commentary by Hugues de Saint-Victor, see Richard Whitford, The rule of saynt Augustyne, bothe in latyn and englysshe […] (London: Wynkyn de Worde, [1525]), STC 922.3; also [1527], STC 922.4; and writings attributed to St Bernard de Clairvaux, in particular The Golden Epistle found bound with some early sixteenth-century versions of The following of Christ. 73  Richard Whitford, Here begynneth the boke called the Pype, or tonne, of the lyfe of perfection […] (London: Robert Redman, 1532), fol. [i] verso; STC 25421. There is also a facsimile; see Richard Whitford, Richard Whytford’s ‘The Pype or Tonne of the Lyfe of Perfection’, ed. by James Hogg, Salzburg Studies in English Literature: Elizabethan and Renaissance Studies, 89, 5 vols (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, 1979–89).

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and her ‘systers’ [‘sisters’], The Pype, or Tonne, of the Lyfe of Perfection.74 In this version he provides an explicit subtitle, ‘A worke of the thre vowes of religion contrary vnto the great Heretikes Lutheranes moch profitable vnto religious persones’ [‘A composition describing the three vows of religious life, which opposes the great Lutheran heretics, and is of great benefit to those in religious orders’]. To underline the work’s orthodoxy, he clearly acknowledges his authorship, ‘gathered by a brother of Syon Rycharde Whytforde’ [‘brought together/ composed by a brother of Syon Abbey, Richard Whitford’].75 The work aims to guide those living the religious life to a life of monastic perfection by reminding them of the importance of their monastic vows and of correctly maintaining the way of life they have chosen. Like other Syon authors whose works we have considered, Whitford organized his treatise around a central metaphor as signalled by the title, but, with typical modesty, he points out that the metaphor and its implications, which in due course he carefully explains, are based on ‘the authorite of holy doctours’ [‘authority of holy doctors’].76 If we think of the origin of the Birgittine Order when Birgitta hears Christ tell her he wishes to establish a new vineyard which ‘shal be fulfyllid with wyne aldirbest’ [‘shall be filled with the best of all wines’],77 Whitford’s metaphor comparing the life of perfection to ‘a plesaunt precious & holsome wyne contayned preserued and kept in a pype or tonne’ [‘a pleasing, highly prized and nourishing wine, contained, preserved and protected in a cask or barrel for preserving wine’] is completely fitting.78 In concluding his confident, and at times moving, defence of the monastic life, Whitford maintained that this ‘vessel’, that is, the monastic life, was ‘moste apte and moste conuenient to preserue this precious wyne of the lyfe or state of perfection’ [‘most fitting and most suitable to safeguard this precious wine of the life or state of perfection’].79 These words could not be more appropriate, given the political situation in which the world of the


Richard Whitford, The Pype, or Tonne, of the Lyfe of Perfection, fol. ii recto. Richard Whitford, The Pype, or Tonne, of the Lyfe of Perfection, fol. ii recto. 76  Richard Whitford, The Pype, or Tonne, of the Lyfe of Perfection, fol. ii recto. The ‘pype’ or ‘tonne’ refers to the barrel in which wine is stored, and Whitford uses the actual makeup of the barrel, which he carefully explains, as well as the quality of the wine it contains, as a metaphor for the life in religion, or in the monastery, that is, the life of an orthodox Catholic nun. 77  The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure, ed. by Hogg, p. 4. 78  Richard Whitford, The Pype, or Tonne, of the Lyfe of Perfection, fol. ii recto. 79  Richard Whitford, The Pype, or Tonne, of the Lyfe of Perfection, fol. ccxxxv recto. 75 

‘To yowr gostly comforte and proffite’


contemplatives found themselves, and as its long, unbroken history shows, the message they contained was clearly absorbed by the Syon community.80 As Veronica O’Mara has so clearly demonstrated in the first volume of this series, in England there is very little evidence concerning the literacy and learning of girls and women, and even less for that of nuns. 81 In the past this has led scholars to judge English nuns to be inferior to those of other European countries. More recently, however, and especially since scholars such as David Bell — whose work on surviving books of English nunneries has shed some welcome light on the literacy of nuns — earlier, rather negative views, are being reappraised.82 In the case of Syon Abbey, where the nuns were enclosed and were expected to spend the majority of their time in contemplative activity, a part of which included the reading of appropriate books, literacy, especially amongst the choir sisters, was clearly taken for granted. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, it is noteworthy that in an Order in which poverty is stressed and in which personal possessions are strictly limited, the nuns were encouraged to have as many devotional works for study as they wished.83 Over the years of its pre-Reformation existence, a number of works were written or translated for the nuns, many by the priest-brothers, or deacons, of the Order and some by the Carthusians. By the sixteenth-century, many of these were directed specifically to helping the nuns recognize the importance of monastic life, and very often such works were written at the request of the nuns themselves for reassurance just as their way of life was coming under attack. In fact, some of the more intellectually demanding works were being written in the 1530s, at the very time that the monasteries were being closed down and as nuns were on the 80  In 2015, celebrations were held to mark the 600th Anniversary of the founding of Syon Abbey by Henry V in 1415. The nuns who then remained had moved from the monastery, but the Order and Syon Abbey continue to be officially recognized as long as the Office is being recited. Typically, as one might expect of the Order, the former abbess, Sister Anne Smyth, O.Ss.S. organized and assisted with the preparation of a modern English translation of the Bridgettine Office for 2015; see Daily Office of Our Lady: The Syon Breviary, trans. and set to music by Rev. Brian Foley, with a preface by Sister Anne Smyth, O.Ss.S. (Nazareth House, Plymouth: The Bridgettine Sisters, 2015). 81  See Veronica O’Mara, ‘The Late Medi­e val English Nun and her Scribal Activity: A Complicated Quest’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 26 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 69–93 (pp. 69–73 and passim). 82  See David N. Bell, What Nuns Read: Books and Libraries in Medi­eval English Nunneries, Cistercian Studies Series, 158 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian, 1995). 83  See n. 15 above.


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point of vanishing from England. Though some houses were briefly re-established in the reign of Queen Mary (1553–58), English nuns were next seen on the Continent in Spanish Flanders, in France and later in Portugal, and so strong was their heritage from the ‘old order’ that in each case these continental houses were establishments in which literacy was prized.

Sitting between Two Sisters: Reading Holy Writ in a Community of Tertiaries in Sint-Agnes, Amersfoort Sabrina Corbellini U heylige lesse staet tusschen haer twee susteren: als tusschen aendachtelic overdenckynghe ende devote bedinghe. Dat is dattet selve datmen soe puntlic ende naerstelic studierende leest datmen oeck dat selve aendachtelic eercauwende zeer wel overdencken sel mit goeder matigher stadicheit, sonder overlopende haesticheit.1 [Your holy lesson, the lectio, stands between her two sisters: between focused meditation and devout prayer. This implies that you read with such concentration and attention to detail that you can ruminate and meditate on the same text with constancy and without any rush.]


ith these words, Jan de Wael, confessor of the community of SintAgnes in Amersfoort, summarizes his instructions on how to read the Holy Writ in Chapter 39 of his treatise Informieringheboeck der


The text is cited from the Informieringheboeck der jongen, preserved in Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fol. 144v. The codex, copied by Jan de Wael around 1510, contains only this text. References to the Informieringheboeck follow the original foliation by the scribe: the lengthy table of contents is foliated in Roman numerals (fols i–xvi) and the text is foliated in Arabic numerals (fols 1–159). In the transcriptions, the distinction between u and v, and i and j has been normalized according to modern practice and abbreviations have been expanded silently. Punctuation in the transcription follows modern standards, according to the syntax of the text. Jan de Wael cites Jean Gerson as author of this passage. An initial analysis of Gerson’s work (in particular of his vernacular treatises) has, however, not resulted in a clear source, although some similarities were found with passages in Gerson’s Montaigne de contemplation. See Jean Gerson: Oeuvres complètes, vii: L’oeuvre française, ed. by P. Glorieux (Paris: Desclée, 1966), pp. 16–55. Sabrina Corbellini ([email protected]) is Professor in the History of Reading in Premodern Europe at the Universiteit Groningen.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 83–97 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS



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jongen [Manual for the Young Ones]. Written around 1510, the treatise offers insight into the instruction and spiritual education of novices and young professed sisters in a community following the Third Rule of St  Francis in the Diocese of Utrecht (the Netherlands). The convent of Sint-Agnes, located in Amersfoort (nearby the episcopal seat of Utrecht), was founded in 1380 as a community of the Sisters of the Common Life (meaning that the sisters lived together without taking monastic vows), took the Third Rule of St Francis in 1399, and was enclosed some years later.2 Jan de Wael, confessor of the community between 1489 and 1531, describes his treatise as a manual that has the goal ‘te informieren ende te onderwysen’ [‘to inform and to instruct’] the novices and the young professed sisters. He states that it is based on his knowledge and skills gained during his long experience as confessor of the community. In forty chapters, he touches upon the most important aspects of communal life: the relationship between the novices and their mentors (‘spreecsusteren’ and ‘informiersterschen’), spiritual exercises, the importance of enclosure and monastic virtues, meditation techniques, and the difficult path to the ‘berch van contemplacien’ [‘mountain of contemplation’].3 In his meticulous descriptions, he nevertheless continuously 2 

For an overview of the contents of the Informieringheboeck der jongen, see Sabrina Corbellini, ‘The Manual for the Young Ones by Jan de Wael (1510): Pastoral Care for Religious Women in the Low Countries’, in A Companion to Pastoral Care in the Late Middle Ages (1200–1500), ed. by Ronald J. Stansbury, Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition, 22 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 389–411. The specific issue of the reading of Holy Writ is briefly sketched on pp. 405–06. Franciscan tertiaries in the Diocese of Utrecht did not belong to the sphere of influence of the Franciscans but were, along with the houses of the Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life and monasteries of Augustinian canons and canonesses, one of the manifestations of the Devotio mo­derna, a movement of spiritual revival that originated in the Netherlands at the end of the fourteenth century. Founded by Geert Grote (1340–84) in the 1370s, the movement was enthusiastically met by religious, clerics, and lay people alike. The beginning of the Devotio moderna movement and the diversity of its manifestations (communities of Sisters and Brothers of Common Life, living together without taking monastic vows; communities following the Third Rule of St Francis; communities of Augustinian canons and canonesses) is discussed by Charles Caspers, Daniela Muller, and Judith Kessler, ‘In the Eyes of Other: The Modern Devotion in Germany and the Netherlands: Influencing and Appropriating’, Church History and Religious Culture, 93 (2013), 489–503. A key publication for the study of the Third Order of St Francis is Hildo van Engen, De derde orde van Sint-Franciscus in het middeleeuwse bisdom Utrecht: een bijdrage tot de institutionele geschiedenis van de Moderne Devotie, Middeleeuwse Studies en Bronnen, 95 (Hilversum: Verloren, 2006). For a consideration of the role of tertiaries in this movement, see Alison More, ‘Religious Order and Textual Identity: The Case of Franciscan Tertiary Women’, in this volume. 3  Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fol. 17v, fol. xiiii verso. The term ‘moun-

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stresses one pivotal point: the importance of books and reading in the training of the young members of the community and in the formation of their spiritual lives. He not only describes in great detail which books the sisters are advised to read in their process of growth from novice to fully fledged members of the community and how the books can be used to stimulate the process of meditation, but he also explains how a specific category of books, Holy Writ, should be approached and read in order to discover and savour the riches of the Word.4 Jan de Wael’s description of specific techniques for the reading of Holy Writ forms the backbone of this essay, which will first describe and then contextualize the instructions given to the sisters in order to better understand and elucidate the particular importance given to learning the correct approach to the reading of the scriptures. It should, moreover, be stressed that the specific attention given by Jan de Wael to the systematic learning of religious reading techniques is exceptional in the Dutch and European panorama of treatises of pastoral care and spiritual education, and provides a unique insight into the role of religious literacy in a female monastic community.5 The analysis of the tain of contemplation’ is a reference to Jean Gerson’s work Montaigne de contemplation, written around 1400 (see n. 1). 4  The use of books in the Informieringheboeck has been discussed in Corbellini, ‘The Manual for the Young Ones by Jan de Wael (1510)’, pp. 398–405. For a general discussion of text and book cultures in communities of tertiaries, see Sabrina Corbellini, ‘Mannenregels voor een vrouwenwereld: de spirituele opvoeding van zusters in derde-orde-gemeenschappen’, Trajecta, 14 (2005), 177–92. For a recent overview of the relevance of reading and writing activities in communities under the sphere of influence of the Devotio moderna, see Wybren Scheepsma, Medi­eval Religious Women in the Low Countries: ‘The Modern Devotion’, the Canonesses of Windesheim and Their Writings, trans. by David F. Johnson (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2004), pp. 83–96, and Koen Goudriaan, ‘Empowerment through Reading, Writing and Example: The Devotio Moderna’, in The Cam­bridge History of Christianity, iv: Christianity in Western Europe, c. 1100–c. 1500, ed. by Miri Rubin and Walter Simons (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2009), pp. 405–19. 5  For an overview of the scholarship on religious reading techniques, see Margriet Hoog­ vliet, ‘Pour faires personnes entendre les hystoires des escriptures anciennes: Theoretical Approaches to a Social History of Religious Reading in French Vernaculars during the Late Middle Ages’, in Cultures of Religious Reading in the Late Middle Ages: Instructing the Soul, Feeding the Spirit and Awakening the Passion, ed. by Sabrina Corbellini, Utrecht Studies in Medi­e val Literacy, 25 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 247–74. See also Discovering the Riches of the Word: Religious Reading in Late Medi­eval and Early Modern Europe, ed. by Sabrina Corbellini, Margriet Hoogvliet, and Bart Ramakers, Intersections: Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Modern Culture, 38 (Brill: Leiden, 2015). Generally speaking, the question of reading techniques is seldom addressed in scholarship on medi­e val reading. The recent article by Céline Van Hoorebeeck,


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instructions given by Jan de Wael to the sisters of his community will hopefully offer a valuable context and background for the growing attention to female reading communities and the study of the role played by women in the formation and development of late medi­eval religious identities.6 As has thoroughly been described in previous publications, Jan de Wael devotes a complete chapter in his manual to the description of the books each sister is supposed to read and to study according to her knowledge, her intellectual faculties and abilities, her spiritual development, and her rank within the community.7 According to the confessor, the community consists of three groups (the beginners, the advanced, and the perfect), and each group is supposed to choose suitable readings that can help them in reaching the goals expected from each level or stage. The beginners are to focus on the value of enclosure; the advanced are supposed to concentrate on the purity of heart and on a virtuous life; and the perfect should learn to show ‘martelaersche lydsamheit’ [‘the patience of martyrs’], ‘prophetelicke gelove ende hoep’ [‘faith and hope of Old Testament prophets’], ‘joncfrouwelick zeedicheit ende cuusheit’ [‘purity and chastity of virgins’].8 The description of each stage is, moreover, characterized by the mention of specific scriptural books that, according to ‘Du livre au lire: lectures et lecteurs à l’épreuve des categorisations sociales’, in Lecteurs, lectures et groups sociaux au Moyen Âge, ed. by Xavier Hermand and others, Texte, Codex & Contexte, 17 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014), pp. 123–31, presents an excellent reflection on fundamental questions about ‘qui lit’ [‘who reads’] and ‘qui lit quoit’ [‘who reads what’], but pays virtually no attention to the question of ‘how’ the readers approach their texts. 6  Scholarly attention on this subject has been consistently growing in the last decades. For a discussion of publications until 2002, see Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, ‘Analytical Survey 5: “Reading is Good Prayer”: Recent Research on Female Reading Communities’, New Medi­eval Literatures, 5 (2002), 229–97. On female reading activities, see also D. H. Green, Women Readers in the Middle Ages (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2007), and Die Lesende Frau, ed. by Gabriela Signori, Wolfenbütteler Forschungen, 121 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2009). 7  Corbellini, ‘The Manual for the Young Ones by Jan de Wael (1510)’, pp. 398–400, and Sabrina Corbellini, ‘Een oude spiegel voor nieuwe maagden: het gebruik van het “Speculum virginium” in gemeenschappen van tertiarissen’, Ons Geestelijk Erf, 80 (2009), 171–98 (pp. 186–88). 8  Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fols 61v–62r; Corbellini, ‘The Manual for the Young Ones by Jan de Wael (1510)’, p. 400. The books indicated by Jan de Wael were, according to the confessor, all kept in the convent library and at the disposal of the sisters. For studies about book ownership and libraries in communities of tertiaries, see Corbellini, ‘Mannenregels voor een vrouwenwereld’; Antheun Janse, ‘Het religieuze leven in het Grote convent te Doesburg’, Ons Geestelijk Erf, 74 (2000), 84–104; Lydeke van Beek, ‘“Ten love Godes ende tot salicheit der susteren”: kopiist Peter Zwaninc (d. 1493) en de boekcultuur bij de tertiarissen van Weesp in de tweede helft van de vijftiende eeuw’, Ons Geestelijk Erf, 79 (2008), 51–81.

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Jan de Wael, are particularly suited to each stage of development: the beginners should read the gospels; the advanced should concentrate on the Epistles of Paul, James, Peter, and John; and the perfect should find inspiration in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Apocalypse, all in the vernacular translations by Johannes Scutken, a cleric of Windesheim, a community of canons regular that belonged to the Devotio moderna movement.9 As Jan de Wael describes in his treatise, both communal and private reading activities of the scriptures were performed in the convent of Sint-Agnes. In the prologue to the Informieringheboeck (fols iiv–iiir), Jan de Wael includes a summary of a treatise on table reading (Ordyne van ter tafel te lezen) that he has written for his community.10 As he explains in an overview, the importance of the performance of table reading for the community cannot be overestimated. It should be a treasured, valued, and precious activity, which can combine physical and spiritual nourishment and bear fruits for the listeners, as godly wisdom resides in the scriptures.11 Jan also discusses the relevance of the function of ‘leestersche der heyligher scrift’ [‘the reader of the Holy Writ’; the cantrix] and how the function she fulfils should be interpreted as ‘goddienstighe werck’ [‘work in the service of God’].12 9 

Johannes Scutken probably translated the New Testament between 1387 and 1391. The emphasis on the reading of the New Testament and the apparent absence of Old Testament reading (although the oldest sisters are explicitly advised to find their inspiration in Old Testament prophets) is a characteristic feature of vernacular Bible reading in the medi­e val Low Countries (and in Europe). Regarding this, see Sabrina Corbellini, Mart van Duijn, Suzan Folkerts, and Margriet Hoogvliet, ‘Challenging the Paradigms: Holy Writ and Lay Readers in Late Medi­eval Europe’, Church History and Religious Culture, 93 (2013), 171–88. At least one manu­script with the ownership mark of the convent of Sint-Agnes in Amersfoort and containing New Testament material has been preserved (Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, MS BPL 2706; with a passage from the translation of Johannes Scutken concerning the Last Supper, the passion, and the resurrection of Christ). On Johannes Scutken and the discussion about his authorship of the Middle Dutch New Testament, see Suzan Folkerts, ‘The Cloister or the City? The Appropriation of the New Testament by Lay Readers in an Urban Setting’, in Cultures of Religious Reading in the Late Middle Ages, ed. by Sabrina Corbellini, Utrecht Studies in Medi­ eval Literacy, 25 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 175–99 (pp. 177–79). 10  The treatise is now lost. 11  Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fol. iii verso. Jan de Wael makes a clear distinction in his treatise between communal and private reading activities: ‘om goet willich te wesen ter tafel gaerne te lesen of anders waer ende oec alleen te studieren’ (Haarlem, Stads­ bibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fol. 67r) [‘to be ready to take part in table reading or in other places and also to study alone’]. 12  Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fol. iii verso. The statutes of the Chapter of


Sabrina Corbellini

The centrality of the biblical text, a common theme in the religious education of the sisters, does not, however, rule out the necessity of approaching the text carefully and with a solid background, especially taking into consideration the fact that Jan de Wael also refers in his manual to individual reading activities which each sister should perform in the time dedicated to study and meditation, and thus without direct supervision of the confessor.13 According to Jan, it is ‘van grote noet […] dat de jongen weeten hoe dat sy die heilighe schriften verstaen moeghen. Als mit oetmoedighe vraghinghe van anderen senyoiren ende naerstighe studieringhe der cleynen sympele materien sonder ydele curioesheit’ [‘indispensable […] that the young know how they must interpret the scriptures, that is, by humbly asking other experienced sisters for help and through a painstaking study of small and simple matters without vain curiosity’].14 The learning of this attitude should give the sisters a better understanding of the text, train them for the production of careful copies of the scriptures, and help them to transform reading into an exercise in prayer and meditation. Starting his lessons in biblical readership, Jan de Wael stresses to what extent the scriptures themselves invite the readers to access the text. He refers, for example, to Moses’s deeds in the book of Exodus when the latter asks ‘den kijnderen van Israel dat sy naerstelic horen sullen ende onthouden die gheboden Utrecht contain no specific prescriptions for table reading. The only reference to this activity can be found in the chapter ‘Van den swighen’ [‘About Silence’]. The sisters are requested to keep silent during meals, ‘als men leest’ [‘during table reading’]. See David de Kok, Bijdragen tot de geschiedenis der Nederlandse Klarissen en Tertiarissen vóór de Hervorming (Utrecht: Kemink & Zoon, 1927), pp. 112–13. Concerning table reading in female communities affiliated to the Chapter of Windesheim, see Carine Lingier, ‘“Hongerich na den worden Godes”: Reading to the Community in Women’s Convents of the Modern Devotion’, in Lesen, Schreiben, Sticken und Erinnern: Beiträge zur Kultur- und Sozialgeschichte mittelalterlicher Frauenklöster, ed. by Gabriela Signori, Religion in der Geschichte: Kirche, Kultur und Gesellschaft, 7 (Bielefeld: Verlag für Regionalgeschichte, 2000), pp. 123–47. 13  Interestingly enough, in the decisions taken by the Chapter of Utrecht — the central organization of communities following the Third Rule of St Francis — for the year 1437, a prohibition of ownership of Old Testament and Apocalypse manu­scripts, as well as of vernacular breviaries, was announced: ‘Ordinatum, quod hi libri removendi sunt de conventibus, scilicet textus Vetus Testamenti, Apocalypsis, et de cetero fratres et sorores non facient breviaria teutonicalia scribi’ [‘(It has been) ordered that these books should be removed from the convents, to know the Old Testament, Apocalypse, and further that the brothers and the sisters did not have vernacular breviaries copied’]. See Kok, Bijdragen tot de geschiedenis, pp. 120–21. In the Informieringheboeck, however, there are no traces of this prohibition, and the sisters are stimulated to engage in reading and copying activities concerning the scriptures. 14  Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fol. 143r.

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des heren ende scriven dien in haer herten als in een boeck’ [‘the children of Israel to listen diligently to the Lord’s commandments and to write them in their hearts as in a book’] and subsequently to teach them to their own children and stimulate them ‘om daer na te vraghen om beth te begrijpen of te verstaen ende volcoemelicker dien te volbrengen’ [‘to ask questions about them in order to better understand and appreciate and to fulfil them’]. Fundamental in this process is the respect for the spirit of the scriptures, which implies refraining from personal interpretation and from ‘keeren of dreyen of exponieren’ [‘twisting or distorting or interpreting’], betraying the meaning attributed to the text by the Holy Spirit.15 After citing biblical evidence, Jan de Wael turns to Devotio moderna textual sources to reinforce his point on books and reading. Citing Thomas a Kempis’s De imitatione Christi, in particular from the chapter ‘De lectione scriptu­ rarum’ [‘On Reading Scripture’], the sisters are reminded that they should read ‘sympele boecken van devote materien’ [‘unpretentious books on devout subjects’] rather than ‘tractaten van hoghen subtijlen materien’ [‘treatises on highly complicated matters’]. They should, moreover, pay no attention to the background and the bio­g raphy of the author of the text and whether he is a ‘groet hoghe subtijl leeraer […] of een mensche van cleynre clergien’ [‘a highly qualified and sophisticated teacher […] or a barely literate person’], as human beings are mortal but the written truth is eternal.16 These instructions, which are supposed to help the young sisters develop a specific habit in order to approach the biblical text in the correct way, are followed by more practical instructions on how to engage in the act of reading. In this description, a very strong emphasis is put on the recognition and the interpretation of punctuation and paratextual elements that frame the text and lead the reader towards a correct interpretation.17 Jan de Wael minutely describes 15 

Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fol. 143v. Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fols 143v–144r. It is not clear whether Jan de Wael cites and translates directly from Thomas a Kempis’s Latin text of the De imitatione Christi or if he draws from the Middle Dutch translation. For the Latin text, see De imitatione Christi: libri quatuor, ed. by Tiburzio Lupo, Storia e Attualità, 6 (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1982), p. 19. For the Middle Dutch text, see De Middelnederlandse verta­ling van De imitatione Christi (Qui sequitur), ed. by C. C. de Bruin (Leiden: Brill, 1954), p. 63. 17  The strong stress on paratextual elements is a clear reference to the individual or private readership of the text. The term ‘paratext’ is first used by Gerard Genette, Paratexts: Tresholds of Interpretation (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 1997). On medi­eval punctuation, see Johan Peter Gumbert, ‘Zur “Typo­graphie” der geschriebenen Seite’, in Pragmatische Schrift­ 16 


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the paratextual elements that the readers will find in their manu­scripts and explains their meaning and function during the act of reading: Mer als sy eenyghe boecken studieren willen, soe sullen sy zeer naerstelic aenmercken dat prologen ende voerschrijfte of vergulacien der tractaten of capittelen ende voert die achter ronde paragraffen ende driekant hanghende virgulen mit die capittelen letterkens ende alle die cleynen puntkens ende stipkens of scrapkens die daer gheteykent sijn. Want een yghelicke van die voerghenoemde teyken dienen wonderlicke wel om volcomelic te verstaen ende te begripen alle dat daer soe geschreven of ghestudiert wert.18 [But if they want to study some of the books, they should pay great attention to the prologues, the introductions, and forewords of treatises and chapters, and then the round para­graph marks and the triangular para­graph marks, with the capital letters and all the dots, spots, and specks that are used. Because all of the mentioned signs function perfectly to understand fully everything that is written and studied there.]

He then explains how to visualize the system he has just described: Want die prologhe of vergulacien voer die boecken of capittelen sijn als een sloetel overmits welcke doet men op openbaerlic teffens alle dat in die kiste of screne, trysoer of cantoer is. Mer die paragraffen sijn als een onderscheydinghe der boenkens of kaskens die daer in sijn ende die virghelen sijn als die laykens die in de boenkens sijn. Mer die capitaelen letterkens sijn als een yeghelicke clennoette of buelken die in die laykens syn ende die puntkens, stipkens of scrapkens sijn als een onderscheyt van yghelicke sonderlinghe penninghe die in die bulen sijn.19 lichkeit im Mittelalter: Erscheinungsformen und Entwicklungsstufen, ed. by Hagen Keller and others, Münsterische Mittelalter-Schriften, 65 (München: Fink, 1992), pp. 283–92; M. B. Parkes, Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West (Aldershot: Scolar, 1992); and Johan Peter Gumbert, ‘Hilft Interpunktion neuen Lesern?’, Amsterdamer Beiträge für älteren Germanistik, 47 (1997), 149–53. On the interpretation of punctuation for the reconstruction of reading activities, see Nigel F. Palmer, ‘Manu­scripts for Reading: The Material Evidence for the Use of Manu­scripts Containing Middle High German Narrative Verse’, in Orality and Literacy in the Middle Ages: Essays on a Conjunction and its Consequences in Honour of D. H. Green, ed. by Mark Cincha, Utrecht Studies in Medi­eval Literacy, 12 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005), pp. 67–102. 18  Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fol. 144r. 19  Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fol. 144r. See also Corbellini, ‘The Manual for the Young Ones by Jan de Wael (1510)’, p. 406. In his description of this process of visualization linked to paratextual elements and book design, Jan de Wael follows a tradition that is noticeably present in texts written for communities of tertiaries. In the Jhesus Collacien, a fifteenthcentury series of sermons and meditations, the anonymous author refers twice to books, paratextual elements, and book design as starting points for the meditations. The sisters are asked,

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[Because prologues or forewords in books and chapters are like keys which should be used to open up and to find everything that is hidden inside chests, desks, secretaries, and cabinets. Round para­graphs can be compared to chest of drawers or caskets inside the cabinets; and the triangular para­graph marks are the drawers in the chests. Capital letters are like the objects or bags in the drawers and dots and spots help to mark and to select every single coin, which is kept therein.]

It is important to state that this description of paratextual features (prologues, round and triangular para­graph marks, capital letters, points and dots) is unique in the wide panorama of vernacular literature for female religious in the medi­ eval Low Countries. It does not focus on punctuation as such, but it describes the system of indicators used to mark the hierarchy and the organization of the text and stresses the importance of understanding the function of paratextual elements in the process of the reading and interpretation of the biblical text. The system described by Jan de Wael is, moreover, consistent with the layout of vernacular gospel manu­scripts circulating in the medi­eval Low Countries, and especially in communities of tertiaries. As a matter of fact, as Suzan Folkerts has recently shown, the manu­scripts present a wide array of paratextual elements that had the specific function of guiding the individual readers in the active use of the text, either in the context of paraliturgical reading or for personal study and meditation.20 Interestingly enough, Folkerts states that gospel manu­ scripts from communities of tertiaries ‘held complete [New Testaments] in the Vulgate’s order’, as opposed to the dominant presence of vernacular lectionaries in communities of Augustinian canonesses.21 The presence of the complete text made different reading approaches possible: as lectionaries, through the addition of tables; continuous readership; discontinuous readership through the selection of pericopes introduced by rubrics and marked by para­graph marks; or in as study books, through the addition of the Eusebian concordance system.22

for example, to look at open choir books on the lectern and to interpret the golden capitals as Christ’s wounds, the red ink as his blood, the notes as the signs of his scourging, and the seventy-two red markers as the blood from the seventy-two wounds on Christ’s head. For an edition and a study, see Jhesus Collacien: een laatmiddeleeuwse prekenbundel uit de kringen der tertiarissen, ed. by Anna Maria Baaij, Zwolse drukken en herdrukken voor de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde te Leiden, 40 (Zwolle: Tjeenk Willink, 1962), p. 211. 20  Folkerts, ‘The Cloister or the City?’, pp. 184–88. 21  Folkerts, ‘The Cloister or the City?’, p. 193. 22  Folkerts, ‘The Cloister or the City?’, p. 193. On the Eusebian concordance system, see Folkerts, ‘The Cloister or the City?’, p. 188.

Sabrina Corbellini


The focus on layout and paratextual activities should also constitute the leading principle in case the biblical text is copied by the sisters, either in its complete form or in the form of excerpts. Jan de Wael advises the sisters to copy the books in a correct, accurate, and clear manner, to look carefully to their exemplar, and to copy without haste to ensure nothing is forgotten. The importance of preserving the integrity of the text is paramount, and only one who refrains from cutting and forgetting will be rewarded by God and by her future readers, who will study her work carefully and will pray for her soul.23 In these words resounds the preoccupation expressed by medi­e val Bible translators, who explicitly ask the scribes to follow the exemplar faithfully in order to preserve the text from deterioration, often leading, especially in the case of vernacular Bible translations, to wrongful interpretation. In this respect the prologue added by the so-called ‘Bijbelvertaler van 1360’ [‘Bible translator of 1360’] to his translation is exemplary: Ende soe wie hier namaels uut desen boeke enen anderen scryven wilt, hi moet naerstelijc merken ende hem wachten dat hine scryve alsoe dese gheordineert es of hi soude dwerc seer blameren ende sijn pine verliesen.24


Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fol. 144v. Jan de Wael mentions also explicitly that sisters should learn to write (fol. 60v). Attention to the correctness of texts in manu­scripts circulating in communities of tertiaries is also stated in the statutes of the Chapter of Utrecht in the para­g raph about the ‘bewaerder der boecken’ [‘keeper of the books’]. The minister is asked to check that ‘sij terechte gecorrigeert worden’ [‘they [the books] are well corrected’] and to prevent the copy of books ‘dije vreemde wise hebben in woerden off daer dwalinge in staet off dije nijet wel overgeset en sijn’ [‘that contain unusual words and unorthodox ideas or that are not accurately translated’]; see Kok, Bijdragen tot de geschiedenis, p. 108. There is no in-depth and systematic study of scribal activities in convents of tertiaries, although research into manu­scripts that can be attributed to convents of tertiaries confirm that scribal activities and decoration of manu­scripts could be included in the daily routine of the sisters. See, for example, P. J. Margry, ‘Het Katharijneconvent te Heusden: een onderzoek naar het boekenbezit en boekengebruik van een tertiarissenconvent in de late middeleeuwen’, Ons Geestelijk Erf, 60 (1986), 148–203 (pp. 183–97), and Margriet Hülsmann, ‘Gedecoreerde handschriften uit tertiarissenconventen in Amsterdam en Haarlem: boekenbezit versus boekproductie’, Ons Geestelijk Erf, 74 (2000), 153–80. 24  The so-called ‘Bible Translator of 1360’, possibly a Carthusian monk from the charterhouse of Herne (near Brussels), was responsible for the Middle Dutch translation of the Old Testament, drawing from the Vulgate and from Petrus Comestor’s Historia scholastica. The same Carthusian monk was responsible for the Middle Dutch translation of the Legenda aurea and of Cassianus’s Collationes patrum. On the translator, see Mikel Kors, De Bijbel voor leken: Studies over Petrus Naghel en de Historiebijbel van 1361, Publications de l’Encyclopédie Bénédic-

Sitting between Two Sisters


[And whoever wants to copy a book from this one, has to be very careful and take care to write following the same layout [he refers in particular to use of black and red ink to separate the biblical text from the glosses], otherwise the translation will be flawed and his efforts wasted.]

After having described the importance of reading and copying the scriptures — which according to the personal, spiritual, and emotional situation of the sisters can be interpreted as work of penance (‘[werck] der penitencien’), spiritual charity (‘[werck der] aelmissen’), and prayer (‘[werck der] stadiger devoten ghebeden’) — Jan de Wael explains how the biblical texts should be read. As mentioned at the beginning of this contribution, the author of the Informieringheboeck describes the activity of biblical readings using a vivid image: in his description, the lectio stands between two sisters, ‘aendachtelic overdenckynghe ende devote bedinghe’ [‘focused meditation and devout prayer’]. Further elaborating on this allegory, he adds that these sisters should be accompanied by their niece ‘zuete smaeckelicke contemplacie’ [‘sweet and flavoursome contemplation’], which represents the last step and the ultimate goal of the religious reading experience.25 The progression from meditation and prayer to contemplation is only possible if the sisters choose to perform a selective and discontinuous readership of the scriptures.26 Jan states that:

tine, 4 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007). For recent research on this topic, see Katty De Bundel, ‘Van woerde tot woerde oft van synne te sinne of van beiden ondermenghet: Petrus Naghel over het vertalen van de Bijbel’, Queeste, 15 (2008), 17–35; Katty De Bundel, ‘Van woerde tot woerde oft van synne te sinne: Petrus Naghel en het translatorium van de kartuis te Herne (ca. 1350–1400)’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, 2009); Geert Claassens and Katty De Bundel, ‘Petrus Naghel: Übersetzer in Herne’, Zeitschrift für Deutsche Philologie, 130 (2011), Sonderheft, 267–81. The prologue is edited in De crumen diet volc niet eten en mochte: Nederlandse beschouwingen over vertalen tot 1550, ed. by Bart Besamusca and Gerard Sonnemans (Den Haag: Stichting Biblio­graphia Neerlandica, 1999), p. 57. The stress on layout of biblical manu­scripts is a constant element in prologues to vernacular Bible translations. See on this topic Sabrina Corbellini, ‘Instructing the Soul, Feeding the Spirit and Awakening the Passion: Holy Writ and Lay Readers in Late Medi­eval Europe’, in Shaping the Bible in the Reformation: Books, Scholars and Readers in the Sixteenth Century, ed. by Bruce Gordon and Matthew McLean, Library of the Written World: The Handpress World, 20 (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 15–39 (p. 21). 25  Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fols 144v−145r. 26  For this terminology, see Peter Stallybrass, ‘Books and Scrolls: Navigating the Bible’, in Books and Readers in Early Modern England: Material Studies, ed. by Jennifer Andersen and Elizabeth Sauer (Philadelphia: Uni­ver­sity of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), pp. 42–79.

Sabrina Corbellini


veel beeter is een capittel of puntken te studieren met soe aendachtighe devocien ende ghenuechlicke verdienste dan veel te leesen alleen om dat te weeten sonder sulcke profijt der voerscreven reeden.27 [it is much better to study a chapter or a passage with focused devotion and rewarding pleasure than to read long passages just for the sake of learning without enjoying the aforementioned profit.]

The explicit use of the term ‘puntken’ reveals the strict link between the instructions given by Jan de Wael and the reading techniques used by followers of the Devotio moderna, who ‘from an early moment […] developed the custom of selecting “sayings” (dicta), “good points” (puncta) and “examples” (exempla)’ from monastic literature and, as in the case illustrated by Jan de Wael, from the Bible.28 This technique is also explicitly mentioned by Jan de Wael in the twenty-fifth chapter of his Informieringheboeck, dedicated to the selection of readings for the young sisters and their education in religious literacy. The older sisters are asked as often as possible, and especially on feast days, to read aloud to the younger oness and to teach them how to select ‘twee of iii puntkens en capittelkens’ [‘two or three points or a short chapters’] from the reading material and to use these short passages to compile their ‘carte’ — a small booklet with devout sayings — which they can use for personal meditation.29 It is important to stress that private and communal reading activities, either silently or aloud, from a manu­script or from a ‘carte’, were geared towards reaching one specific goal: offering young sisters a mirror ‘overmits welcke moeghen 27 

Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fol. 145r. This short description contains the fundamental ambivalence of the Devotio moderna stance towards study. As John Van Engen notes, ‘they presumed it, even found it essential to their text-based enterprise, yet saw it as opening up the dangerous possibility of learning for its own sake’; see John Van Engen, Sisters and Brothers of Common Life: The Devotio Moderna and the World of the Later Middle Ages (Philadelphia: Uni­ver­sity of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), p. 277. The reading techniques suggested by Jan de Wael are, of course, reinforced by the presence of paratextual elements, such as rubrics, chapter headings, para­graph marks, and punctuation. The specific emphasis on the learning of the relevance of these paratextual elements discussed in the same chapter is thus propaedeutic for the learning of these discontinuous and non-linear reading techniques. 28  Goudriaan, ‘Empowerment through Reading, Writing and Example’, p. 415. 29  Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fol. 60r–v. This ‘carte’ can be compared to the personal scrapbooks, also called rapiaria, kept by the Brothers and Sisters of Common Life. In these rapiaria, the Brother and the Sisters ‘copied out favourite passages encountered in their reading, or made notes to themselves, yielding over time a diary of religious reflection or a programme of spiritual exercises’; see Van Engen, Sisters and Brothers of Common Life, p. 278.

Sitting between Two Sisters


wy ons selven kennen mit onse ghebreken ende onvolcomelicheit’ [‘thanks to which we can know ourselves better with our faults and shortcomings’] and where they can find descriptions of the lives and the works of the ‘uutvercoren gods’ [‘the chosen by God’].30 To this end Jan de Wael compares the reading of the scriptures with the reading of the chronicle of the community, in which positive examples to be followed and negative examples to be rejected are presented.31 Six specific positive effects of the reading of the scriptures are then listed: 1. Item die selve scrifturen verlichten onse verstant overmits welcken wy weeten moegen mit alle bescheydenheit goet ende quaet; 2. Ende wat wy gheloven, hopen ende mynnen ende doen sullen; 3. Ende weder om wat wy haten ende schyuwen ende laten sullen; 4. Want sy ontsteken die begheerten tot hemelschen dinghen ende voertganc tot doechden; 5. Ende sy reynigen ende purgieren, salven ende ghenesen die zielen ende gheestelicke crachte der crancker mensche; 6. Ende sy vercieren alle die ghene diese devotelic veroefenen mit alrehande ynwendelic ende uutwendelicke, verdientlicke ende goddienstighe zeeden ende doechden of oefeningen ende conversacien een yghelic nae sijns selues state of graet als hier voer gheseyt is.32 30 

Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fol. 66v. Jan de Wael was also the author of the chronicle of the community, the original manu­ script of which is lost. Nevertheless a seventeenth-century manu­script by the Amersfoort notary Johan van Ingen (Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, MS Ltk 614) contains some excerpts of the original text. See Johan Kemperink, ‘Johan van Ingen: Geschiedenissen’, Archief voor de geschiedenis van het aartsbisdom Utrecht, 74 (1957), 1–155; Koen Goudriaan, ‘Kroniekjes van Amersfoortse kloosters en conventen’, Jaarboek Flehite (2000), 54–68. The interpretation of the reading of the sacred scriptures as example and instruction is also stated by Hugues de Saint-Victor, who is considered the first author of a treatise on reading. In his Didascalicon, he devotes Book v to ‘Properties of Sacred Scriptures and the Manner of Reading It’ and writes that ‘haec vero scientia […] duobus modis comparator, videlicet exemplo et doctrina; exemplo, quando sanctorum facta legimus; doctrina, quando eorum dicta ad disciplinam nostrum pertinentia discimus’ [‘the knowledge […] got in two ways, namely, by example and by instruction: by example when we read the deeds of the saints, by instruction when we learn what they have said that pertains to our disciplining’]; see Hugues de Saint-Victor, Hugo von Sankt Viktor: Didascalicon, De studio legendi, trans. by Thilo Offergeld (Freiburg: Herder, 1997), pp. 338–40, and Hugues de Saint-Victor, The Didascalicon of Hugh of St. Victor: A Medi­eval Guide to the Arts, trans. by Jerome Taylor (New York: Columbia Uni­ver­sity Press, 1961), p. 128. 32  Haarlem, Stadsbibliotheek, MS 187 D 11, fols 66v−67r. The numbers are placed in the right-hand margin of fol. 66v. 31 

Sabrina Corbellini


[1. The same scriptures illuminate our mind so that we know how we can distinguish good from evil; 2. And what we will believe, hope, and love and do; 3. And once more what we will hate, renounce, and refrain from doing; 4. Because they enflame the desire for heavenly things and the progress in virtues; 5. And they clean, purge, salve, and heal the soul and the spiritual power of sick people; 6. And they adorn all those who practise them with internal and external good and religious habits and virtues and or exercises and conversations, each one following his state or grade, as has already been explained.]

From Jan de Wael’s instructions, it is quite clear that the continuous process of reading, rereading, and listening to the scriptures significantly contributes to the ‘construction of literacy’ in the community of Sint-Agnes in Amersfoort.33 But it is definitely also a factor in the construction of the female community and of the creation of a sisterhood of interpretation of biblical texts, as the young sisters are explicitly asked to discuss their doubts and questions rising from their approach to the sacred text with the ‘senyoren’ [‘experienced sisters’]. Reading and interpreting the scriptures is a ‘collective and collaborative undertaking’ that stresses the importance of the roles and one’s function within the community, and at the same time creates a sense of unity and exchange.34 The explicit and reiterated references to the responsibility of older sisters in the education of novices confers religious authority on women within their own community and stimulates them to participate in the process of religious education taking place in the convent.35 The instructions for the reading of the 33 

The expression ‘construction of literacy’ is inspired by Katherine Zieman, ‘Reading, Singing and Understanding: Constructions of the Literacy of Women Religious in Late Medi­ eval England’, in Learning and Literacy in Medi­eval England and Abroad, ed. by Sarah Rees Jones, Utrecht Studies in Medi­eval Literacy, 3 (Turnout: Brepols, 2003), pp. 97–120. 34  The expression ‘collective and collaborative undertaking’ is used by Madeleine Jaey and Kathleen Garay, ‘“To Promote God’s Praise and her Neighbours’ Salvation”: Strategies of Authorship and Readership among Mystic Women in the Later Middle Ages’, in Women Writing Back / Writing Women Back: Transnational Perspectives from the Late Middle Ages to the Dawn of the Modern Era, ed. by Anke Gilleir, Alicia C. Montoya, and Suzan van Dijk, Intersections: Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Modern Culture, 16 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 23–50 (p. 47). 35  For a recent reflection on female authority in religious communities, see Rabia G ­ regory, ‘Thinking of their Sisters: Authority and Authorship in Late Medi­e val Women’s Religious Communities’, Journal of Medi­eval Religious Cultures, 40 (2014), 75–100.

Sitting between Two Sisters


scriptures go far beyond the learning of specific techniques: it is an exercise in monastic virtue, an incentive for a virtuous life, and a driving force behind the creation of a communal habit of approaching textuality, prayer, and meditation.36

36  At this stage of research there is no evidence that the sisters from the community of Sint-Agnes followed the directives sketched by Jan de Wael. However, in spite of the very limited number of surviving manu­scripts from the community, it is known that a rich library was at the disposal of the sisters and that reading activities were central to their daily life. In this regard, see Corbellini, ‘The Manual for the Young Ones by Jan de Wael (1510)’, pp. 398–405.

A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons in the Low Countries Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen


n the second half of the fifteenth century women religious in the Low Countries started writing down the sermons they had heard their confessors and other visiting priests preach in their convents.1 The writing of these convent sermons started within the circles of the Devotio moderna, the important reform movement of the late Middle Ages in the Low Countries: female inhabitants of the Meester Geertshuis and the Buyskenshuis, both situated in Deventer, the cradle of the reform movement, of the sister house of Ten Orten in ’s-Hertogenbosch, and of the convent of Diepenveen near Deventer, the oldest female monastery of the Windesheim Reform, wrote down sermons (or at least points taken from sermons) of their confessors Johannes Brinckerinck, Claus van Euskerken, Jasper van Marburg, and Bernt van Dinslaken.2 In the 1 

This essay is part of Patricia Stoop’s larger book project ‘Female Authorship and Authority in Late Medi­eval and Early Modern Vernacular Sermons from the Low Countries’, which she started as a postdoctoral fellow of the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek / Research Foundation Flanders (fwo, 2010–13). 2  Preliminary explorations of the convent sermon collections from the sister houses of the Devotio moderna have been published by Thom Mertens: ‘Postuum auteurschap: De collaties van Johannes Brinckerinck’, in Windesheim 1395–1995. Klooster, teksten, invloeden: voordrachten gehouden tijdens het internationale congres ‘600 jaar Kapittel van Windesheim’, 27 mei 1995 te Zwolle, ed. by A. J. Hendrikman, P. Bange, R. Th. M. van Dijk, and others, Middeleeuwse Studies, 12 (Nijmegen: Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen, Centrum voor Middeleeuwse Studies, 1996), pp. 85–97; ‘Collatio und Codex im Bereich der Devotio moderna’, in Der Codex im Gebrauch, ed. by Christel Meier, Dagmar Hüpper, and Hagen Keller, Münstersche MittelalterSchriften, 70 (München: Fink, 1996), pp. 163–82; ‘Ghostwriting Sisters: The Preservation of Patricia Stoop ([email protected]) is a Member of the Instituut voor de Studie van de Letterkunde in de Nederlanden and an Associate Member of the Ruusbroecgenootschap at the Universiteit Antwerpen. Lisanne Vroomen ([email protected]) is a voluntary researcher at the Ruus­ broecgen­ootschap at the Universiteit Antwerpen.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 99–122 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS



100 Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen

same period the Augustinian canonesses regular of the Brussels convent of Onze Lieve Vrouw ter Rosen Gheplant in Jericho [‘Our Lady of the Rose Planted in Jericho’] had a particularly large share in sermon writing. Although this convent, strictly speaking, was not a member of the Windesheim Congregation, it followed its rules. The tradition started on 8 December 1459, when the later prioress Maria van Pee (d. 31 December 1511) decided to write down the sermon she heard delivered by the first long-serving confessor Jan Storm (d. 3 May 1488). In total she noted down seventy-seven of his sermons from the period 1459–64. Her initiative was followed and systematized by her fellow sisters — likely not incidentally under her own leadership as prioress of the convent between November 1465 and the beginning of 1482 — and resulted in another four medi­eval and three early modern collections, containing as many as 348 different sermons. The tradition lasted until the beginning of the eighteenth century: the latest sermon was written in 1718.3 Dutch Sermons of Father Confessors in the Fifteenth and the Early Sixteenth Century’, in Seeing and Knowing: Women and Learning in Medi­eval Europe 1200–1550, ed. by Anneke B. MulderBakker, Medi­e val Women: Texts and Contexts, 11 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), pp. 121–41; ‘Relic or Strategy: The Middle Dutch Sermon as a Literary Phenomenon’, in Speculum Sermonis: Interdisciplinary Reflections on the Medi­eval Sermon, ed. by Georgiana Donavin, Gary J. Nederman, and Richard Utz, Disputatio, 1 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), pp. 293–314; ‘De Middelnederlandse preek: een voorbarige synthese’, in De Middelnederlandse preek, ed. by Thom Mertens, Patricia Stoop, and Christoph Burger, Middeleeuwse Studies en Bronnen, 116 (Hilversum: Verloren, 2009), pp. 9–66. The sermons are also studied in Lisanne Vroomen’s doctoral research, which is part of the Dutch-Flemish vnc-project ‘In Tune with Eternity: Song and Spirituality of the Modern Devotion’ (Universiteit Antwerpen & Universiteit Utrecht, 2012–16). In her project Vroomen investigated the differences in spirituality and function of devotional songs on the one hand, and devout prose (in sermons and sister-books) on the other. 3  The sermon writing in Jericho, the broader literary culture, and the people involved in it are extensively discussed in Patricia Stoop, Schrijven in commissie: de zusters uit het Brusselse klooster Jericho en de preken van hun biechtvaders (ca. 1456–1510), Middeleeuwse Studies en Bronnen, 127 (Hilversum: Verloren, 2013). The most illustrative essays in English on the (sermon) writing culture in Jericho are: Patricia Stoop, ‘The Writing Sisters of Jericho: Authors or Copyists?’, in Constructing the Medi­eval Sermon, ed. by Roger Andersson, Sermo: Studies on Patristic, Medi­e val, and Reformation Sermons and Preaching, 6 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007), pp. 275–308; ‘Nuns as Writers? On the Contribution of the Nuns of the Brussels Jericho Convent to the Construction of Written Sermons’, in A Place of their Own: Women Writers and their Social Environments (1450–1700), ed. by Anne Bollmann, Medi­eval to Early Modern Culture, 13 (Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 2010), pp. 197–214; ‘“Dits scrifte dat nu in der handen es”: Writing for Third Parties in the Brussels Convent of Jericho’, Quaerendo, 42 (2012), 114–33; ‘Sermon Writing Women: Fifteenth-Century Vernacular Sermons from the Brussels Augustinian Convent of Jericho’, Journal of Medi­eval Religious Cultures, 38 (2012), 211–32; ‘The Brussels Convent of Jericho and its Literary Network/El convento de Jericó en

A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons


Although a long, almost continuous tradition like this did not exist in other convents, the phenomenon of sermon writing by women religious became more widespread from the second half of the sixteenth century onwards. During and shortly after the Council of Trent (1545–63), women in several religious houses from different orders produced twenty-seven different handwritten collections — almost exclusively in the southern part of the Low Countries. This is quite remarkable, but part of the explanation for this broken transmission may have to do with the Protestant Reformation which clearly had a huge impact on the northern part of the Low Countries and much less on the southern part of the area. Most of the sisters who participated in the preservation of the spiritual inheritance of their confessors lived in convents that belonged to the enclosed, contemplative — so-called second — orders of the canonesses regular of St Augustine, the Benedictines, the Cistercians, and the Carthusians, although beguines and some sisters of the Third Orders also took up their quills to write down sermons they had heard. Except for the sermon collection by Johannes Mahusius from the Cistercian abbey of Ter Kameren in Elsene near Brussels, almost none of these collections have been explored or edited.4 In the current essay we will focus on the only convent of Carthusian nuns in the Low Countries, Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne, near Bruges.5 In 1574 and 1576 an anonymous Carthusian nun wrote down sermons of her vicar, Henricus Cool (d. c. 1578). Thirty-nine of them are preserved in two small and modBruselas y su red literaria’, Anuario de estudios medi­evales, 44 (2014), 385–416; Patricia Stoop and Thom Mertens, ‘Memory and Reward: Middle Dutch Collections of Convent Sermons and Memoria Tradition’, The Medi­eval Low Countries, 2 (2015), 187–214; and Patricia Stoop, ‘Female Authorship in the Augustinian Convent of Jericho and the Translation of Conrad of Saxony’s Speculum beatae Mariae virginis in Sermons by Maria van Pee and Janne Colijns’, Journal of Medi­eval Religious Cultures, 42 (2016), 114–34. The literacy of the canonesses regular of Jericho is explicitly discussed in Patricia Stoop, ‘From Reading to Writing: The Multiple Levels of Literacy of the Sister Scribes in the Brussels Convent of Jericho’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­ eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 27 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), pp. 47–66. 4  For Mahusius’s sermons, see Patricia Stoop, ‘Nuns’ Literacy in Sixteenth-Century Convent Sermons from the Cistercian Abbey of Ter Kameren’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­ eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 26 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 293–312. 5  This essay builds on our recently published edition of five sermons that Henricus Cool preached during the Christmas Cycle of 1574, transmitted in Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS II 2098; see Lisanne Vroomen and Patricia Stoop, ‘Vijf preken uit de kerstkring van 1574 van Henricus Cool, vicaris van het kartuizerinnenklooster Sint-Anna-ter-Woestijne bij Brugge (Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, II 2098)’, Ons Geestelijk Erf, 86 (2015), 43–79.

102 Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen

Figure 1. Opening page of the earliest collection of sermons by Henricus Cool. Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS II 2098, fol. 1r. c. 1574. Reproduced with permission.

A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons


est manu­scripts (c. 15 × 10.5 cm; sixteen to twenty-two lines; one column) in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België in Brussels, respectively MSS II 2098 (twenty-one sermons on 181 folios) and 2981 (eighteen sermons on 180 folios).6 Both codices are written in a neat littera cursiva, most likely by the sister who redacted the sermons. As is usual in the Low Countries, both collections follow the temporale of the liturgical calendar. They start in January — respectively with the Feast of Epiphany (MS II 2098) and New Year (MS 2981) — and end in or shortly before Advent.7 Strikingly, Cool’s sermons do not relate to the most important ecclesiastical feasts. In this sense the collections depart from the most common procedure in Middle Dutch sermon collections, which mostly contain sermons for the religious holidays (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, saints’ days). The rationale behind the unusual selection in the two codices from Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne is unclear: did Henricus Cool not preach on the liturgical high feast days? Was another priest preaching in the charterhouse on those occasions? In this first exploration of Cool’s sermons, we will focus on Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS II 2098, the earlier of the two undated manu­scripts (see Figure 1).8 By examining how the Carthusian nun committed the twenty-one sermons in this codex to paper, we wish to gain a better insight into the redactorship of the sister, the level of her literacy, and en passant on the public for which the collection may have been intended. Before discussing this cycle, we will provide a brief introduction to the historical context in which Cool’s sermons were preached and preserved. The charterhouse of Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne was founded in Sint-Andries in 1348, a small settlement situated some three kilometres south-west of the city walls of Bruges, on the former property of a male Benedictine abbey.9 The 6 

See Karl Stooker and Theo Verbeij, Collecties op orde: Middelnederlandse handschriften uit kloosters en semi-religieuze gemeenschappen in de Nederlanden, Miscellanea Neerlandica, 15–16, 2 vols (Leuven: Peeters, 1997), ii, nos 1119 and 1121; Jan Deschamps and Herman Mulder, Inventaris van de Middelnederlandse handschriften van de Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België (voorlopige uitgave): veertiende aflevering (Brussel: Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België, 2012), pp. 5 and 37–38. In sermons 8 and 17 in the oldest collection (Brussel, Koninklijke Biblio­ theek, MS II 2098, respectively fols 62v and 129r), the sister suggests that she wrote down sermons before. Whether they have been preserved is yet unknown. 7  For the content of Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, II 2098, see Vroomen and Stoop, ‘Vijf preken uit de kerstkring van 1574 van Henricus Cool’, p. 49. 8  It seems likely that the manu­scripts were written in the 1570s, shortly after the sermons were preached and noted down. 9  This para­g raph is based on Stanislas d’Ydewalle, De kartuize Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne, 1350–1792, Andreana-reeks: bijdragen tot de geschiedenis van de Gemeente Sint-Andries, 1

104 Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen

foundation which had St Anne as its patron saint, derived its name from its remote location (‘woestijne’ means ‘desert’ or ‘wilderness’). The choice of this location was not random: from its foundation by Bruno von Köln in 1084, the Carthusian Order was one of the strictest enclosed orders of the Catholic Church, and solitude was one of its main values. For this reason Carthusian monks lived in separate houses and only gathered a few times a day for the Offices. Although their female counterparts also dedicated their lives to solitude, silence, prayer, and asceticism, the Rule was less strict for them, as solitude was considered more difficult to keep for women: therefore, they lived in adjacent cells in one building, and were allowed to have daily communal meals and communal recreation.10 Interestingly, Cool’s sermons refer to this exemption for the women of the Carthusian Order: Ons eerste vaders van onser oordene die hebbe beghert ende ghesocht van dat sij eerst die oordene begonnen ende in ghestelt hebben doef ende stom te wesen geestelick naer der werrelt. Dat welcke wel kennelic es duer die ghestaedeghe silencie ende eenicheit der sellen, die welcke noch seere nerstelicke onderhouden wort in de huussen van der helegher oordene ende bijsonder daer goede reformasije es. Maer aenghesien dat ghijlijeder soe stranghelicke totter eenicheit ende sijlencie niet verbonden en sijt duer dijspensacie die ghijlijeder van der hoordene daer in hebbende sijt.11 (Sermon 19, fol. 158r–v) (Brussel: Kinkhoren, n.d. [1945]); Jan De Grauwe, ‘Chartreuse de Sainte-Anne-au-Désert à Bruges’, in Monasticon Belge, ed. by Ursmer Berlière and others, 8 vols in 23 (Maredsous: Abbaye de Maredsous, 1890–1993), iii (1978): Province de Flandre Occidentale, pp. 1263–87; Jan De Grauwe, Historia Cartusiana Belgica, Analecta Cartusiana, 51 (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 1985), pp. 147–66; De Brugse kartuizen 14de– 18de eeuw: dossier bij de gelijknamige tentoonstelling in het Rijksarchief te Brugge (14 november 1996–20 december 1996), ed. by Bernadette Roose, Algemeen Rijksarchief en Rijksarchief in de Provinciën, Educatieve dienst dossiers, 2nd ser., 13 (Brussel: Algemeen Rijksarchief, 1996), especially her chaps 1.1 (‘Genadedal en Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne in de globale geschiedenis van de kartuizerorde’) and 1.3 (‘De geschiedenis van de stichting Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne’), respectively on pp. 9–12 and 26–39; Jan De Grauwe, ‘Chartreuse de Sainte-Anne-au-Désert à Bruges’, in Monasticon cartusiense, ed. by James Hogg and Gerhard Schlegel, Analecta Cartusiana, 185, 4 vols (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 2005), iii, 173–80. See also, ‘Sint-Andries: Brugge > Brugge 2’ [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. This website offers much information about the Carthusian charterhouses in the Low Countries, their inhabitants, and the books produced in and for these houses, as well as biblio­graphical references. 10  Tom Gaens and Jan De Grauwe, De kracht van de stilte: geest en geschiedenis van de kartuizerorde (Leuven: Peeters, 2006), p. 60. 11  In the citations of the Middle Dutch text, the distinction between u and v, and i and j

A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons


[From the moment they founded and established the Order, the first fathers of our Order wanted and sought to be spiritually deaf and mute to the world. This is noticeable through the steadfast silence and isolation of the cells, which still are very diligently kept in the houses of the sacred Order and especially in the ones keeping a good observance. You, however, are not so strictly bound to solitude and silence due to the dispensation which you have received from the Order.]

On 14 August 1350, the first six moniales — mostly daughters of noble families and bourgeoisie in Bruges — arrived in the new foundation. They came from Mont-Sainte-Marie, the female branch of the double house in Gosnay, located in the Département du Pas-de-Calais, nowadays just across the border in France. Thanks to considerable donations the young convent was able to flourish, and in 1352 the first two novices were accepted. Two years later, another two or three novices entered the community.12 Nevertheless, the communities stayed small during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In 1360 the community had eight nuns; in 1400 the convent housed eleven sisters, which would be the maximum number until about 1500.13 Perhaps the number of confessed nuns was deliberately limited in order to equal the tradition in the male charterhouses: Guigo I (d. 1136), the fifth prior of the Grande Chartreuse (Cartusia Maior), set a numerus clausus of thirteen monks (including the prior) for the charterhouse — obviously this number was inspired by the number of the apostles — in order to ensure that the community could support itself.14 In the second half of the sixteenth century, however, the community was much bigger. In 1566 the charterhouse was inhabited by twenty-seven choir sisters, three conversae and sixteen donatae;15 in the years 1573 until 1576 — the period in has been normalized according to modern use. Abbreviations have been expanded silently. Punctuation follows modern standards, according to the syntax of the text. The last sentence in this citation is not grammatically correct. 12  De Grauwe, Historia Cartusiana Belgica, p. 148; Roose, ‘De geschiedenis van de stichting Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne’, p. 27. 13  Yearly overviews of the inhabitants of the charterhouse can be found in Jan De Grauwe and Francis Timmermans, Prosopo­graphia monialium Brugis, Analecta Cartusiana, 163 (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, 2001), pp. 77–311. 14  A. De Meyer and J. M. De Smet, Guigo’s ‘Consuetudines’ van de eerste kartuizers, Mede­ delingen van de Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie voor wetenschappen, letteren en schone kunsten van België (Brussel: Paleis der Academiën, 1951), pp. 41–42; Guigo I, Coutumes de chartreuse: introduction, texte critique, traduction et notes, Sources chrétiennes, 313 (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1984), chaps 78–79, pp. 285–86. 15  Conversae were sisters who took their vows but were not supposed to take part in the

106 Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen

which the anonymous sister wrote down the sermons by Henricus Cool — the numbers were quite stable at twenty-two moniales (including four sisters who were responsible for the Offices), three conversae, and thirteen donatae.16 As in the early period of the foundation, most of these women originated from the high social classes in Bruges and its surroundings.17 Henricus Cool was probably a monk in the Utrecht charterhouse of Nieuwlicht or Nova lux (where he also had been professed) before he came to Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne to become vicarius in c. 1565.18 In this function, Divine Office. The donatae were laywomen who dedicated themselves and their possessions to a religious community, without becoming nuns; see Tom Gaens, ‘Acquiring Religious Perfection Outside a Vow: The Carthusian Institution of the Donati in Late Medi­eval Reformist Communities and the Modern Devotion’, The Medi­eval Low Countries: An Annual Review, 1 (2014), 139–71 (p. 141). Apparently, within the Carthusian context, these donati were not ‘part of the larger familia of the monastery, such as servants, mercenaries, etc.’ (p. 142). 16  The overview of the inhabitants and leaders of Sint-Anna-ter-Woestijne in the period 1573–76 can be found in De Grauwe and Timmermans, Prosopo­g raphia monialium Brugis, pp. 150–53. Compared to other religious communities in the Low Countries, Sint-Annater-Woestijne was not large. The convent of Jericho, for instance, accommodated at least fifty vowed canonesses as well as a dozen of conversae and donatae in the late Middle Ages; see Stoop, Schrijven in commissie, pp. 50–51. Diepenveen, the mother house of the Chapter of Windesheim, housed over a hundred women in 1451; see Steef Eman, ‘De kloostergebouwen van Diepenveen, in het bijzonder de kapel met het nonnenkoor’, in Het ootmoedig fundament van Diepenveen: zeshonderd jaar Maria en Sint-Agnesklooster, 1400–2000, ed. by Wybren Scheepsma (Kampen: IJsselacademie, 2002), pp. 41–63 (p. 43). 17  A number of the Carthusian nuns, like Barbara van Nieuwenhove (d. c. 1438) and Margaretha de Vooght (d. c. 1512), were daughters of members of the Bruges city council; others, like Margaretha vande Gruuthuse, who was cellaria from 25 October until her death in c. 1506, and Margaretha vander Banck (d. c. 1528) originated from very well-known Bruges families. Brief information on the bio­graphies of the nuns from Sint-Anna-ter-Woestijne, and their eventual careers, can be found in De Grauwe and Timmermans, Prosopo­graphia monialium Brugis, pp. 13–57. 18  d’Ydewalle, De kartuize Sint-Anne-Ter-Woestijne, pp. 147, 150, 153, 160, and 182; Jan De Grauwe, Prosopo­graphia Cartusiana Belgica (1314–1796), Analecta Cartusiana, 28 (Salzburg: Institut für Englische Sprache und Literatur Universität Salzburg, 1976), p. 138; Jan De Grauwe and Francis Timmermans, Prosopo­graphia Cartusiana Belgica Renovata (1314–1796), Analecta Cartusiana, 154, 2 vols (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 1999), ii, 497 and 515–16. Not much else is known about vicar Cool. Probably he was the copyist of the major part of Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS IV 1282, which stems from Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne and is dated between 1578 and 1583. The codex contains prayers, a few sermons (by Johannes Tauler) and a some Middle Dutch translations of hymns. The prose translation of the four hymns on fols 119v–121r was produced by Cool. The hymns were ‘overghestelt in Vlaemsche sprake, meer na den sinnen dan de woorden by onsen eerweerdeghen pater Henderick Cool’ (fol. 119v) [‘translated in the Flemish tongue,

A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons


which he observed until his death, he was responsible for the spiritual care of the sisters. The precise functions of a vicar in a female charterhouse are hardly described in the scholarly literature. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that he was responsible for the priestly tasks within the community, such as celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, and preaching. He was not, however, involved in administrative matters or the executive functions in the house, unless the prioress asked him for help or advice.19 The daily spiritual and practical care of the sisters was the responsibility of the prioress and the other office-holders. In the period in which the anonymous sister noted down Cool’s sermons, Maria van Rye (d. 5 November 1589) was prioress (1569–89).20 She guided the convent through one of the most turbulent periods in its history: the religious wars and the threats by the Beggars had forced the nuns to leave their convent on 16 August 1566 in order to seek refuge with the befriended Carmelite nuns of Sion within the city walls of Bruges.21 After their return six months later on 16 February 1567, the sisters decided to bring their most important possessions to safety intra muros, which made it much more difficult to perform the liturgical services. In 1578 the Calvinists took over Bruges, and in 1580 the sisters had to leave their monastery in Sint-Andries again; this time for good. The buildings were burnt down immediately after their departure. Thanks to their family ties with the Bruges elites, the sisters could live in peace in a house on the Oude Burg, within the city walls of Bruges.22 Obviously, Maria was not more in the sense than literally by our venerable father Hendrik Cool’]. See Jan Deschamps’s description of the manu­script named ‘Een gedateerd handschrift uit het kartuizerinnenklooster Sint-Anna-ter-Woestijne te Brugge’, which posthumously has been published by Frans Hendrickx on, ‘Een gedateerd handschrift uit het kartuizerinnenklooster Sint-AnnaTer-Woestijne te Brugge’ [ac­cessed on 1 April 2017]. See also Vroomen and Stoop, ‘Vijf preken uit de kerstkring van 1574 van Henricus Cool’, p. 44. 19  De Grauwe and Timmermans, Prosopo­graphia monialium Brugis, p. 10. 20  Maria van Rye was the daughter of Jan van Rye, alderman in the Franc of Bruges (‘Bruges Vrije’; a castellany in the county of Flanders that consisted of the area around Bruges (the city was not part of the Franc of Bruges); since 1127 the city and the Franc of Bruges fell under different laws). She became novice on 8 December 1543. Her profession took place on 22 November 1550. See d’Ydewalle, De kartuize Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne, pp.  159–67; De Grauwe, ‘Chartreuse de Sainte-Anne-au-Désert à Bruges’, in Monasticon Belge, ed. by Berlière and others, pp. 1276–77; De Grauwe and Timmermans, Prosopo­graphia monialium Brugis, p. 37. 21  The Beggars (‘Geuzen’) were Protestant combatants in the Low Countries who fought against the Spanish (Catholic) oppression. The term, which was deduced from the French ‘gueux’ and originally meant ‘poor man’, initially was a nickname for the lower nobility; soon after the Iconoclastic Fury (‘Beeldenstorm’) in 1566 the name was used as a honorary title. 22  De Grauwe, Historia Cartusiana Belgica, p. 151; Roose, ‘De geschiedenis van de stich­

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leading the community by herself. She was supported in her task by a number of other office-holders. Elisabeth Forliegiet (d. c. 1579) was the sub-prioress (from 10 February 1563 until her death) and had been sacrista between 1553 and 1556 and on 23 February 1562.23 Anna De Naghere (d. 17 June 1586), who became novice in c. 1525 was cellaria in 1556–77, which is the equivalent of a procurator in a male charterhouse.24 She was in charge of the worldly goods of the monastery and the care of the lay sisters. Elisabeth Branders (d. c. 1591) was sacrista in 1562, 1566–67, and 1577–84.25 In this function she took care of the church, washed the liturgical vestments, rang the bells to announce the beginning of the Hours, and was (possibly) responsible for the library.26 According to Sanders, the sacrista in the charterhouse in Geertruidenberg (Holland) replenished the book collection and had new manu­scripts copied.27 In the Consuetudines Guigonis (1121–27/28), the Carthusian Rule written by Guigo I which was based on the Regula Benedicti, it is stressed that the sacrista in the male charterhouses took care of the weekly distribution of writing equipment and books.28 Given that the tasks of the sacrista in a female charterhouse equalled those of her counterpart in the male houses, it is likely that Elisabeth Branders took care of those matters in Sint-Anna-ter-Woestijne. Whether she instructed her fellow nun to write down Cool’s sermons, or even wrote them herself, is not clear. Another possible person to write down the sermons was the teacher of the novices, as she was responsible for the education and training of the new religious (and this group is precisely one of the main addressees in ting Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne’, p. 32; De Grauwe, ‘Chartreuse de Sainte-Anne-au-Désert à Bruges’, in Monasticon cartusiense, ed. by Hogg and Schlegel, p. 174. 23  De Grauwe and Timmermans, Prosopo­g raphia monialium Brugis, p. 27. The information on the office-holders seems to be rather scattered in the archival sources. 24  De Grauwe and Timmermans, Prosopo­graphia monialium Brugis, p. 16. 25  De Grauwe and Timmermans, Prosopo­graphia monialium Brugis, p. 27. 26  See Jan De Grauwe, ‘Bestuur van de orde’, in De Brugse kartuizen 14de–18de eeuw: dossier bij de gelijknamige tentoonstelling in het Rijksarchief te Brugge (14 november 1996–20 december 1996), ed. by Bernadette Roose, Algemeen Rijksarchief en Rijksarchief in de Provinciën, Educatieve dienst dossiers, 2nd ser., 13 (Brussel: Algemeen Rijksarchief, 1996), p. 48. 27  J. G. M. Sanders, Waterland als woestijn: geschiedenis van het kartuizerklooster ‘Het Hollandse Huis’ bij Geertruidenberg 1336–1595, Hollandse Studiën, 25 (Hilversum: Verloren, 1990), p. 35. 28  Consuetudines Guigonis, caput vii, 9. See James Hogg, The Evolution of the Carthusian Statutes from the ‘Consuetudines Guigonis’ to the ‘tertia compilatio’, Documents, i: Consuetudines Guigonis prima pars statutorum antiquorum, Analecta Cartusiana, 99.1 (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 1989), p. 19.

A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons


the collection, as we will see). Because it is not known who held this position at the time the sermons were copied, we cannot come any closer to the identity of the sermon writer.29 Still, this does not keep us from shedding light on her redactorship and the level of her literacy. In the corpus of late medi­e val and early modern Dutch convent sermons, the texts by the anonymous Carthusian nun are quite unique, because they are reportationes, clearly showing that they were written afterwards as a report on what the woman heard.30 The sermons have been written from a listener’s perspective, in the passive tense: Dese voorghenoemen woorden waeren ons seere soetelicke ende troestelicke ghedeclareert ende uutgheleijt die selfde verdeellendt in vier artijckelen. | […] In dat eerste artijckel, sprekende van die gheboerte van onsen nieuwen gheboren coninck, wiert ons verclaert die groote onbegripelicke ende onuutsprekelicke liefde van god den hemelschen vader, die welcke ons sijnen eeneghen soene ghegeven heeft, alsoe die woorden des theems ons dat expresselicke segghen: ‘Een kindekin es ons gheboren, een soone es ons ghegheven’ (Is 9. 6). (Sermon 1 on Epiphany, fol. 1r–v) [The previous words were declared and explained to us very sweetly and consolingly, being divided into four articles. […] In the first article, which discussed the birth of our newborn king, we were apprised of the great inconceivable and inexpressible love of God, the heavenly father, who gave us his only son, as the words of the [biblical] theme tell us explicitly: ‘For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us.’]31


In Jericho three of the five medi­e val sermon writers were elected prioresses at later stages of their lives (after having served as procuratrices); the fourth was the convent’s writing mistress. Of course, the sermon writing would have required good intellectual skills and a considerable spiritual diligence, as well as service to the community. It must have been such qualities that made these women the ideal leaders of a monastery. Therefore, it is quite tempting to assume that the Carthusian sermon writer also held an office in the charterhouse, in the period in which she was writing, or in a later period. However, it cannot be said with certainty. 30  The pioneer of Middle Dutch sermon studies, Gerrit Zieleman, reserved the term reportatio for sermons which are actually written in the style of a report, for instance by the use of socalled inquit-formulas. See G. C. Zieleman, ‘Overleveringsvormen van Middeleeuwse preken in de landstaal’, Nederlands archief voor kerkgeschiedenis, 59 (1978–79), 16–19; Mertens, ‘De Middelnederlandse preek: een voorbarige synthese’, pp. 22–24. See also G. C. Zieleman, ‘Preken als litteraire documenten’, in Boeken voor de eeuwigheid: Middelnederlands geestelijk proza, ed. by Thom Mertens and others, Nederlandse literatuur en cultuur in de Middeleeuwen, 8 (Amsterdam: Prometheus, 1993), pp. 71 and 389 n. 12. The analysis below will show that the sermons from Sint-Anna-ter-Woestijne hardly contain any explicit inquit-formulas. Nevertheless, they display numerous stylistic features that demonstrate the reportatio-style. 31  English translations of the (Latin and) Middle Dutch biblical quotations have been

110 Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen

Although, on first sight, this reportatio-style might seem the normal way for a listener to report on a sermon he or she heard, it is not in reality. In his synthesis on sermon studies in the Low Countries, Thom Mertens pointed out that reportationes are extremely uncommon in Middle Dutch literature in general, and this applies also to the genre of the vernacular sermon.32 The majority of the Middle Dutch convent sermons studied thus far are conveyed from an authoritative I- or an inclusive we-position in the active tense, addressing a multiple audience. The sisters who were responsible for the transmission of these sermons put themselves, so to speak, in the position of their spiritual leader and wrote in his name and with his authority. Previous research has shown that the sisters were not simply recording but re-authoring the sermons, after interiorizing them to the point that they became part of their thinking and consciousness and with that, the boundaries between the priests’ words and the nuns’ absorption of them became indistinct.33 Clearly this is not the way in which the nun from Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne worked. Not only by writing the sermons in the form of a report, but also by repeatedly switching to a meta-position, the sister shows a different kind of redactorship than the sisters of Jericho or Ter Kameren.34 Thus her collections offer valuable opportunities to broaden our perspective on the forms the redactorship of female sermon writers could take. Important access to the redactorship of the sermon-writing sister and the level of her literacy is offered by the epilogue that the sister added to her collection(s). In this paratext the nun, who like most of the other sisters in SintAnna-Ter-Woestijne originated from the direct surroundings of the charterhouse as is clear from the characteristics of her dialect, extensively expresses her inadequacy to write down the sermons ‘soe claerlicke ende soe grondelicke naer den rechten sijnne gods als sij ons verclaert ende uutgheleijt waeren’ (epilogue Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS II 2098, fol. 179v) [‘so clearly and profoundly according to the true intention of God as they were clarified and taken from the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible. See Vroomen and Stoop, ‘Vijf preken uit de kerstkring van 1574 van Henricus Cool’, p. 54, ll. 10–20. 32  Mertens, ‘De Middelnederlandse preek: een voorbarige synthese’, p. 23. 33  See Mertens, ‘Ghostwriting Sisters’. For extensive discussions on the procedures which the sisters of Jericho used to redact the sermons and to preserve them, see Stoop, Schrijven in commissie, pp. 169–353. In Mahusius’s sermons from Ter Kameren, the Cistercian sisters also took over the role of the preacher; see Stoop, ‘Nuns’ Literacy in Sixteenth-Century Convent Sermons from the Cistercian Abbey of Ter Kameren’, especially p. 305 and following. 34  For the epilogue, see Vroomen and Stoop, ‘Vijf preken uit de kerstkring van 1574 van Henricus Cool’, pp. 75–76.

A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons


explained to us’]. By stating this, she puts herself in a long tradition of monastic (male but mostly female) writers, who — by way of captatio benevolentiae and often in a highly conventional fashion — expressed their humility, not only as a monastic value but also in an awareness of the boundaries imposed on them: Whereas for men the public pronouncement was generally deemed appropriate or acceptable, something which rendered their use of this topos tropological, for a woman the very act of writing served to place her on the margins of her allocated space and often pushed her firmly into the grey areas beyond. For her, therefore, the use of the topos of humility was more than a customary trope; it served as a type of screen behind which she necessarily had to operate as a writer.35

Despite her so-called shortcomings, the sister felt the urge to write down the sermons she heard Henricus Cool preach. She explained the motivation for the decision by stating that she ‘in die selve sermoenen seere vele costelicke ende troestelicke leeringhe ghehoort ende verstaen heeft’ [‘heard and understood many precious and comforting teachings in the aforementioned sermons’], which she wanted to remember so that they could serve as ‘mijnder sielen troest ende consolacie des gheest’ [‘comfort for her soul and consolation of her spirit’]. As she thought she would not be able to store them all in her memory, she decided to write them down. In that sense, the writing functioned as an external memory.36 Nevertheless, it is clear that the sister did not write for herself alone — and in this lies the necessity for the legitimization of her writing — but for the broader community: she bade ‘een ighelicke […] die dit soude mueghen lesen’ [‘anyone […] who may read this’] to accredit everything ‘dat niet so goet oft in als soe perfeckt ghevolcht en es’ [‘which is not so good or perfectly understood in every aspect’] to her ‘sijmpelheit ende onwijsheit’ [‘simplicity and ignorance’]. However, anything by which the readers would be ‘gheleert, ghetrost ofte ghesticht’ [‘taught, comforted, or edified’] should be ascribed to God’s grace, to whom they should pray for the salvation and wellbeing of the priest who preached the sermon or order to nourish his sheep’s 35  Liz Herbert McAvoy, Authority and the Female Body in the Writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, Studies in Medi­eval Mysticism (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2004), p. 6. 36  In her authorative study The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medi­eval Culture, Cam­bridge Studies in Medi­eval Literature, 10 (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 1990), p. 197, Mary J. Carruthers refers to the book as ‘the chief external support of memoria throughout the Middle Ages’. For the art of memory in monastic milieux, see also Mary J. Carruthers, The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400–1200, Cam­ bridge Studies in Medi­eval Literature, 34 (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 1998).

112 Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen

souls. Very similar wording can be found in the epilogue to the other collection that the anonymous Carthusian sister wrote (Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 2981, fols 178v–179r). Statements like this are also very commonly found in paratexts that accompany other Middle Dutch sermon collections and other text collections written by sisters such as the sister-books from the Devotio moderna circles, for example the Sister-Book of Diepenveen.37 This implies that the sister was very aware of her redactorship and the existing conventions for constructing a framework for her work. A similar responsiveness to both her redactorship and her lack of capacity can be found in the sermons. Repeatedly the writing sister puts herself in a meta-position in order to reflect on her work, confessing that she was not sufficiently talented to match Cool’s spoken sermon: Ic hebbe hier wat ghescreven van dit sermoen van desen sondaeghe [Sexagesima] om daer duere wat verweckt te wesen tot een viereghe affecsie van die woorden gods te hooren om tot vruchtbaerheijt van dien te commene. Maer ick en hebbe dat soe claerlick niet connen volghen met sulken suveren sijn alst ons wel uutgheleijt en verclaert was duer mijn onverstandicheit ende cranckegheijt van memorie. Den heere wil ons sijn gracie gheven hier in deser tijt ende hier naermaels sijn hemelsche glorie. Amen. (Sermon 6, fol. 46v) [I here wrote something of this sermon of this Sunday as to be awakened by it to an ardent affection to hear the words of God in order to come to fruitfulness. However, as a result of my dullness and the weakness of my memory I have not been able to follow it in such a pure sense as it was explained and declared to us. May God grant us his grace, here in this time and hereafter his heavenly glory. Amen.]

But is not always the lack of mental capacity which causes trouble for the sister. At the end of Sermon 16 on the occasion of the Monday of Pentecost she also regrets the lack of time to write down Cool’s sermon properly: ‘Hier was 37 

See Wybren Scheepsma, Medi­eval Religious Women in the Low Countries: The Modern Devotion, the Canonesses of Windesheim, and their Writings, trans. by David F. Johnson (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2004), pp. 145–46. The similarities of the prologues with those in medi­eval monastic historio­graphical sources are also striking; see Steven Vanderputten, ‘From Sermon to Science: Monastic Prologues from the Southern Low Countries as Witnesses of Historical Consciousness (10th–15th Centuries)’, in Medi­eval Narrative Sources: A Gateway into the Medi­ eval Mind, ed. by Werner Verbeke, Ludo Millis, and Jean Goossens, Mediaevalia Lovaniensia, 1st ser., Studia, 34 (Leuven: Leuven Uni­ver­sity Press, 2005), p. 38. For extensive discussions of the prologues to the sermon collections from Jericho, see Patricia Stoop, ‘The Writing Sisters of Jericho’; Patricia Stoop, ‘Nuns as Writers?’; and Stoop, Schrijven in commissie, pp. 177–89. The similarities in style and figurative language in the Jericho prologues is discussed on pp. 186–89.

A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons


veel seere scoene ende diepe materie verclaert van die crachteghe ende wonderlicke werckinghe des helichs geest, maer ick en hebbe die gracie noch oeck die bequaemegheijt des tijts niet om datte naer sijn excellencie te vervolghen’ (fol. 126v) [‘Here much very beautiful and deep matters were explained about the powerful and wonderful work of the Holy Ghost, but I do not have the grace nor the time to follow it to its excellence’]. Still, in a number of sermons the sister expresses her hope — or even her faith — that her fellow sisters who are wise, benevolent, and of good will shall be able to make sense of her material and use it for their spiritual growth: Hier es wat ghescreven van dat sermoen van desen daeghe [Maundy Thursday] van die odmoedeghe dienstbaerricheijt, hoewel dat ick wel kenne dattet noch seere sijmpelicke ghescreven es bij dattet ons gheleert ende claerlick uutgheleijt was. Maer nochtans die de sin ende begherte hebben tot de volmacktheijt, die connen wel veel sins verstaen ende nemen uut luttel ende sijmpel worden. Den heere die wijl alle goetwilleghe herten hier gracie toe verleene om daer in te vorderen; sonder de welcke wij niet en vermueghen. Amen. (Sermon 13, fol. 103r)38 [Here is something written of the sermon of this day about humble obedience, although I well recognize that it is written very simply compared to how it was taught and explained to us. However, those who have the sense and wish for perfection, they can make much sense from little and simple words. May the Lord grant all willing hearts grace to make progress in this; without that we cannot do anything.]

By commenting upon her activity in — indeed rather formulaic — phrases like this, the Carthusian nun creates an interesting paradox. By repeatedly thematising her reluctance with regard to her redactorship, the sister on the one hand gives the impression of being less confident about her work than her contemporary sermon-writing colleagues, who merely take over the role of their preacher and write from his perspective in a self-evident manner. However, she has become more visible by engaging with these sermons, and we get a better insight into how the sister is reconstructing and re-authoring the sermons she heard her confessor preach. 38 

A comparable citation can be found at the end of Sermon 9, on the occasion of the Third Sunday of Lent: ‘Dit es dat ick van dit sermoen [on the third Sunday of Lent] hebbe connen bij der memorie ontouden, hoewel dat ick wel bekenne dattet seere onghelick es bij dattet ons verclaert ende uutgheleijt was. Maer ick hope dat den verstandeghen daer wel een goe sin uut sullen connen nemen’ (fol. 68v) [‘This is what I was able to retain from this sermon in my memory, although I well recognize that it is very incomparable to what was declared and explained to us. But I hope that sensible persons will be able to draw out good sense from it’].

114 Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen

Other aspects in her sermons also demonstrate how the nun was very consciously constructing the texts: both the apologetic remarks on her capacities and the introductions to the sermons are highly standardized. Immediately after the heading for the sermon indicating the liturgical occasion and the citation of the biblical theme (the two main features for identifying a text as a sermon), the sister refers to the actual preaching.39 She uses two sets of more or less homogeneous phrasings, which both clearly indicate that the texts were written as reportationes. The first way of introducing the sermons has been mentioned above, in which the sister noted the theme of the sermon on Epiphany were ‘seere soetelicke ende troestelicke ghedeclareert ende uutgheleijt’ [‘declared and explained to us very sweetly and consolingly’]. Half of the sermons in the collection follow this pattern, often in slightly different wording: Up desen dach waeren ons dese voornoemde woorden seere sonderlijnghe uutgheleijt ende verclaert ons daer duere leerrende ende onderwijsende hoe werdich ende edele dat dat saet es van die woorden gods ende hoe dat wij die herde van onser herten beoorren te bereeden om dat edel saet daer werdelick in te ontfanghen dattet soude mueghen vruchtbaer worden. (Sermon 6, fol. 36v; emphasis ours) [On this occasion the previous words were formidably explained and clarified to us, instructing and teaching us how worthy and noble the seeds of God’s words are and how we should prepare the ground of our heart so that it can receive the noble seed in a worthy way in order to make it fertile.]

and Dese woorden waeren ghenoemen voor een fondament ende begijnsels van dat sermoen van desen daeghe, seere bequaeme tot dien feestdach van dien werdeghen ende heleghen vader Anthoenius die welcke een seere | perfeckt ende excenlent dijsijpel des heeren gheweest heeft, alle besittijnghe des werrels verlaetende ende den heere heeft hij heel bloot naerghevolcht. Soe wiert ons desen theme ghedeclareert ende uutgheleijt om ons daer duere te verwecken tot een naervolginghe van desen heleghen ende ghetrauwen naervolgher Christi. (Sermon 3, fols 16v–17r) 39 

For a definition of the genre of the (Middle Dutch) sermon, see Maria Sherwood-Smith, Patricia Stoop, Daniël Ermens, and Willemien van Dijk, Repertorium van Middelnederlandse preken in handschriften tot 1550 / Repertorium of Middle Dutch Sermons Preserved in Manu­ scripts from Before 1550, Miscellanea Neerlandica, 29, 7 vols (Leuven: Peeters, 2003–08), vii (2008), pp. 26–28. For a broader discussion of the fluidity of the demarcation of the genre, see Veronica O’Mara and Suzanne Paul, A Repertorium of Middle English Prose Sermons, Sermo: Studies on Patristic, Medi­eval, and Reformation Sermons and Preaching, 1, 4 vols (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007), i, pp. xxvi–xxxiii.

A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons


[These words were taken as a foundation and beginning of today’s sermon, which were very suitable for the feast of the worthy and holy father Anthony, who was a very perfect and excellent disciple of the Lord because he left all the worldly properties behind and simply followed the Lord. Thus this theme was declared and explained to us in order to exhort us to an imitation of this holy and faithful follower of Christ.]

This second citation starts with the formulation used in the other half of the sermons to refer to the biblical theme; namely, with the words ‘fondament ende beghijnsels’ [‘foundation and beginning’]. This phrasing can also be slightly varied, as can be demonstrated by the next citation: Dese woorden waeren ghenomen voor een beghijnsels ende fondament van dat sermoen van desen daeghen, ons daer duere vermaenende tot een sterck gheloefve ende een vast betrauwen. (Sermon 5, fol. 33v) [These words were taken as a beginning and foundation of today’s sermon, thus exhorting us to a strong faith and a firm confidence.]

In some cases the sister wrote ‘begijnsels ende theme’ [‘beginning and theme’] (Sermon 17, fol. 127r) or just ‘beghijnsels’ [‘beginning’] (Sermon 13, fol. 93r). These introductions to the sermons — which also show the sister’s strong preference for tautologies — not only demonstrate how the sister made conscious choices in advance for the design of her collection, but they also give clear indications of the intention she (and likely Henricus Cool) had for the sermons. On the one hand, they are explicative in nature: they intend to explain, edify, and teach the sisters how to lead a virtuous and good religious life (words that are often used are ‘verclaerende’ [‘explaining’], ‘leerende’ [‘edifying’] or ‘leerringhe’ [‘edification’], and ‘onderwysinghe’ [‘teaching’]). On the other hand, they also wish to encourage [‘verwecken’] and admonish [‘vermaenen’] them. Important and recurring imperatives are the need to practise [‘houffenen’] in virtues, how to become a good ‘dijsijpel’ [‘disciple’], and the importance of following the footsteps of Jesus Christ (Imitatio Christi), who obviously is the exemplary model for the sisters. Although it is likely that Henricus Cool preached for the whole community, and that the sister who wrote down his sermons had the same group in mind, it is striking that the texts on several occasions explicitly address two groups of inhabitants that are in some respect the extremes of the community (often in relationship to one another). The first group comprises the ‘jonghers’ [‘junior nuns’] alias the ‘begijnnenden in duechden’ (fol. 98r) [‘the beginners in virtues’]; the second, the ‘huversten’ [‘superiors’] or the persons who are ‘volmackt in duechden’ (fol. 97v) [‘perfect

116 Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen

in virtues’]. The middle group, which consists of the ‘voorgaenden’ (fol. 77v) [‘advanced’], is sometimes mentioned but never openly addressed. The second sermon in the collection (fols 7v–16v), for example, is related to the Octave of Epiphany and deals with the question ‘hoe dat hem een goet dijsijpel hebben sal om te leeren leven naer den sijnne gods’ (fol. 7v) [‘how a good disciple should behave in order to learn to live according to God’s wish’] in relation to the conversation Jesus had at the age of twelve with the doctors in the temple (Luke 2. 46).40 The sermon explains how important it is to show humility given that Jesus had abased himself in the temple when he listened to the wise men. He did this in order to give people — in particular young people, and especially the young people who are ‘dijsijpelen van den woorden gods’ [‘disciples of the word of God’], religious people therefore — a good example. A good disciple, it is explained, is strongly dedicated to listening and fertilizes his or her soul in order to receive God’s Word (obviously the sermon is referring to the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. 3–23). After a more general discussion on the virtue of listening and the stress on gaining wisdom that listening offers over time, the sermon turns to a more practical level, explaining how a good disciple should be fast in listening and slow in speaking (resembling St James’s Epistle, Chapter 1, verse 19), thus stressing the monastic values of silence and obedience. Still, speaking is not forbidden, as long as one follows these requirements: (1) Keep in mind who you are: prelates and old sisters can say much more than junior nuns are allowed; (2) Do not use your speech against God or the people around you; (3) Remember to whom you are speaking ; (4) Speak in a decent manner, meaning : use the spirit of kind-heartedness; (5) Notice why you wish to speak: make sure you have God’s glory and the blessing of other people’s souls in mind; and (6) Only speak at the appropriate time and place. While this can still be considered as advice to all people — after all, all members of the community had to consider themselves disciples of God — at the end the sermon specifically turns to the junior nuns (novices? postulants?) in the convent, explaining to them exactly what they should ask their superiors: Alsoe anmerckende onsen staet ende vocasije, soe sullen onse jonghers alderbest ende alderbequaemmelicx mueghen vraeghen teghen hemlieder huversten of mees­ tressen die se van gods weghe te bestieren hebben, hoe dat een ghecoroneerde ende gheconsacreede nonnekin alderbest sal mueghen doen om hueren | brudecom die se toegheheechent ende gheconsacreet es, sal mueghen beaeghen. Soe sal die selve 40 

For an edition of the sermon, see Vroomen and Stoop, ‘Vijf preken uit de kerstkring van 1574 van Henricus Cool’, pp. 58–63.

A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons


mestresse alderbest mueghen verantwoorden dat se hueren brudecom sal anhanghen met een suver ende onverdeelde liefde, soe dat se huer selven om sijnent wille verbloeten sal van alle andere liefte tot eeneghe creatueren ende sal hem altijts teghenwordich hebben voor die hooghen van huerder herten; soe dat se uut die onverdeelde liefte die se tot hem hebben sal, sal hem begherren in als gheorsaem te wesen ende sal die gheorsaemheit seere neerstelicke soucken te vulbringhen ende bijsonder die gheorsaemheijt die sij te doenen heeft in die kerkelicken dienst. Bij daeghe ende bij nachte sal se die seere vuereghelick ende blijdelicke vulbrijnghen ende doen, die altijts voor alle andere wercken stellende, huer selven daer niet in spaerende, maer die selfde altijts seere wackerlicke volbrijnghende. (fol. 14r–v) [Thus, noticing our position and vocation, our younger ones should best and most properly ask their superiors and mistresses who guide them on behalf of God how a crowned and consecrated little nun should behave in order to please her groom to whom she is assigned and consecrated. The aforementioned mistress should best answer that she should be dedicated to her groom with pure and undivided love, so that for his sake she will dispose herself of all other love to any creature and will always have the eyes of her heart set on him; so that out of this undivided love she wishes to obey him in everything and diligently will try to fulfil the obedience and especially the obedience she has to do for the service in church. By day and by night she should fulfil and do that devoutly and joyfully, putting it before all other duties, not sparing herself but fulfilling the task always very actively.]

Obedience in religious service is not the only concrete advice for the young sisters. They are also encouraged to obey in ‘maechtdelicke suverheijt’ [‘pristine chastity’], in body and soul, that is to say, to distance themselves from all forms of impurity, ‘ende niet alleene van sulcke onsuverheit die welcke soe grof es dat se oeck voor werlicke maechden scandelick ofte crijmenelick soude gherekent sijn, ghelick te vallen in die sonde van fornicasije’ (fol. 15r) [‘and not only of that impurity that is so crude that it is also considered disgraceful or nefarious for worldly virgins, such as falling into the sin of fornication’]. In order to prevent ‘quade suspijssijen’ [‘bad suspicions’], they should seere nerstelicke scuwen de presensije oft bijwesen van eeneghe mans oft onghelicke persoenen, in hemlijeder teghenwordicheit niet soucken ofte begherre te commen ofte oeck eeneghe spraecke daer mede te hebben, dan in de | teghenwordicheit ende bijwesen van een eersaeme ghesellijnne, alsoe ons oeck datte seere scerpelicke in ons statuten verboden es. (fol. 15r–v) [very assiduously avoid the presence or attendance of a man or a person of the opposite sex, not seek nor desire to come in his presence, nor to speak with him except in the presence and company of an honourable female companion, as that is very sharply forbidden us in our statutes.]

118 Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen

In instances like this the sermons give the impression that they are written as an introduction to monastic life.41 They are clearly conceived by someone who considered it necessary to mediate the monastic values to sisters who were not acquainted with them yet. This suggestion makes it tempting to ascribe the sermons to the woman who was responsible for the teaching of the novices (as noted above, the archival sources of Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne mention the presence of this function in the charterhouse). The end of Sermon 2, however, is also clear about the role of ‘ons huversten ende bewaerders van onser sielen’ (fol. 15v) [‘our superiors and the safe keepers of our souls’] in this process and points towards the second group mentioned by the anonymous sermon writer. They should help and support the young sisters, and the rest of the community. The importance of service also becomes clear in a passage in Sermon 13 on Maundy Thursday (fols 93r–103r) that explicitly focuses on the role of the leaders of the convent. The central theme is Jesus’s humble compliance when he washed the feet of his disciples ( John 13. 1–20), in which pericope he articulated the ultimate encouragement to follow his footsteps: ‘Ick hebbe hulijeder een exempel ghegheven op dat ghij oock so doen soudt, ghelick ick hulijeder ghedaen hebbe’ ( John 13. 15) [‘For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also’]. Obviously, the superiors of the charterhouse are supposed to follow the example of Christ’s disciples and to assist their subjects such as Christ served his disciples: ‘Hier mede soe vermaent den here alle die daer huversten sijn naer den sin van dat rijcke gods datse hem selven om sijnent wille sullen verodmoedeghen ende hem volghen in dese odmoedeghe dienst­ baerricheit’ (fol. 93v) [‘With this [pericope] the Lord admonishes all who are superiors in the sense of the realm of God that they should abase them41  A number of sermons explicitly focus on the monastic state, discussing its values and the high standards people in religious orders have to meet. A sermon that lends itself perfectly to this goal is Sermon 11 (fols 77r–86r), which was preached on the occasion of the Fourth Sunday of Lent, which was St Benedict’s day (21 March). The text focusses on a number of advantages and aspects of monastic life — both on the practical level of food and clothing and on a number of expected spiritual attitudes (awakeness, humility) — as they were set by Bene­dictus of Nursia (d. c. 547), who obviously is portrayed as the ‘licht […] die welcke oeck vele andere tot dat clare light van die kennesse gods ghebrocht heeft duer sijn leerijnghe ende sijn perfeckt leven’ (fol. 84v) [‘light […] who brought so many others to the clear light of the knowledge of God by his teachings and his perfect life’]. Sermon 12 on Passion Sunday (fols 86v–92v) stresses how people who are called ‘in dat huus gods duer sijn gracie’ (fol. 91r–v) [‘in the house of God by His grace’] should be the ‘licht der werrelt ende dat sout der herden’ (fol. 91v) [‘light of the world and the salt of the earth’ (according Matthew 5. 13–14) and thus be the model disciples of God, setting the example for other people by their ‘goet ende perfeckt leven’ (fol. 92r) [‘good and perfect life’].

A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons


selves and follow him in this humble compliance’]. This message particularly targets the spiritual leaders, because ‘die daer die meeste ende die perfexste es in die volmaeckte christelicke duechden, die es oeck die meeste ende die alder ghetrauwste om ander te dienen’ (fol. 94r) [‘who is best and most excellent in the perfect Christian virtues, he is best and most faithful in serving another person’]. By true servitude, which has to come from ardent caritas and by all means is unparalleled to the ultimate sacrifice Christ made for mankind, one can become privy to the Spirit of Christ. A bit later, the sermon warns the superiors and the persons who are perfect in virtues that they should not necessarily exercise humility outwardly; it is more important that they encourage the other members of the community to practise modest servitude, because they should pursue their subjects’ physical and spiritual salvation and well-being. Moreover, leaders should be aware of their own positions, because redundant servient behaviour might cause the loss of respect: Want dat de huversten altijts willen hemlijeder ondersaeten soe seere dienstbaerich wesen alst de noot of den oorboer dat niet en heeft, soe vermijndert dat dicwils de eerwerdicheijt ende de reverencie die welcke men behoort tot den huversten te hebben, ende alsoe soe wort dese duecht daer duere mijsbruckt. Soe sal een huverste altijts naer den sin van den heere een bereeden geest hebben tot alle odtmoedeghe dienstbaericheit maer sal ende es noottelicke dat hij nochtans die niet uutwendich doen noch houffenen en sal dan met een odmoedeghe wijse dijscresije. (fols 97v–98r) [When directors wish to be subservient to their subjects while it is not necessary or appropriate, it may diminish the venerability and the reverence which one should have for the superiors, and thus is this virtue [of servitude] abused. Therefore, a leader should always have, according to the Lord’s sense, a spirit willing to humble servitude, but it is necessary that he does not practise it outwardly, unless with humble wise discretion.]

The junior sisters, for that matter, also have their obligations in this process. They should not allow other people to serve them; on the contrary, they should learn how to serve themselves (after all, humble compliance is the foundation of all other virtues), and their servitude should come from pure devotion and the aspiration to please God.42 42 

In Sermon 8 on the occasion of the First Sunday of Lent (fols 53v–62v) both anti-poles of the community in the sense of age are addressed in the same text. In correspondence with the biblical theme ‘Ghedijnct uus scheppers in die daeghen uwer ionckheijt eer den tijt des lijdens comme ende eer die jaeren ghenaeken van den welcken ghij sult segghen: sij en behaeghen mij niet’

120 Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen

To what degree the focus on the beginners and the perfect in virtues should be attributed to Henricus Cool as the auctor intellectualis of the sermons or to the sister who committed them to text, is hard to determine. Still, the nun as the redactor of the written texts chose to accentuate the role of these opposite groups in the community. Both groups are put in relative positions to one another, and the order — and thus the exact relationship — in which they are positioned, is related to the biblical theme. It is no coincidence that in Sermon 2, which focuses on Jesus’s discussion with the wise men in the temple, the junior nuns are addressed in the first instance, and that Sermon 13, which concentrates on Christ as the superior of his disciples, addresses the superiors of the community in the first place. With regard to her literacy, we have previously noted how the Carthusian nun wrote her sermons according to a preset schedule and how one of the features of her style is the frequent use of tautologies. We have also seen how she reflected on her redactorship, repeatedly stating how she was not able to write down the sermons as beautifully or extensively as they had been preached by Henricus Cool. Occasionally parts of the text are indeed less developed. This is the case, for example, in the second part of the first sermon in the collection, where the six names of Christ (Isaiah 9. 6) are briefly mentioned — Wonderful (‘wonderlick’), Counsellor (‘raetsman’), God the Mighty (‘Godt’), Father of the world to come (‘vader der toecommender werrelt’), Prince of Peace (‘prince des vreets’) — without extensive arguments. Yet most sermons, which generally follow the traditional pattern in (Middle Dutch) sermons, being a number of points (divisiones) related to the biblical pericope of the liturgical day,43 consist of elaborated para­graphs with well-built albeit not too complex reasoning. Remarkably often the texts address the nuns on the level of behaviour: in order to be true disciples of Christ they need to observe virtues like obedience, silence, mildness, and restrain themselves from less proper behaviour like gluttony, vanity, and cupidity. [‘Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the time of affliction come, and the years draw nigh of which thou shalt say: They please me not’] (Ecclesiastes 12. 1), the sermon stresses how the sisters in the time of their youth should train themselves in virtues, because they are more difficult to acquire when one gets older. The elderly sisters, on the other hand, should enjoy the virtues they possess and implant them in others in their young years. Other episodes that address the superiors and the elders of the convent are fols 115v–116r (Sermon 15) and fols 174r–v and 175v (Sermon 21); the younger ones are addressed as well in Sermon 19, where they are encouraged to keep their silence, especially when older people are present (fols 159v–160r). 43  See Sherwood-Smith, Stoop, Ermens and Dijk, Repertorium van Middelnederlandse preken in handschriften tot 1550 / Repertorium of Middle Dutch Sermons, vii (2008), p. 27.

A Carthusian Nun’s Reportationes of Henricus Cool’s Sermons


Like other sermon-writing sisters, the Carthusian nun often integrated biblical quotations in her arguments. Most of these citations stem from the New Testament and the Letters of the Apostles, with a strong preference for the Letters of St Paul. Occasionally she refers to the Old Testament, using examples or quotes from the psalms and Job, Ecclesiastes and the prophecies of Isaiah or Ezekiel. The quotes are virtually always in Middle Dutch. Still, the sister must have had some literacy in Latin, as in two instances she flawlessly quotes in this language. In the first instance, on fol. 51r, the sister refers to the first verse of Psalm 118 (119), ‘Beati immaculaeti [sic] in via, qui ambulant in legem domini’ [‘Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord’], which is part of the liturgy of the Hours. The second verse (on fol. 66v) is also taken from the psalms, chapter 115 (116), verse 3, ‘Quid retribuam domino pro omnibus que retribuit mihi’ [‘What shall I render to the Lord, for all the things he hath rendered unto me?’]. Neither of the quotes is followed by a translation in Dutch. Although it is not certain that the sister wrote these Latin phrases from memory, she was able to copy the Latin from a written source. This is also clear from Sermon 15, on the Sunday before Ascension (fols 111v–118r), which the sister, according to a short afterword, copied from a text written by Henricus Cool himself: Dat ick hier ghescreven hebbe van die uutlegginghe van dese psalme dat heeft ons eerwerdeghe pater selfve bij ghescrijfte ghestelt tot een verwecksels van devotie om als wij die selfde psalme lesen ofte singhen dat wij dan ons herte souden mueghen upheffen met een jubilacie ende een gheestelicke blijscepe tot god onsen alder ghetrausten vader ende hem oeck ghestadelicke anhanghen souden in een biddende geest ons selven houffenende sonder oflaeten. Bidt voor hem. (fol. 118r)44 [What I have written here on the explanation of this psalm has been written by our honourable father himself as an incitement of devotion, so that when we read or sing this psalm we would be able to lift our hearts in jubilation and spiritual joy in God, our most trustworthy father, and would adhere to him constantly, in a prayerful spirit devoting ourselves without hesitation. Pray for him.]

This text contains far more Latin quotes — taken from the Pater Noster and Psalm  66 (67) which was sung at lauds — which gives the impression that Cool actually did not eschew Latin, which was an important part of liturgy, in his sermons. This reference to a sermon written by the priest himself — as well as the order in which the sermons are preserved in Brussel, Koninklijke 44 

A detailed comparison of Cool’s self-written sermon and the representations of his sermons by the anonymous sister is not possible within the scope of this essay. It is, however, part of Patricia Stoop’s planned book project.

122 Patricia Stoop and Lisanne Vroomen

Bibliotheek, MS II 2098 — also demonstrates that at least one written layer must have preceded the current text in the codex. To what extent the nun had knowledge of or access to other sources remains unclear. Only sporadically does the sister cite other auctoritates. Important sources are the Regula Benedicti and the Vita Benedicti, especially in Sermon 11 (fols 77r–86r), which is dedicated to St Benedict, whose Rule formed the basis of the Carthusian Consuetudines as noted above. In other places she refers to St Gregory the Great (fol. 41r), church father and hermit St John Climacus (c. 525–605) (fol. 149v),45 Bernard de Clairvaux (fol. 161v), and the Prognosticum future saeculi (688), a systematic study of Christian eschatology by St Julián, archbishop of Toledo (c. 642–90) (fol. 164r).46 The anonymous Carthusian sister from Sint-Anna-Ter-Woestijne was very aware of and concerned about her responsibility as transmitter of Cool’s sermons, as the many reflections on her redactorship and the preconceived ideas on what a sermon collection should look like demonstrate. From the beginning, she wrote down her confessor’s sermons not only to support her own memory and spiritual growth, but also for that of the broader community. Although little is revealed about her identity, she shows herself a woman who was focused on the spiritual well-being of the women in her monastery. In her reliance on formulae, tautologies, and the repetition of her ignorance and incapacity — which is very different from the redactorship in other sermon collections by women studied thus far, as is the fact that she chose to write down the sermons as reportationes —, the sister turns into a shadowy persona, thus becoming the model Carthusian nun. This deliberate evocation of an ideal type is strengthened by the author’s decision to emphasize advice and admonition to other sisters. She clearly considered it her task to mediate the virtues and the appropriate habits of monastic life and to warn against the threats to the soul which are never far away, even for crowned and consecrated nuns who sought to be spiritually deaf and mute to the world. Whether she officially held the office or not, we should consider her a teacher and an instructor of the junior nuns and the other sisters, including the office-holders, in the charterhouse. 45 

Léon Clugnet, ‘St. John Climacus’, in The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church, ed. by Charles G. Herbermann and others, 15 vols (New York: Robert Appleton, 1907–12), viii (1910) [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. 46  For the Prognosticum, see Julián de Toledo, Prognosticum future saeculi: Foreknowledge of the World to Come, ed. and trans. by Tommaso Stancati, Ancient Christian Writers, 63 (New York: Paulist, 2010).

Literacy and Visualization

What Did Catalan Nuns Read? Women’s Literacy in the Female Monasteries of Catalonia, Majorca, and Valencia Blanca Garí


hy Catalan nuns? And again, why nuns’ literacy in Catalonia, Majorca, and Valencia? I would like to start my contribution to this volume with a few words about the title of my essay, since the double question it poses requires a little contextualization.1 On the one hand, the territory known as Catalonia in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries is an ensemble of counties under the rule of the count of Barcelona who, from 1137 onwards, also became the king of Aragon, hence the usual reference to the set of counties and kingdoms under his rule as ‘territories of the Crown of Aragon’. In 1229 Jaume I, the king of Aragon and count of Barcelona, launched his conquest of Majorca. The island was mainly repopulated by Catalans, who brought their language, that is, Catalan; a few years later, the same monarch conquered Valencia, and Catalans also settled in almost all of that kingdom. Both conquests would bring about the kingdoms of Majorca and Valencia, which would also become a part of the Crown of Aragon. On the other hand, the ranges of both the subtitle of this essay and the territory under consideration are due to specific circumstances: in the last centuries of the Middle Ages there were numerous nunneries in the kingdoms of Catalonia, Majorca, and Valencia, and their libraries were filled with books in Latin and in the vernacular. Among the latter there was a significant number of works in Catalan, which were either translations of the main works on spirituality in circulation throughout south1 

This research was funded by MINECO through the projects: HAR2011–25127 ‘Claustra. Atlas de espiritualidad femenina en los Reinos Peninsulares’ and HAR2014-52198-P ‘Spiritual Landscapes’ [both ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. Blanca Garí ([email protected]) is Professor of Medieval History at the Universitat de Barcelona.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 125–148 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS



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ern Europe or texts directly written by the nuns themselves. However, studies devoted to nuns’ literacy and their libraries and reading are few. Moreover, we still do not have enough documents to go into detail about the literacy and cultural practices of each specific space, except perhaps in the case of several late medi­eval female monasteries. Nevertheless, the ongoing collection of scattered data (partial library and book inventories, monastic archival sources, as well as the functional analysis of extant spaces) goes against the, until recently, widespread idea of cultural poverty in the female monastic milieux of most territories of the Crown of Aragon. This essay will try to show the wealth of these sources, the circulation of manu­scripts and knowledge, the dialogue between Latin and vernacular culture, and the literacy and cultural practices evident from many of the scattered extant testimonies.2 The houses on which I will focus belong to various orders, illustrate varying contexts, and exemplify different problems. I will deal with several Catalan female monasteries: the Cistercian nunnery of Santa Maria de Vallbona (Urgell), founded in 1175; the houses of the Poor Clares of Sant Antoni de Barcelona, founded in 1236; Santa Maria de Pedralbes (near Barcelona), founded in 1326; Santa Clara de Manresa (Bages), founded in 1326; and the Dominican house of Santa María de Montsió in Barcelona, founded in 1347. I will also discuss two Augustinian communities of Majorca, Santa Margarida, founded in Palma de Mallorca in 1229, and Santa Maria del Puig de Pollença, first founded by three beguines as a hermitage around 1362. Finally, I will concentrate briefly on the monastery of La Trinitat in Valencia, founded in 1445, and the most famous female author of Catalan spiritual literature, Isabel de Villena (1430–90). This selection will enable both an overview of the subject and the establishment of hypotheses about the diverse stances the different orders took on literacy practices, or about the ways in which those practices evolved between the thirteenth and the fifteenth centuries. One of the most remarkable aspects emerging from the analysis of the foundational policy in the Catalan counties is the prominence, already evident from the twelfth century, of the female Cistercian Order. Compared to the abundance of studies regarding the major male monasteries related to the policy of 2 

One of the cornerstones of the present study is the compilation of direct and indirect information concerning the existence and the use of books, the presence of scriptoria and educational practices in the nunneries of medi­e val Catalonia, Majorca, and Valencia following, to a large extent, the suggestions of Jeffrey Hamburger for other regions of the West; see Jeffrey F. Hamburger, ‘Frauen und Schriftlichkeit in der Schweiz im Mittelalter’, in Bibliotheken bauen: Tradition und Vision, ed by Susanne Bieri and Walther Fuchs (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2001), pp. 71–121.

What Did Catalan Nuns Read?


repopulation and territorial reorganization of the so-called Catalunya Nova (New Catalonia), set in motion by the Counts of Barcelona, there are surprisingly few works on Catalan nunneries and the reasons leading to their foundation. Nevertheless, it seems clear that the Cistercian Reform of the twelfth century enjoyed great prestige in the Catalan counties, also in the female branch, by means of which, under the protection and promotion of Catalan noblewomen, such as Berenguera de Cervera (1166–1203), Geralda de Portella (documented between 1231–41), or Elvira, the countess of Urgell (c. 1145–c. 1220), a good number of previous hermitic communities related to Benedictine monasteries or hermitages of deovotae3 were redirected to the Cistercian Rule.4 That transformation occurred at a moment of profound change in devotional practices, marked by the conflict entailed by the expansion and diaspora of heretical communities from the north of the Pyrenees, a problem to which female Cistercian communities could have been a response.5 In any case, if several of these houses had short lifespans, and some others merged, were divided, or transferred to other locations during the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries, others established themselves firmly as important religious settlements and famous cultural and educational establishments, such as the house of Santa Maria de Vallbona in Catalonia. The community of Santa Maria de Vallbona de les Monges (literally, Vallbona of the Nuns), founded in 1175 upon a previous mixed community of hermits, stands out among Cistercian Catalan nunneries due to the artistic, archival, and patrimonial heritage that has survived to this day.6 This legacy 3  The deovotae were women who led a religious life in community without joining a regular monastic order. They were quite common in Catalonia between the ninth and the fifteenth centuries. On this matter, see Montserrat Cabré, ‘Deodicatae y deovotae: la regulación de la religiosidad femenina en los condados catalanes, siglos ix–xi’, in Las mujeres en el cristianismo medi­eval: imágenes teóricas y cauces de actuación religiosa, ed. by Ángela Muñoz Fernández (Madrid: Laya, 1989), pp. 169–82. 4  Montserrat Obiols i Bou, ‘El monacat femení a la Catalunya medi­e val: Santa Maria de Valldaura (1241–1399)’, Butlletí de la Societat Catalana d’Estudis Històrics, 17 (2006), 177–98, an article that summarizes the main results of her doctoral thesis, available online with the same title: ‘El monacat femení en la Catalunya medi­e val: Santa Maria de Valldaura (1241–1399)’ (doctoral dissertation, Universitat de Barcelona, 2005) [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. 5  This is suggested in Montserrat Obiols i Bou’s doctoral thesis; in general, for Catalan female houses and, in particular, for the case of Valldaura in Berguedà; see Obiols i Bou, ‘El monacat femení en la Catalunya medi­eval’, pp. 73–74 and 160–61. 6  Josep-Joan Piquer i Jover, Abaciologi de Vallbona: 1153–1990, 2nd edn (Vallbona de

128 Blanca Garí

tells us about the presence within its walls of two important spaces or cultural practices: the school and the scriptorium.7 In Vallbona the existence of choir girls and, consequently, that of a space for teaching, appears documented almost from its foundation through several bulls issued by Pope Innocent III (1198–1216).8 The degree of literacy of the nuns of Vallbona is well represented by several of the most remarkable figures in the history of the community.9 Some of these figures were: Maria de Aguilar, ‘puella litterata’, who was recommended by Pope Alexander IV (1254–61) in 1254 in a letter to the abbess of Vallbona for admission to the convent; the abbess Blanca de Anglesola (1294–1328), who fostered both the activity of the scriptorium and the organization of the archive of Vallbona; and finally, Violant de Perellós (appointed as abbess in 1419), a learned woman who had once been a lady at the refined court of the queen of Aragon, Violant de Bar. Nevertheless, what best emphasizes the important cultural tradition of Vallbona and highlights the intellectual life of the community are the codices produced by the monastic scriptorium.10 Among the manu­scripts produced in the first period of the workshop, a gradual with musical notation on a four-line staff and a 127-folio codex containing several sermons by St Bernard de Clairvaux, copied at the scriptorium during the twelfth century, stand out. There are more than fourteen extant codices from the end of the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth century, coinciding with the abbacy of Blanca de Anglesola. Among them, besides liturgical les Monges: Fundació d’Història i Art Roger de Belfort, 1990); Josep-Joan Piquer i Jover, Vallbona: guia espiritual i artística, 2nd edn (Santa Maria de Vallbona: Claret, 1993). 7  The education of children of both genders in the Cistercian monasteries of the Iberian Peninsula is as well documented as the intensive activity of their scriptoria, but the education of girls and young women was especially frequent in Cistercian nunneries; see Ghislain Baury, Les religieuses de Castille: patronage aristocratique et ordre cistercien xiie–xiiie siècles (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2012), p. 81. 8  The practice of teaching within the walls of the monastery was sanctioned on 1 July 1200 and again on 30 June 1201 by two bulls issued by Innocent III. They established the right of the monastery to receive and look after ‘encomanades’ or female pupils, a situation that would endure during the whole medi­eval period, being questioned only from the Reformation onwards; see Piquer i Jover, Abaciologi de Vallbona, p. 70. 9  See further Piquer i Jover, Abaciologi de Vallbona, pp. 87, 100–17, and 153–55; see also Agustí Altisent, ‘Una postulanta de Vallbona “literatta” y con recomendación papal’, Schola Caritatis, 49 (1969), 111–16. 10  An inventory of the extant codices can be found in José Janini, ‘Los manuscritos del Monasterio de Vallbona (Lérida),’ Hispania Sacra: Revista de Historia Eclesiástica, 15 (1962), 439–52.

What Did Catalan Nuns Read?


books for everyday use, patristic commentaries by St Augustine and the glosses on the Cistercian Rule written by St Bernard for his sister Humbeline can be found. Also noteworthy are an illuminated Bible containing the books of the prophets with the prologues of St Jerome and St Isidoro de Sevilla and a gradual with calli­graphic decoration produced, in all certainty, in the scriptorium of the monastery at the bequest of Abbess Blanca.11 The abbess herself was the author of a manu­script known as the ‘Codex de Blanca de Anglesola’, which was kept in the archive at least until 1800, when Jaume Pasqual made a copy still extant.12 This work is a sort of chronicle that comprises the statutes of female Cistercian abbeys, including the regulations concerning nuns issued by the General Chapter of Citeaux between 1228 and 1300, the Vita beati Raimundi — the life of the hermit who founded the first mixed community where Vallbona has its origins — his testament, the chapter resolution of Blanca de Anglesola, dated 23 February 1313, which establishes the obligation of praying for the souls of the benefactors of the nunnery, and, finally, the list of abbesses, starting with the name of the foundress, Berenguera de Cervera, who was not a nun, and the first abbess, Oria. This list was completed in the same codex after the death of Blanca up to the election of Abbess Leocadia de Ricart, on 6 April 1631. Also in the fourteenth century the didactic treatises for the use of female pupils and a manu­script of the treatise on the Missus est angelus by St Bernard stand out. The culture of Cistercian nuns is thus, according to the manu­scripts from Vallbona, still fundamentally Latin; works written in Latin are read, copied, and produced within its walls and its scriptorium. If we now turn to the mendicant orders and the female communities within their orbit, the information on the reading and the literacy of nuns multiplies and diversifies. The first monastery of Clarissans under the Rule of S. Damiano or Damianite Clarissans of Catalonia, Sant Antoni de Barcelona, founded on the outskirts of the city in 1236, offers the first opportunity for investigation.13 We are in the dark regarding the activity of the scriptorium, but we can trace the change in the cultural ambiance and the direction of community reading 11 

Janini, ‘Los manuscritos del Monasterio de Vallbona (Lérida)’, pp. 451, 449. Josep Maria Sans i Travé, El Llibre Verd del pare Jaume Pasqual: primera historia del monestir de Vallbona (Barcelona: Fundació Noguera, 2002). On this ‘chronicle’, see also Núria Petit Bordes, ‘Estudi de les fonts documentals que informen sobre els orígens, la fundació i els primers temps del monestir cistercenc de Vallbona’, Urtx: revista cultural de l’Urgell, 14 (2001), 84–116. 13  Núria Jornet i Benito, El monestir de Sant Antoni de Barcelona: l’origen i l’assentament del primer monestir de clarisses a Catalunya (Barcelona: Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 2007). 12 

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by means of two important inventories (dated 1337–38 and 1422 respectively) that evince the existence and the use of books within the nunnery.14 The fourteenth-century inventory highlights the presence of liturgical books (Sunday lectionaries, breviaries, missals, martyrologies, bibles for the use of officiants and nuns), which are mostly kept inside the sacristy, and are the responsibility of the sacristan, but in addition there are the books scattered throughout chapels and altars in the church and the choir, as well as the books for the female pupils. Among the first, the most important are the choir psalter, the breviary, ‘I breviari qui esta en la capela de Sent Francesch’ (fol. 3v) [‘a breviary in the chapel of St Francis’]; ‘I libre de Sancta Maria Magdalena que.s lis a pascha’ (fol. 3v) [‘a book of St Mary Magdalene that is read during Easter’], maybe a life of St Mary Magdalene; and ‘I libre de Vicis I Virtuts qui esta fermat davant l’altar’ (fol. 6r) [‘a book of Vices and Virtues attached before the altar’], that is, a moral treatise on vices and virtues that was well renowned at the time.15 It is also remarkable that the last three are written in the vernacular, the Catalan mother tongue of the nuns, and are probably destined for collective or individual prayer and devotional performances. Hence, sometimes, those books appear in situ, ‘fermats’ [‘attached’] to the space for which they were meant, which marks the explicit relationship between space and use.16 However, the inventory indicates the existence of books for the girls described as ‘fadrines’ or ‘infantes’, that is, the female pupils who, according to this account, were in 14 

These two inventories are, respectively, the monastery’s general inventory, dated 1337–38 (Barcelona, Arxiu del Monestir de Santa Clara de Barcelona, Inventaris del convent, 813), and studied in Núria Jornet i Benito, El monestir de Sant Antoni de Barcelona, pp. 113–15, and the general inventory of 1422 (Barcelona, Arxiu del Monestir de Santa Clara de Barcelona, Inventaris del convent, 20). In the archive of the monastery there are also several extant sacristy inventories. In the last two years we have studied a much larger number of convent and sacristy inventories that we do not include here. For an analysis, see Nuria Jornet i Benito, ‘Un monestir a la cruïlla: els inventaris de sagristia del monestir de Sant Antoni i Santa Clara de Barcelona (1389–1461)’, Anuario de Estudios Medi­evales, 44 (2014), 227–308; and Blanca Garí and Nuria Jornet Benito, ‘El objeto en su contexto: libros y prácticas devocionales en el monasterio de Sant Antoni i Santa Clara de Barcelona’, in Clarisas y dominicas: modelos de implantación, filiación, promoción y devoción en la Península Ibérica, Cerdeña, Nápoles y Sicilia, ed. by Gemma-Teresa Colesanti, Blanca Garí, and Núria Jornet-Benito (Firenze: Firenze Uni­ ver­sity Press, forthcoming). 15  Barcelona, Arxiu del Monestir de Santa Clara de Barcelona, Inventaris del convent, 813. 16  See Hamburger, ‘Frauen und Schriftlichkeit in der Schweiz im Mittelalter’, p. 73, who also provides evidence of this relationship between space and use in the case of German monasteries.

What Did Catalan Nuns Read?


the monastery since childhood. There are ‘iii lecciones sotils en que ligen les fadrines’ (fol. 5r) [‘three thin lectionaries, from which young maidens read’] and ‘ii libres pochs que canten les fadrines’ (fol. 5r) [‘two small chant books for young maidens’]. Their importance is no doubt related not to their value as material objects but to the fact that they were used to teach ‘fadrines’, which emphasizes the educational capability of the monastic space. We also find two Flores sanctorum — collections of pious legends and lives of saints based on the Legenda aurea by Jacopo da Varazze — ‘I de lati y alter de pla’ (fol. 5r) [‘one in Latin, the other in Catalan’], and a book with the ‘vida de sant Francesch y d’altres sants’ (fol. 6r) [‘life of St Francis and other saints’], also in Catalan. Some of the books listed in the 1337–38 inventory are also mentioned in sacristy inventories throughout the Middle Ages, but the 1422 inventory provides a complete record.17 It shows that many of the books mentioned in the fourteenth century are still there almost a century later: ‘en la sgleya’ [‘in the church’], we find again ‘dos libres prims en que aprenen les infantes’ (fol. 7v) [‘two thin books from which the young girls learn’] and ‘hun libre per metre les fadrines al cant’ (fol. 7v) [‘a book from which young maidens learn to sing’], a detail that suggests that there are still pupils at Sant Antoni de Barcelona. As before, many books are distributed in different spaces of the house: we find ‘hun breviari fermat en lo capitol, Item hun altre breviari a la porta del reffetori, Item hun diornal a la porta del torn, Item hun altre flos santorum qui serveix a legir al reffetor’ (fol. 7v) [‘a breviary, chained, in the Chapter House, also another one next to the door of the refectory, in like manner a diurnal next to the turnstile, also another “flos santorum” for reading in the refectory’]. A considerable number of books are concentrated in the bookcases of the sacristy and choir, ‘Item en lo chor en lo armari de les cantores ha dos bacins de lauto, item hun libre del plant de Sant Bernat, item hun libre de Santa Margarita, item iiii libres qui servexen com son a la mort’ (fol. 7r) [‘Also, in the choir, in the bookcase of the singers there are two brass bowls, and a book entitled El Plant de Sant Bernat, and a book about St Margaret, and also four books for the Mass of the dead’] — these ‘brass bowls’ are probably metallic plates used as percussion instruments. We do not find only liturgical books but devotional and spiritual works as well: the book of Santa Paula, maybe a life of the saint, the Plant de Sant Bernat, probably the Liber de passione Christi et doloribus et planctibus matris ejus attributed to St Bernard de Clairvaux; a book about St Margaret, probably a life of the saint; two ‘flores sanctorum’ in Catalan; ‘hun libre dels Sants Pares’ [‘a book of the Holy Fathers’], probably the life of the Desert Fathers; two ‘ret17 

Barcelona, Arxiu del Monestir de Santa Clara de Barcelona, Inventaris del convent, 20.

132 Blanca Garí

gles’ [‘rules’]; a Datari en que anunccien la luna, that is, a calendar or lunary; the book where the death of nuns is registered, that is, some sort of martyrology; and also others which are difficult to identify, such as a book apparently called the Monsoneguer, literally, the ‘Liar’. Many of the books listed in this inventory are also scattered throughout the nunnery according to their function, in the Chapter House, the refectory or next to the turnstile, and we cannot find a specific place for their storage, what would constitute a proper library. With regard to the Catalan Poor Clares, a second house was founded near Barcelona (in Pedralbes) by Queen Elisenda de Montcada (1292–1364) in 1326: the Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes. Also in this case, the documents offer significant evidence about the books and reading of the community.18 Again, the information is mainly based on two inventories (one from 1364 and another from 1466), but also based on diverse documentary registers recording both the purchase of books and materials, and payments for their repair.19 In 1326 King Jaume II gave his wife Elisenda a set of books that came from the recently disbanded Order of the Temple for the foundation of the monastery: we know about these books through royal registers,20 as well as through the 1364 inventory of the monastery.21 In the first case, in the royal register from 1326, liturgical works maintain their pre-eminence (we find a psalter, a responsorium, a ‘consueta’ or customary’, an epistolary, and a missal) but in addition we also find other books such as lives of saints, a treatise on humility, and a book that begins with the words ‘liber scintillarum’ [‘book of sparks’].22 In the second case, the 1364 inventory, also lists this first set that had come 18 

On Pedralbes, see Anna Castellano i Tresserra, Pedralbes a l’edat mitjana: història d’un monestir femení (Barcelona: Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 1998); Cristina Sanjust Latorre, L’obra del Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes des de la seva fundació fins al segle xvi: un monestir reial per a l’orde de les clarisses a Catalunya (Barcelona: Institut Mon Juïc i Xarxa Vives d’Universitats, 2010). 19  Such information is compiled in Sanjust Latorre, L’obra del Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes des de la seva fundació fins al segle xvi, pp. 389–91. 20  Barcelona, Archivo de la Corona de Aragón, Cancilleria, Registro 285, fol. 237v, published in ‘Inventaris inèdits de l’ordre del temple a Catalunya’, ed. by Jordi Rubió i Balaguer, Ramon d’Alòs-Moner i de Dou, and Francesc Martorell i Trabal, Anuari de l’Institut d’estudis Catalans (1907–08), 385–407, discussed also by Anna Castellano i Tresserra, Pedralbes a l’edat mitjana, pp. 325–27. 21  Arxiu Històric del Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes, Lligall, Inventaris, n. 137. Castellano i Tresserra, Pedralbes a l’edat mitjana, pp. 327–31. 22  This does not refer to the work of Alvar Cordobés, as the aforementioned authors maintain, but more likely to the seventh-century Liber scintillarum of Defensor de Ligugé, often

What Did Catalan Nuns Read?


from the Order of the Temple. For instance, the inventory mentions ‘iiii libres qui foren dels temples en que aprenen les nines’ [‘four books that belonged to the Knights Templar from which the little girls learn’], and a Sintillari to be read during mealtimes, which is probably the ‘liber scintillarum’ mentioned in the royal register of Jaume II. But the inventory also points to the existence of many other books within the walls of the nunnery: some of them are items of significant value, such as one of the six psalters, ‘I saltiri ab cobertes o post d’argent capletrat d’or’ [‘a psalter bound in silver with golden initials’]. The hints the inventory provides indicate that the liturgical works were scattered throughout the altars of the church, chapels, and choir: for instance, the nine missals about which it is said ‘estan pels altars i les capelles de fores’ [‘they are on the altars and in the external chapels’]. Next to liturgical books we also find biblical, theological, spiritual, and devotional works, in Latin and especially in Catalan. Among these, the most significant are: ‘i Genesi en romans’ [‘a vernacular Genesis’]; ‘ii Libres de Vida de Sants Pares’ [‘two books of the lives of the Holy Fathers’]; ‘i flos sanctorum qui es en latí’ [‘one “flos sanctorum” in Latin’]; ‘ii flos sanctorum qui son en romanç’ [‘two “flores sanctorum” in the vernacular’]; the Llibre de Vicis i Virtuts [Book of Vices and Virtues] in Catalan; the explanation of the gospels; a book about St Mary Magdalene, probably a life of the saint; one of the miracles of St Francesco d’Assisi; the Sintillari to be read during mealtimes; ‘la regla de les sors en lati e en romans an un volum’ [‘the Rule of the sisters in Latin and Catalan in one single book’] — which can probably be identified with one of the extant manu­scripts kept in the library —; and a ‘breviari qui asta en cadena en la capela de Sancta Helisabet’ [‘a breviary chained in the chapel of St Elizabeth’] in the convent’s church. Once again, as in the case of the Poor Clares of Sant Antoni de Barcelona, in Santa Maria de Pedralbes there is nothing that suggests the idea of a library, and books are found all over the house, their location coinciding, in the cases specified, with the place in which they were meant to be used. In Pedralbes there is a second extant inventory dated 1466, when the nuns abandoned the monastery due to the Catalan Civil War (1462–72), which records the existence in the choir of chests full of books: a closed poplar box containing thirty books, and another old locked chest with five missals and an ordinary, the books that the nuns took along with them.23 Finally, several extant attributed to Bede; see Defensor de Ligugé, Liber scintillarum, ed. by Henri-Marie Rochais, Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, 117 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1957), pp. 1–234. 23  Sanjust Latorre, L’obra del Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes, p. 390.

134 Blanca Garí

works in the archive of the monastery date back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, although it is difficult to narrow down the date any further. Besides the Rule in Latin and Catalan listed in the 1364 inventory, we find liturgical and biblical works but also works on philosophy and science, for example, the commentaries on the book of Jeremiah by St Jerome, homilies about the Gospel of Matthew, several pages of a natural history based on Pliny the Elder and St Isidoro de Sevilla, and a passage from Book iv of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, all of them speaking volumes about the level of literacy of these nuns.24 In 1326, the same year that Queen Elisenda founded Pedralbes, the provost of Santa Maria de la Seu, in Manresa, authorized six Poor Clares to build a convent next to the chapel of Sant Blai i Sant Llàtzer, documented from 1292, outside the walls of the city.25 That was the beginning of a foundation that, without sharing the prestige and wealth of the aforementioned Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes, was probably the centre of intellectual activity of some relevance. In Santa Clara de Manresa, we find women who belonged to the local urban bourgeoisie, and some of them at least, according to the information at our disposal about the books the community owned, had a considerable education in Latin as well as in their Catalan mother tongue.26 During the first years of the existence of the community, there are several isolated hints related to books. For instance, we know about the legal formalities carried out on 2 September 1347 for the recovery of a ‘datari’ — probably another calendar or lunary — that had belonged to the community, which proves the concern of the nuns for their book holdings; and also about the role played by Alamanda de Vilafresser, first abbess of Santa Clara de Manresa (1333–50) as mediator between Constança, a widow, and a creditor of her late husband for the recov24 

These books or fragments of books are preserved in the current monastery, as mentioned in Castellano i Tresserra, Pedralbes a l’edat mitjana, p. 331. 25  On the foundation of the Poor Clares of Manresa, see Araceli Rosillo-Luque, ‘“Habeant ecclesiam Santorum Blasy et Latzari edifficatam iuxta dictum eorum monasterium Sancte Clare”: Evidences and Hypotheses on the Foundation of Santa Clara de Manresa’, in Women’s Networks of Spiritual Promotion in the Peninsular Kingdoms (13th–16th Centuries), ed. by Blanca Garí (Roma: Viella, 2013), pp. 167–83. 26  The documentary holdings of the old Arxiu de Protocols Notarials de Manresa, which are currently preserved in the Arxiu Històric Comarcal de Manresa, contain numerous references to books related to Santa Clara de Manresa. These references were edited and discussed by Miquel Torres Cortina in his doctoral thesis, published online: see Miquel Torres Cortina, ‘L’escriptura i el llibre a la Catalunya Central als segles xiii i xiv’, 3 vols (doctoral dissertation, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 2004) [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. In the following notes and text I will quote from Torres Cortina’s thesis.

What Did Catalan Nuns Read?


ery of a Speculum iuris, a book on canon law written by Guillaume Durand (d. 1296), on 10 June 1349.27 That said, although we have practically no available information regarding the presence of liturgical books, there is no doubt there had to be some, since they were indispensable for the Divine Office. We also know about the considerable wealth in books of the monastery especially through the testament of the jurist Ramon Saera (d. 1357), dated 24 November 1357, which includes the legacy of an important set of books to the nunnery.28 On 14 December 1357, Abbess Romia Olcinelles (1350–59) and sixteen other nuns of the community, including Margarita Saera (1357–97), acknowledged that Guillem Cellers, a canon of the cathedral of Santa Maria de Manresa, and Berenguer Saera (second half of the thirteenth century), son and heir to the late Ramon Saera, had delivered eleven books that had been bequeathed by the said Ramon.29 Among the works there inventoried we find: the Liber sententiarum by Peter Lombard, a textbook for the study of theology at the universities of the time; St Augustine’s De civitate dei; St Isidoro de Sevilla’s De summo bono, with several other books contained within the same volume; the Sacramentale, a law book for the use of canonists written by Guillermo de Montelugduno (d. 1334); a lapidary whose author is impossible to determine; the Summa de poenitentia by Ramon de Penyafort (1180–1275), glossed. Biblical books or commentaries on biblical books are also listed: the Expositio super cantica canticorum and the Expositio super Danielem; the Gospel of John, glossed; the Evangelium Nichodemi; and a book containing the Acts of the Apostles, the Canonical Epistles, and the Liber Apochalipsis (also glossed). Only one liturgical book is recorded, the Office of Sant Fèlix i Sant Narcís de Girona, as well as one ‘datari’. The importance of some of these volumes and the necessary Latin education of their owners are evident. It would be interesting to identify some of these works, such as the commentary on the Song of Songs or the Expositio super Danielem, in order to enquire into the circulation of specific works in Central Catalonia in the middle of the fourteenth century. 27 

Manresa, Arxiu Històric Comarcal de Manresa, Llibre particular del Convent de Santa Clara, 1332–54, 10 July 1349. Edited and discussed by Torres Cortina, ‘L’escriptura i el llibre a la Catalunya Central als segles xiii i xiv’, ii, document no. 76, p. 191. 28  Manresa, Arxiu Històric Comarcal de Manresa, Testamentorum i, 1352–61, 464, fols 11v–115r. Edited and discussed by Torres Cortina, ‘L’escriptura i el llibre a la Catalunya Central als segles xiii i xiv’, ii, document no. 90, pp. 209–12. 29  Manresa, Arxiu Històric Comarcal de Manresa, Llibre particular de Ramon (difunt) i Berenguer Saera, 1357–79, 4147, fols 6r–v. Edited and discussed by Torres Cortina, ‘L’escriptura i el llibre a la Catalunya Central als segles xiii i xiv’, ii, document no. 95, pp. 221–22.

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In contrast to the highly learned nature of this legacy, several years later, again in a testament dated 19 September 1384, Guillem Bofill, a priest from Manresa, left another set of books and documents, this time to a specific nun, Sibil·la d’Arcs, which were mostly in Catalan:30 ‘i sach on hauie moltes cartes e scriptures’ [‘a sackful of letters and writings’] by Sibil·la de Luna, Guillem Bofill, and other unidentified people; a ‘diurnal’, hand-copied by Guillem himself; a Sunday lectionary; ‘i libra de paper de Seneca et de Salamo’ [‘a paper book by Seneca and Solomon’]; a paper book entitled In summis festis; a paper cookbook; another paper book entitled Cronomantia; a book entitled Cinonimia; several books of accounts and expenses; and a Ores de Sancta Maria e defuncts, that is, a book of hours. According to Torres Cortina, the cookbook ‘d’apparellar viandes’ [‘for the preparation of meals’] was the Llibre d’aparellar de menjar, a famous Catalan cookbook; the book entitled Cronomantia must have been a calendar or computus book, whereas the book entitled Cinonimia could be the work of Isidoro de Sevilla, his Synonima seu Soliloquia.31 We do not know if this singular library actually merged with that of the nunnery through Sibil·la, but the legacy itself speaks once again about the diversity of themes, the dialogue between Latin and vernacular culture, and the intensive circulation of books in Catalonia, to which nunneries, it seems, were not unconnected. In 1392, another nun of the monastery, Francesca de Roure (1357–92), appointed Jaume Ferrer, from the village of Cervera, as procurator in order to retrieve both a psalter and the habit of a beguine that had been pawned in the said city to Miquel Morell for thirty-three sueldos.32 But especially relevant is the donation to the Poor Clares of Sant Blai i Sant Llàtzer of Manresa made on 28 December 1397 by Margarita, the widow of the merchant Frances Palau, a citizen of Manresa. It consisted of a manu­script containing all the books of the New Testament (the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, 30 

Manresa, Arxiu Històric Comarcal de Manresa, Llibre particular de Francesc Sallent i els preveres de la Seu, 1353–90, 245. Edited and discussed by Miquel Torres Cortina, ‘L’escriptura i el llibre a la Catalunya Central als segles xiii i xiv’, ii, document no. 164, pp. 325–26. 31  See Torres Cortina, ‘L’escriptura i el llibre a la Catalunya Central als segles xiii i xiv’, i, 197–98. The Llibre d’aparellar de menjar is not an adaptation of the renowned Sent Sovi, as Torres Cortina suggests, but an original fourteenth-century cookbook, which the inventory helps to date as being composed before 1384. 32  Manresa, Arxiu Històric Comarcal de Manresa, Llibre particular del Convent de Santa Clara, 1383–1401, 19 December 1392, fols 104r–105v. Edited and discussed by Torres Cortina, ‘L’escriptura i el llibre a la Catalunya Central als segles xiii i xiv’, iii, document no. 219, pp. 56–57.

What Did Catalan Nuns Read?


the Epistles of Saint Paul, the Canonical Epistles, and the Apocalypse or Book of Revelations) and a codex that had belonged to her brother Pere de la Selva, a hermit on the mountain of Montserrat. According to the detailed description provided by the acknowledgement of receipt of the donation signed by Guillemoneta de Manresa, the abbess of the nunnery from 1359 to 1405, and nine other nuns, this manu­script, carefully illuminated and bound and written in a beautiful vernacular script (that is, in Catalan) was meant for special contemplation, education, and devotion.33 The document specifies the solemn commitment of the community to keep the donation chained in the choir and not to allow it to leave that space, to be sold or pawned, ensuring it would forever serve for the use of the whole community.34 This work again highlights the 33 

‘speciali contemplacione nostri et successorum mearum, et pro instruccione nostrarum, mearum, et ut deuocio nostra crescat apud Altissimum estis spiritualibus pascere dimisit et legavit a nobis et ad sevicium nostrum et lecturan concessit, dedit et assignauit ad inperpetuum quendam eius librum in centum sexdecim foliis, et parte medii folii in maiori parte de papiro, et in quolibet quaterno duobus foliis ab utraque parte pergameneis, pro eius maiori conseruacione conscriptum et contentum, cum postibus ligneis cohopertis corio uirmileo, et quinque tatxis siue clauis cum capçana de lautono in utraque ipsarum postium a parte exteriori ornatum. In quoquidem libro scriptum est, et contentum in romancio et puncriori litera et multum abiliter illuminatum’ [‘for our special contemplation and that of our successors, for our education and that of mine, and so that our devotion to the almighty increases, she has left and bequeathed us, and has granted, given, and assigned us in perpetuity for our own use and reading a book written and composed in one hundred and sixty leaves, and those in the middle are mostly paper leaves, and in some quires two leaves per side are made of parchment for better conservation, bound with wooden boards lined with red leather, and five tacks or nails, with brass corners on each board, decorated on the outside. And the said book is written in Romance language, and with a beautiful script, and skilfully illuminated’]; Manresa, Arxiu Històric de Protocols de Manresa, Libre particular del Convent de Santa Clara 1383–1401, 28 December 1397, fols 141r–142v. Edited by Torres Cortina, ‘L’escriptura i el llibre a la Catalunya Central als segles xiii i xiv’, iii, document no. 267, pp. 125–29. 34  ‘quod iamdictis liber cum quadam catena ferrea firmetur et iugatur ac ponatur in coro nostro dicti monasterii, taliter quod numquam ab inde seperetur, diuidatur seu abstrahatur aliqua causa, modo uel forma […]. Et etiam quod ipse liber aliquo unquam tempore quauis causa vel ratione non possit per nos vel successores nostras neque per aliquam aliam quauis personam uendi, acomodari, alienari, impignorari neque in alios usis conuerteri, immo perpetuo in dicto coro sit ad seruicium comodum et usum nostri dictarum monialium et cuiuslibet nostram et succesorum mearum monialium dicti nostri monasterii’ [‘that said book is bound and with an iron chain and placed in the choir of our convent so that it will never be separated, removed, or taken away from there for any reason, and in any manner or form […]. And that this book may never be sold, delivered, alienated, pawned, or converted to other uses for any cause or reason by me, our successors or any other person, but remains in the said choir at our service, at the service of the aforementioned nuns and any of our successors, the nuns of this our convent’];

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translations into the vernacular of the Bible and the production of luxurious codices related to them.35 Also in the fourteenth century the first Dominican nunnery was founded in Barcelona. It was first dedicated to St Peter Martyr — the Dominican inquisitor Pietro da Verona (1205–52) — and later to Our Lady of Mount Zion, also known as Santa Maria de Montsió.36 The house was founded at the initiative of the Infanta María of Aragon (1297–1347), daughter of King Jaume II and Blanca of Anjou, who founded and endowed it on 8 June 1347, just before her death, although the house would only become a reality in 1357. The extant documents in the archive of the monastery do not offer much concerning the books possessed by the community, but, nonetheless, the literary and intellectual activity of this Dominican house was certainly important, since we hear about it from several scattered sources, some of them quite significant. Two unusual but unexpected pieces of information stand out: a papal bull from 1372 and a register of Queen María dated 1451.37 In the first case, on 12 September 1372, Gregory XI informed Nicolau Eimeric (1320–99), inquisitor general of the Crown of Aragon, that he had written to the bishop of Barcelona, Pere de Planella (1371–85), ‘super negocio dilecte in Christo filie Ramonecte Olere’ [‘concerning the issue of the beloved daughter in Christ Sister Ramoneta Oller’], a Dominican nun of Santa Maria de Montsió in Barcelona. It seems that this nun had received from the infante of Aragon, Friar Pere (1305–81) — brother of the founder of the monastery of Montsió, the Infanta María — and also from other people several books on ‘sacred theology’. Moreover, stimulated by a fervent ardour and devotion, she had herself written several works in the vernacular, that is, her Catalan mother tongue. The inquisitor, full of orthodox zeal, had intervened by confiscating those and other volumes. The matter had Manresa, Arxiu Històric de Protocols de Manresa, Libre particular del Convent de Santa Clara 1383–1401, 28 December 1397, fol. 142v. Edited by Torres Cortina, ‘L’escriptura i el llibre a la Catalunya Central als segles xiii i xiv’, iii, document no. 267, pp. 125–29. 35  Dominique de Courcelles, ‘Les bibles en Catalogne à la fin du Moyen Âge ou l’occultation de la lettre sacrée’, Revue de l’histoire des religions, 218 (2001), 65–82. 36  Antonio Pauli, El Real Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Monte-Sión (Barcelona: Bartres, 1952); Maria Soledad Hernández Cabrera, ‘La celda del convento, una habitación propia: la vivencia de la clausura en la comunidad de dominicas de Montesión’, Duoda, 22 (2002), 19–40. 37  The papal bull was published in Josep Perarnau Espelt, ‘La butlla de Gregori XI relativa a l’escriptora catalana, sor Ramoneta Oller’, Arxiu de textos catalans antics, 1 (1982), 269–70. The register can be found in Archivo de la Corona de Aragon, Cancilleria, Registro 3264, fol. 123v.

What Did Catalan Nuns Read?


reached the pope, who generally supported the actions of Eimeric. This time, however, he firmly ordered the inquisitor immediately to restore the books to the Dominican sister. Furthermore, in the event that he had actually found anything contrary to the faith in her writings, he was instructed to notify the pontiff personally. It is difficult to ignore the importance of this document, not only because it tells us about a Catalan female author of spiritual works in the fourteenth century, but also because it enables us to assess to what extent an atmosphere and a relational network of a high cultural and spiritual level were present in the mendicant monasteries of the city. The second document, dated 27 February 1451, tells how María of Castile, wife and lieutenant of Alfons V, ‘el Magnánimo’, king of Aragon in Catalonia, wishing to possess ‘lo libre de Senta Caterina de Cena’ [‘the book of St Caterina da Siena’], addressed the prioress of Montsió (Catalina de Plà) begging her to give the book to Bartomeu Valls so that he could immediately copy it, ‘en bona letra catalana’ [‘in a clear Catalan script’]. The importance of the splendid library of Queen María and her special interest in the works on spirituality and mystics of her time are widely known;38 but the most remarkable thing here is the presence of a work about St Caterina da Siena, probably her life, in Catalan in Montsió in the first half of the fifteenth century, the earliest record so far of a Catalan translation of this book.39 The next examples take us to the island of Majorca, which became a singular place of education and culture from the time of its conquest in 1229. Two nunneries stand out among the many foundations on the island: the Augustinian nuns of Santa Margarida and the Augustinian nuns of Santa Maria del Puig de Pollença. 40 The first was promoted immediately after the conquest by Jaume I in 1229, and its abbess is mentioned as a landowner in the ‘Llibre de Repartiment’ [‘Book of the Partition’] established after the conquest to record 38 

The 1457 inventory of Queen María of Castile’s books confirms this, among which we can actually find ‘hun libre apellat de Sancta Caterina de Cena’ [‘a book entitled after St Caterina da Siena’]. The inventory of her library has been published several times; recently, it has been re-edited and analysed in Mateu Rodrigo Lizondo, ‘Personalitat i cultura de Maria de Castella, reina d’Aragó’, in Dones i literatura entre l’edat mitjana i el reinaxement, ed. by Ricard Bellveser, 2 vols (Valencia: Institució Alfons el Magnànim, 2012), ii, 471–525. 39  For the known Catalan translations, see Montserrat Casas Nadal, ‘Les versions catalanes de la “Vida de Santa Caterina de Siena”: notes sobre el text i el paratext’, Quaderns d’Italià, 12 (2007), 91–103. 40  Donald G. Murray, Aina Pascual, and Jaume Llabrès, Conventos y monasterios de Mallorca: historia, arte y cultura (Palma de Mallorca: Olañeta, 1992), pp. 27–38 and 79–94.

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the distribution of land between the first Catalan settlers; the main goal of the foundation, it seems, involved the Christianization of the population, and, at least in its origins, the Augustinian nuns were meant to be a means of teaching doctrine to the girls on the island.41 Besides its educational function, we also find interesting, though unusual, references to the presence of books in Santa Margarida. In the testament of the hermit Jaume Corretger, on 28 June 1416, there is a legacy to sisters Anthonia and Johaneta, ‘sororibus monialibus de ordine beate Marguarite’ [‘nuns of the Order of the Blessed Margarita’] — the Augustinian nuns of Santa Margarida of Mallorca — daughters of Bartholome Seguarra, citizen of Majorca, of two paper books entitled Vita Christi and a text called Sor de Sent Bernat respectively, both written in Catalan.42 In addition, the regulations of the community itself inform us about the importance of their book holdings, from which no manu­scripts or inventory have survived. Two medi­e val sets of regulations have been preserved, the first dates back to 1329; the latter, undated, probably comes from the period between the fifteenth century and the first years of the sixteenth. Regarding the latter, it is interesting to note the late appearance of the position of librera [‘librarian’] and the rules regarding when and how the books could be requested.43 Such books, none of them still extant, were probably not very different from those that appear in the inventory of 1414 of the other monastery of Augustinian regular nuns of Majorca, the monastery of Puig de Pollença. This 41 

Murray, Pascual, and Llabrès, Conventos y monasterios de Mallorca, p. 29, and Gaspar Munar, Llibre de les constitucions del monestir de Santa Margarida en la ciutat de Malorches (Palma de Mallorca: Sagrats Cors, 1964), p. 6, record the presence in the archive of a document dated on the kalends of April 1232, which has since disappeared; this is also cited in Juan Dameto, Historia general del reino de Mallorca, 3 vols (Palma de Mallorca: Impresora Nacional, 1840–41), ii, (1841), 1094–95. The monastery of Santa Margarida has been also studied in Maria José Bordoy Bordoy, Arran de la Porta Pintada: poder i prestigi femení al monestir de Santa Margalida, segles xiii–xvi (Palma de Mallorca: Muntaner, 2009). 42  Palma de Mallorca, Archivo Capitular de Mallorca. Pergamins xxxii, xii, 8 (9683), 28 June 1416, p. 474. This document is edited in J. N. Hillgarth, Readers and Books in Majorca: 1229–1550, 2 vols (Paris: Éditions du Centre national de la recherche scientifique, 1991), ii, 474. Hillgarth notes that both books also appear in Catalan in other Majorcan inventories of the time (i, 27). 43  The first one was edited by Gaspar Munar, Llibre de les constitucions del monestir de Santa Margarida en la ciutat de Malorches (Palma de Mallorca: Sagrats Cors, 1964). The second one, containing the explicit reference to the position of ‘librarian’ in ‘capitol 13’ [‘section 13’], can be found in Juan Rosselló Lliteras, Constituciones del monasterio de Sta. Margarita (Palma de Mallorca: Publicacions de l’Arxiu Diocesà de Mallorca, 1983), p. 25.

What Did Catalan Nuns Read?


monastery was in its origins a hermitage founded by three beguines around 1362; several years later, in 1371, they settled as a community under the socalled ‘Rule of St Peter’ and provided themselves with the first regulations, or ‘Ordinacions’. Seventeen years later, on 12 April 1388, since the ‘Rule of St Peter’ was not sanctioned by the Church, the community was ‘refounded’ as a monastery of regular canonesses of St Augustine through an apostolic brief issued by Clement VII.44 The community of Pollença, composed of two or three score women, stood out especially because of its educational function, and the instruction of little girls was its main activity for many years. On 5 November 1515 an apostolic brief issued by Pope Leo X imposed strict enclosure, which was definitively enforced by Bishop Diego de Arnedo (1561–72) after the Council of Trent, and ended up with the dismantling of the community and the transfer of the nuns to Palma de Mallorca on 13 November 1564.45 Until then, the daughters of important Majorcan families entered the monastery as children and were educated by the nuns until the age of maidenhood; they were called ‘fadrinetes de criança’, a very characteristic idiom that can be loosely translated as ‘young maidens brought up in the monastery’. We know that this community was provided with an important number of books, some of which had arrived as the personal property of the nuns and, after their deaths, had been inherited by the monastery. We find a snapshot of its ‘library’ in the aforementioned 1414 inventory, under the title ‘Memoria de tots los llibres qui son en lo monestir e de tot lo convent’, which could be interpreted as 44  The ‘Rule of St Peter’ was also the first rule of the community of Santa Maria Magdalena in Majorca, a house founded next to the hospital of the same name at the beginning of the fourteenth century as a community of female penitents. At the end of the century they adopted the Rule of St Augustine. The fact that both the beguines at Puig de Pollença and the community of female penitents of Santa Magdalena adopted the ‘Rule of St Peter’ rather than being forced to become Augustinian nuns deserves an in-depth examination, especially since we only know of one similar case in the Peninsula (albeit at a much later date) that has been studied, without reaching any conclusion and without knowledge of the Majorcan precedents; for this, see Frédérique Morand, ‘Reflections on the Political and Social Consequences of the Conception Order’s Foundations: The Peculiar Case of Cadiz’, Tiempos Modernos: revista electrónica de Historia Moderna, 6 (2009), 1–51, especially pp. 29–31. On the Puig de Pollença, see Murray, Pascual, and Llabrès, Conventos y monasterios de Mallorca, pp. 79–94; Elena Botinas, Julia Cabaleiro, and Maria dels Àngels Duran, Les beguines: la raó il.luminada per amor (Barcelona: Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 2002), especially pp. 78–81. A recent overview of the history of the nunnery can be found in Maria José Bordoy Bordoy, El monestir del Puig de Pollença: la seva història (1348–1564) (Pollença: Ajuntament de Pollença, 2003). 45  Mateu Rotger Campllonch, Historia de Pollensa, 3 vols (Palma de Mallorca: Sagrados Corazones, 1897–1906), ii (1904), 51.

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a record of all the books kept in the nunnery, understood as the building, and belonging to the convent, that is, the community.46 Among the almost forty books that constitute this register, there are several common aspects that distinguish it from the inventories previously analysed, leading us to believe that we are witnessing here a new ‘community of interpretation’.47 First, they are, for the majority, books written in Catalan, as testified by their title or the note the inventory provides. Second, there is a virtual absence of liturgical books, with the exception of biblical books, among which we find: ‘lo test dels avengelis dolent e asquinsat’ [‘the text of the gospels, of poor quality and torn’], probably in Catalan; a poor quality paper book in which we find the gospels and Ecclesiasticus in Catalan; another book with the text of the gospels written by a certain Friar Reus; a book with the exposition of the gospels; another with the text of the gospels divided into chapters; and a paper bible in four volumes. This bible, as several other books listed in the inventory, had been bequeathed by Friar Bernat Cendra to his two sisters, Blanca Cendra (1389–1414) and Margalida Cendra (1394–1436), both of them nuns of Pollença, before being transferred to the whole community. Also listed, although they could be classified as devotional books, are a psalter in Catalan, the penitential psalms in Catalan, and a Latin Speculum missae. As in the inventories previously analysed, here again we find titles such as the Catalan and Latin Flos sanctorum, the Llibre de Vicis i Virtuts in Catalan, and other specifically hagio­g raphical works. But what is particularly surprising about this library is the diversity and importance of the spiritual literature translated into the vernacular language of the nuns, or directly written in that language. The number of volumes that refer to the lives and works of the Fathers of the Desert, in their Catalan translations, is certainly outstanding: a book entitled Dels Sants Pares, ‘hun libre del abat Isaac e dialogarum tot en un volum’ [‘a book written by Abbot Isaac and the dialogues (of the Desert Fathers) in a single volume’]; and, again, ‘hun libre del 46 

This inventory, preserved in Palma de Mallorca, Arxiu del Monestir de la Purissima Concepció de Mallorca, Capbreu Primer, 1414, fol. 24v, has been published several times, but its contents have never been analysed in depth: Rotger Campllonch, Historia de Pollensa, ii, 71–73; Hillgarth, Readers and Books in Majorca, ii, 364–65; Bordoy Bordoy, El monestir del Puig de Pollença, pp. 120–21. 47  This implies a transformation in the spiritual and devotional performance of the late Middle Ages, corresponding to a process of vernacularization and secularization that creates new thought and communication frameworks. The Cost-Action IS1301 coordinated by Sabrina Corbellini (Universiteit Groningen), ‘New Communities of Interpretation: Contexts, Strategies and Processes of Religious Transformation in Late Medi­e val and Early Modern Europe’, in which I participate, is centred on this idea.

What Did Catalan Nuns Read?


Abat Issach’ [‘a book written by Abbot Isaac’]; and another in which we find ‘un poch dels sants Pares’ [‘a little about the Holy Fathers’]; and yet another one simply described as ‘Dels Sant Pares’ [‘On the Holy Fathers’]. St Augustine is also represented in the Liber soliloquiorum that belonged to Sister Eulalia Puigdorfila (a nun documented at the end of the fourteenth century) and then to Sister Endreua (d. before 1414), before becoming, together with other books belonging to the latter, the property of the whole community. We also find the book entitled Ad sororem, falsely attributed to St Bernard, which had belonged to Sister Magdalena — maybe Magdalena Suriba (c. 1393–1454) — and the Plant de Sant Bernat, also attributed to St Bernard, that had belonged to Sister Cors (documented at the end of the fourteenth century). Several works cannot be identified, among them the ‘libra apalat Brando, libre apalat viha Sion’ [‘a book entitled Brando, a book entitled Viha Sion’], and, especially, two volumes of a book entitled Libre de la Serventa, one of which had belonged to Sister Eulalia Pugdorfila. Without being able to determine its main theme exactly, the coincidence between the name of the book and the popularity on the Balearic Islands of the ‘Misses de la Serventa’ (literally, masses of the servant) specified by many Majorcans in their testaments leads me to consider the possibility that the ‘Serventa’ was some popular saintly woman of local origin.48 Two works by Ramon Llull (1232–1316) particularly stand out in the inventory:49 the Doctrina Pueril [Child’s Doctrine] and the Llibre d’Evast e de Blanquerna; it is not by chance that, among the extensive work of the Majorcan author, we find within the community of Pollença a book with a clear didactic and pedagogical aim on the one hand, the Doctrina Pueril, and, on the other, the Llibre d’Evast e de Blanquerna, which includes 48  Joan Domenge has written on the Masses of the Serventa. I wish to thank him for his interesting comments on this and other subjects related to Majorca; see Joan Domenge i Mesquida, ‘“A laor de Déu e en remissió de pecats”: deixes artístiques en el testament del prevere de Mallorca Pau d’Olesa (1442)’, ed. by Maria Rosa Terés, Capitula facta et firmata: inquietuds en el quatre-cents (Valls: Cossetània, 2009), pp. 483–549. See also Gabriel Llompart, ‘“Item lego ecclesie…”: el testament medi­eval i el patrimoni eclesial a Mallorca’, Randa, 55 (2005), 43–67, and ‘Aspectos populares del purgatorio medi­eval’, Revista de dialectología y tradiciones populares, 26 (1970), 253–74. 49  Born in Mallorca, Llull was a prolific and versatile writer in Latin, Catalan, and Arabic. The heart of his contribution is what he called ‘Art’: a general interpretation of visible and invisible reality. Philosopher, mystic, poet, and apologist, Llull was also one of the first writers to use Catalan to explore issues reserved for the scholarly language, namely Latin, such as theology, philosophy, and science. See Anthony Bonner, The Art and Logic of Ramon Llull: A User’s Guide, Studien und Texte zur Geistesgeschichte des Mittelalters, 95 (Leiden: Brill, 2007).

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the most clearly spiritual text written by the author: the Llibre d’Amic i Amat. Finally, two fundamental works of fourteenth-century spirituality are also present in the inventory in the form of early translations into Catalan: first, two copies of Vitae Christi, one entitled ‘de Vita Christi abreugada’ [‘abridged Vita Christi’], the other, in paper, ‘apalat Vita Christi’ [‘entitled Vita Christi’] (according to Hillgarth both in Catalan);50 and, finally, a book that belonged to Sister Vilaura (documented at the end of the fourteenth century) in which we find the Vida de sancta Angelina en lo començament [The Early Life of St Angelina]. It is difficult to determine whether these two Vitae Christi should be identified with a translation of the pseudo-Bonaventuran Meditationes Vitae Christi into Catalan, especially the first, in its abridged version, or with the work by Francesc Eiximenis (c. 1330–1409), the Franciscan friar who was one of the most influential authors of the Crown of Aragon in the fourteenth century, written in Catalan before 1403.51 In any case, there is no doubt that the Vida de sancta Angelina en lo començament is the Memorial of Angela da Foligno (1248–1309) translated into Catalan. We know that Angela was read and renowned in the Catalan territories from early on, and that her work was translated into Catalan in the fifteenth century, since two manu­scripts corresponding to two different translations dated around the middle and the end of the century, respectively, have been preserved. In fact, the 1414 inventory of the monastery of Pollença documents the first of the two translations of the work of Angela da Foligno into Catalan.52 Dated before 1414, the book the 50 

Hillgarth, Readers and Books in Majorca, ii, 364 Given the date of the inventory (that is, 1414), the Catalan Vitae Christi must be identified with one of these two options, since the one written by Ludolf von Sachsen was translated by Rois de Corella at a much later date. Obviously, it cannot be, as Maria José Bordoy Bordoy asserts, the work by Sister Isabel de Villena, written at the end of the fifteenth century; see Maria José Bordoy Bordoy, El monestir del Puig de Pollença, p. 59. For a discussion on this topic, see Hillgarth, Readers and Books in Majorca, ii, 168–69. 52  The diminutive used in the title of the book inventoried in Pollença and the fact that it seemed to contain only the first part of the life of the saintly woman, Vida de sancta Angelina en lo començament, allows us to put forward the hypothesis that it was the same translation into Catalan that has been preserved in Barcelona, Biblioteca de Reserva de la Universitat de Barcelona, MS 559, fols 134r–152v, dated before 1448, which only includes the first twenty stages of the Memorial; see Blanca Garí, ‘Memorial d’Angela de Foligno i altres textos espirituals’, in Els tresors de la Biblioteca de la Universitat de Barcelona: Fons bibliogràfic des CRAI Biblioteca de Reserva Universitat de Barcelona (Barcelona: Publicacions i Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona, 2016), pp. 50–54, 326–29. See also Montserrat Casas Nadal, ‘Algunes consideracions sobre les traduccions catalanes del “Llibre de les Revelacions’ d’Àngela de Foligno (segle xv)”’, Acta historia et archaeologica mediaevalia, 25 (2003), 461–81. 51 

What Did Catalan Nuns Read?


nuns of Pollença possessed would be the oldest testimony found so far of the first known translation of Angela da Foligno, not only into Catalan but, more generally, into a Romance language other than Italian. Finally, this essay on the literacy of nuns in the Catalan area of the Crown of Aragon will end with a brief reference to one of the most important Valencian nunneries: the Reial Monestir de La Trinitat. Eight houses of Poor Clares were founded in the Kingdom of Valencia during the Middle Ages, and many of them were sponsored by the Crown. The female monastery of La Trinitat was the result of the wish of Queen María de Castilla, who, in 1445, brought nuns from the house of Poor Clares of Gandía, founded several years before, in 1429. Unfortunately, no exhaustive study has yet been devoted to this important spiritual and cultural centre, and its archive and its community are still under investigation.53 As for the community, I will only dwell on the figure of a remarkable woman who was first a nun and later the abbess of the nunnery, Sister Isabel de Villena (1430–90), an exceptional example of the level of literacy reached by nuns in the Crown of Aragon.54 Her baptismal name was Leonor Manuel de Villena; she was the illegitimate daughter of Don Enrique de Aragón y Castilla, marquis of Villena (1384–1434), and was probably born in Valencia. Leonor was related to the royal houses of Castile and Aragon and, from the age of four, she was raised in the court of Aragon, under the tutelage and protection of her aunt Queen María, the wife of Alfons V. She received a very fine education in contact with the literary, courtly, and spiritual circles close to Queen María,


On Valencian female monasteries, see Josepa Cortes and Vicent Pons, ‘Geografia dels monestirs femenins valencians en la baixa edat mitjana’, Revista d’Història Medi­eval, 2 (1991), 77–90; for a more recent approach, see Jill R. Webster, ‘The Importance of the Aristocrats and the Wealthy Bourgeousie in the Foundation and Development of the Monasteries of the Order of Saint Clare: Valencia, Játiva and Gandía’, in Women’s Networks of Spiritual Promotion in the Peninsular Kingdoms (13th–16th Centuries), ed. by Blanca Garí (Roma: Viella, 2013), pp. 89–105. On the nunnery of La Trinitat, see also Agustín Sales, Historia del Real Monasterio de la Trinidad, religiosas de Santa Clara, de la Regular Observancia, fuera de los muros de la ciudad de Valencia (Valencia: Dolz, 1761); and also Daniel Benito Goerlich, El Real Monasterio de la Santisima Trinidad (Valencia: Consell Valencià de Cultura, 1998). 54  A recent study of Sister Isabel and the monastery of La Trinitat can be found in Lesley K. Twomey, The Fabric of Marian Devotion in Isabel de Villena’s ‘Vita Christi’ (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2013). See also Blanca Garí, ‘Isabel de Villena y la compasión: Cristomímesis femenina en el siglo xv valenciano’, in Impulsando la historia desde la historia de las mujeres: la estela de Cristina Segura, ed. by Gloria Franco Rubio and María Jesús Fuente Pérez (Huelva: Universidad de Huelva, 2012) pp. 397–408.

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whose library was magnificent.55 At the age of fifteen, Leonor Manuel entered the convent of Poor Clares of La Trinitat, in Valencia, as a novice, and she was professed a year later under the name of Isabel. In 1462, at the age of thirtytwo, she was elected abbess, a position she would hold until her demise in 1490. In the years that followed, her governance allowed the nunnery to grow and prosper. Her personal and intellectual prestige developed the role of the abbess of La Trinitat into both a great master within the walls of the house and a point of reference for the men and women of the city. She was a renowned writer, and several other authors gathered around her and were inspired by her personality. Her works were read by many women, such as Isabel ‘la Católica’, queen of Castilla (1451–1504) — whose wish to possess Isabel de Villena’s Vita Christi fostered its printing in 1497 — and, many years later, María Jesús de Agreda (1602–75), the author of La mística ciudad de Dios [The Mystical City of God], whose work owes much to that of Sister Isabel.56 The intellectual activity of Sister Isabel has often been discussed against the backdrop of the Valencian literary circles of her time. Many authors acknowledged and even worshipped her, which has attracted the attention of literary historians. Rois de Corella (1435–97), Miquel Pérez (middle of the fifteenth century), Bernat Fenollar (1438–1516), Joan Escriva (middle of the fifteenth century–1515), and Jaume Roig (beginning of the fifteenth century–1478), among others, mentioned her in their works and even dedicated them to her, which highlights the strength of her personal authority and her public figure.57 All too often, however, scholars have disregarded her magisterium within the walls of the convent and understood these relationships merely as a result of the magnetism of Sister Isabel. The in-depth analysis of the community, the nuns that formed it, and their relationships with Valencian society and the intellectual circles of the time evince the existence of a cultural microcosm within the nunnery, whose centre was Isabel de Villena, who promoted the circulation of 55 

Ferran Soldevila, ‘La reina María, muller del Magnánim’, Memorias de la Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona, 10 (1928), 213–348. 56  The literary work of Sister Isabel de Villena has been thoroughly analysed in Albert Hauf i Valls, D’Eiximenis a sor Isabel de Villena: aportació a l’estudi de la nostra cultura medi­eval (Valencia: Institut de Filologia Valenciana, 1990); and Albert Hauf i Valls, ‘Text i context de l’obre de sor Isabel de Villena’, in Literatura valenciana del segle xv: Joanot Martorell i sor Isabel de Villena, ed. by Germà Colón, Leopoldo Peñarroja, Enrique Tarancón, and Albert Hauf i Valls (Valencia: Consell Valencià de Cultura, 1996), pp. 91–124. 57  According to the generally accepted thesis of Joan Fuster, ‘El mon literari de sor Isabel de Villena’, in Joan Fuster, Obres completes, 7 vols (Barcelona: Edicions 62, 1968–94), i, 153–74.

What Did Catalan Nuns Read?


relations and ideas within and outside the cloister. Several ladies of the refined court of the queen of Aragon, such as Sister Aldonça de Montsoriu (abbess 1490–97), entered La Trinitat in 1458, after the death of Queen María, who had entrusted her remains and her possessions to the nunnery.58 Other nuns of the first community, who belonged to the most influential Valencian families, contributed to the economic and cultural flourishing of the house with their skills and patronage.59 Moreover, what we know about the library of La Trinitat offers a good example of the cultural level of the nuns and the strength of their external connections: in 1459 the books that Queen María had left to Violant de Montpalau would be bequeathed to the nunnery after Violant’s own death; the volumes of the ‘librería’ [‘library’] of the General Vicar, Jaume Exarch, who in 1479 left them to Sister Isabel, would also add to the holdings of La Trinitat, a legacy no doubt remarkable, for Sister Isabel registered it herself, ‘manu propiae’, in the Libro de títulos [The Book of Titles].60 It was this conventual microcosm that gave rise to the reputation of Sister Isabel de Villena outside the nunnery, and not the other way around. That cluster of female relationships must be the starting point for the analysis of her only extant literary work, the Vita Christi. Sister Isabel wrote it for her nuns and, through them, for everybody else. At least that is what the former lady of the queen, Sister Aldonça de Montsoriu, who would succeed Isabel as abbess of La Trinitat and would be in charge of the posthumous edition of her work, claims in the dedication to Queen Isabel, ‘la Católica’, in the prologue to the first edition of the book, the 1497 incunabulum: sor Isabel de Billena lo ha fet, sor Isabel de Billena lo ha compost; sor Isabel de Billena ab elegant y dolç stil lo ha ordenat, no solament per a les devotes sors y filles de hobediencia que en la tancada casa de aquest monestir habiten, mes ancara per a tots los qui en aquesta breu, enugosa e transitoria vida viven.61 [Sor Isabel de Villena made it, Sor Isabel de Villena composed it, Sor Isabel de Villena with sweet and elegant style set it in order, not only for the devout sisters 58 

Albert Hauf i Valls, ‘La Vita Christi de Sor Isabel de Villena y la tradición de las Vitae Christi medi­evales’, in Studia in honorem Prof. M. de Riquer, ed by Damaso Alonso, 2 vols (Barcelona: Quaderns Crema, 1987–91), ii (1991), 105–64. 59  As noted in Martin de Riquer, Historia de la literatura catalana, 4 vols (Barcelona: Ariel, 1964), iii, 358–59 and 260–61. 60  See Hauf i Valls, D’Eiximenis a sor Isabel de Villena, p. 310. 61  Isabel de Villena, Vita Christi, ed. by Josep Almiñana Vallés, 2 vols (Valencia: Ajuntament de Valencia, 1992), ii, 204.

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and daughters of obedience who reside in the enclosed house of this convent, but for all those who live in this brief, trouble-filled, and transitory life.]62

Aldonça also claims that Isabel wrote with ‘luminosa inteligencia’ [‘radiant intellect’] and ‘affanyos treball’ [‘long labour’]. Such intelligence and hard work made it possible that this Vita Christi, which belonged to a spiritual, mystical, and devotional tradition well established in Europe since long before the fifteenth century, contributed important new aspects to that tradition, such as a shift in focus towards the female figures of the passion, making the greatness and beauty of compassion exemplified by Mary and the other women of the gospels suddenly visible.63


Translated into English by Twomey, The Fabric of Marian Devotion in Isabel de Villena’s ‘Vita Christi’, p. 236. 63  Blanca Garí, ‘Isabel de Villena y la compasión: Cristomímesis femenina en el siglo xv valenciano’. See also Cristina Papa, “‘Car vos senyora sou la gran papesa”: mariología e genealogie femminili nella Vita Christi di Isabel de Villena’, in Las sabias mujeres: Educación, saber y autoría (siglos iii–xvii), ed. by Maria del Mar Graña Cid (Madrid: Laya, 1994), pp. 213–25.

Christina Hansdotter Brask: Reading and Pictorial Preferences in a Birgittine Prayer Book Eva Lindqvist Sandgren


hen the Vadstena nun Christina Hansdotter Brask died on 13 March 1520, the male scribe of the Vadstenadiariet or Memorial Book made the comment that she, during her sixty-one years in the monastery, had been a good scribe and copied many books — ‘deo gracias’, he added.1 This kind of comment on the scribal activities of the nuns in the Swedish Birgittine monastery is rare, but the obituary writer was indeed right. Christina wrote many books.2 Even today we are able to trace more of Sister Christina’s handwriting than that of any other nun in the Vadstena manu­scripts, and yet still more works keep cropping up, to be attributed to her. Approximately twenty manu­scripts are associated with her to a greater or lesser extent.3 In this essay the visual design of one of the prayer books she copied 1 

‘[…] obit soror cristina hansadotter braska  / anno a sua professione lxvii hec fuit bona scriptrix et scripserat plurimos libros deo gracias’. See Vadstenadiariet: latinsk text med översättning och kommentar, ed. by Claes Gejrot, Handlingar, 19 (Stockholm: Samfundet för utgivande av handskrifter rörande Skandinaviens historia, 1996), no. 1063; for the English edition, see Diarium Vadstenense: The Memorial Book of Vadstena Abbey. A Critical Edition with an Introduction, ed. by Claes Gejrot, Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, Studia latina Stockholmiensia, 33 (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1988) [hereafter referred to as DV, followed by the relevant entry]. Both editions follow the same numbering for the entries. 2  Monica Hedlund, ‘Nuns and Latin, with Special Reference to the Birgittines of Vadstena’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 26 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 97–118. 3  Most of them are mentioned by Ingela Hedström, Medeltidens svenska bönböcker: kvinnligt skriftbruk i Vadstena kloster, Acta Humaniora, 405 (Oslo: Unipub, 2009), pp. 66–69, and by Jonas Carlquist, Vadstenasystrarnas textvärld: studier i systrarnas skriftbrukskompetens, lärdom och textförståelse (Uppsala: Svenska fornskriftsällskapet, 2007), pp. 77–78. Eva Lindqvist Sandgren ([email protected]) is Associate Professor of Art History at Konstvetenskapliga institutionen, Uppsala universitet.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 149–170 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS




Eva Lindqvist Sandgren

will be studied, Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 12 (hereafter MS C 12), a book of hours written solely in her hand. The prayer book is still in its medi­eval wooden book covers and comprises 192 folios (155 × 115 mm). It is a book of hours for the use of the Vadstena nuns, although it does not contain their specific weekly Office, the Cantus sororum. Among the large number of shorter prayers we also find a number of different Offices, the penitential psalms, and the Office for the Dead. The language shifts between Latin, for most of the Offices, and Old Swedish in the shorter prayers. All rubrics are also written in Swedish, in red ink. As is usual in the Vadstena prayer books of the late fifteenth century, the Latin parts are written in textualis while the Swedish parts are in a hybrida script. The Uppsala Uni­ver­sity Library catalogue dates it to the latter part of the fifteenth century.4 This is all in accordance with the professed time of Sister Christina: 1459–1520.5 If compared to works by professional continental workshops, Sister Christina was perhaps not the most talented illuminator or scribe as regards aesthetic values, even among the nuns in Vadstena. She was, however, very aware of how to put a prayer book together, and she stands out as the most prolific nun-scribe from Vadstena Abbey. The book originally must have had a pictorial programme that has now been partly spoilt.6 By reconstructing the pictorial programme of MS C 12, it becomes possible to show how a proper prayer book from Vadstena could be organized and furnished with a whole set of images, despite the present image losses. The images were inserted, not primarily for the purpose of decoration but to improve the spiritual life of the nun while she read her prayers, and to help her on her expected way to heaven. Christina Hansdotter Brask rarely wrote her full name in the manu­scripts she copied, but comparatively often she inserted her initials ‘ch’ at certain places. In Vadstena Abbey this seems to have been a fairly accepted practice 4 

Margarete Andersson-Schmitt, Håkan Hallberg, and Monica Hedlund, Mittelalterliche Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Uppsala: Katalog über die C-Sammlung, Acta Bibliothecae R. Universitates Upsaliensis, 36, 8 vols (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1988–95), i (1988), pp. 140–47. 5  Carl Silfverstolpe, Klosterfolket i Vadstena: personhistoriska anteckningar (Stockholm: Norstedt, 1898), no. 177. Vadstenadiaret mentions her consecration 1459 in DV 705 and her death 1520 in DV 1063. 6  The manu­script was included in Svenska böner från medeltiden efter gamla handskrifter, ed. by Robert Geete, Svenska fornskriftsällskapet, 38 (Stockholm: Norstedt, 1907–09). Geete noticed most of the empty image spaces, pp. l–lv, but misinterpreted two of the extant motifs.

Christina Hansdotter Brask


Figure 2. The Septem psalmi paenitentialis, Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 12, fol. 22r. Photo © Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek.


Eva Lindqvist Sandgren

during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, even if, unfortunately, it was not routine for all the scribes in the convent. In MS C 12 we find her initials at the end of the rubrics on fols 2r (see Plate 1, ‘sancta trinitatis tidher’), 52r (see Figure 3, ‘sancta anna tidher’), 142r (five Trinity prayers),7 and 172r (nine communion prayers).8 As many other prayer books of the time, it was once nicely illuminated, but nowadays only three miniatures are left, on fols 117r, 150v, and 152r (see Figures 5, 7, and 8). All the original miniatures were pasted in. When, why, or how they were lost is hard to tell. Sometimes the glue seems to have been less good, but in several instances the image fragments reveal that it has been difficult to excise them. The lost images were sometimes placed in the margin, and sometimes as a full- or half-page miniature with enclosing frame. The vestiges of the images are more or less evident. The fragments from enclosing simple frames on fols 1v and 13v demonstrate that they were full-page miniatures, while the thin red lines in the margin of fol. 2r and the elliptical glue shadow on fol. 48r are not as evident to the reader (see Plate 1 and Figure 3). Evident image losses are also seen on fols 91r, 116r, 163v, and 186r where the text columns are adjusted to fit the sizes of the lost images. The preserved images are three small woodcuts that depict St Katarina of Sweden, the Mass of St Gregory, and the Pietà (see Figures 5, 7, and 8). Most of the empty image spaces show that all but one of the lost pictures were rectangular. The Pietà image is, however, pentagonal, while those on fols 117r and 150v, together with the lost one on 166r, show an elliptical form. As a general rule, images in the Vadstena prayer books are chosen in very close connection with the texts.9 By reading the rubrics and the prayers, it is therefore possible to suggest the content of a lost pictorial programme in MS C 12. Some pictorial themes are easier to delimit, such as the Birgitta image opening the prayer to St Birgitta on fol. 116r, the Holy Face on fol. 121v, and the Christ monogram on fol. 186r. Exactly what kind of St Anne image was at the opening of the ‘sancta anna tidher’ [‘Hours of St Anne’] on fol. 48r is trickier to ascertain (see Figure 3). It could have shown the meeting of St Anne and St Joachim at the Golden Gate, but it is more reasonable to 7 

Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp. 15–16 (no. 7: 3–7). Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, p. 136 (no. 51). In the following discussion, all my titles are either taken from rubrics in the manu­script noted by quotation marks or are editorial descriptive titles. 9  Eva Lindqvist Sandgren, ‘Birgittinska bönboksbilder’, Icono­g raphisk post: ICO, nordisk tidskrift för ikonografi/Nordic Review of Icono­graphy, 2 (2014), 19–48. 8 

Christina Hansdotter Brask

Figure 3. The ‘sancta anna tidher’ [Horae Sancta Anna], with marginal image traces. Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 12, fol. 48r. Photo © Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek.



Eva Lindqvist Sandgren

presume that it presented the much more common subject of St Anne together with the Virgin and the Christ child.10 If we match the traces and vestiges of the lost images with the nearby written rubrics and following texts, the pictorial programme might have been as shown in Table 1. The red rubrics to the succeeding texts are together with the content of the texts, the keys to the interpretation of the pictorial programme. In some cases it is quite easy to define the pictorial theme or even to suggest the icono­graphy of the lost images. For some texts, the late medi­e val icono­g raphy was quite established, as the penitential psalms, but for others there seem to have been variations possible.11 Sometimes the textual and pictorial content are close, as in the case on fol. 152r, depicting a Pietà at the opening of the Sorrows of the Virgin (‘fæm bøner aff jomfru maria drøwilsom’, see Figure 8).12 Here, the wounds of Christ are even emphasized by five red ink dots, painted on the print. That some of the lost images were also prints may be seen on fol. 131v (see Figure 6). The leaf starts a new quire and its recto side is blank and un-ruled. The following text, ‘xv bøner aff wars hærra ihesu christi pino’, is known as Quindecim orationes, or The Fifteen Oes (falsely attributed to St Birgitta).13 The loss of a full-page miniature on the verso side becomes evident through the ruined frame that once surrounded it. The red, white, and black wavelike patterned frame (‘running-dog’) was painted partly on the parchment and partly on the image edges. The image fragment at the upper-right corner reveals that it was made of paper. Furthermore, the outline of some printed lines on it tells that it was a printed image. Generally the accompanying subjects for this prayer would be a Calvary scene (Christ on the cross flanked by Mary and St John), the Man of Sorrows (the wounded Christ displaying his wounds), or the so-called Arma Christi (the instruments of the passion).14 Visual evidence of miniatures 10 

The motif is seen in the prayer book of Ingegerd Ambjörnsdotter, Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 43, fol. 123v. 11  However, a clear break with the icono­graphical convention is seen in the two Vadstena manu­scripts containing the Hours of the Virgin, where the standard pictorial cycle is totally absent (Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 68, and Gießen, Justus-Liebig-Universität, Universtitätsbibliothek, MS 881 in 8o). See Sandgren, ‘Birgittinska bönboksbilder’, pp. 41–42. 12  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, p. 285 (no. 126). 13  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp. 75–83 (no. 31); Claes Gejrot, ‘The Fifteen Oes: Latin and Vernacular Versions, with an Edition of the Latin Text’, in The Translation of the Works of St Birgitta of Sweden into the Medi­eval European Vernaculars, ed. by Bridget Morris and Veronica O’Mara, The Medi­eval Translator, 7 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000), pp. 213–38. 14  The motifs of the Arma Christi and the Man of Sorrows were associated with indulgences.

Christina Hansdotter Brask

Figure 4. Lost image of the Annunciation of the Virgin, with traces of frame. Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 12, fol. 91r. Photo © Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek.



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Figure 5. St Katarina of Sweden. Tinted woodcut. Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 12, fol. 117r. Photo © Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek.

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Table 1. Reconstructed pictorial programme of Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 12 (* = extant images)15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24




Devotional motif



‘sancta trinitatis tidher’

H: 4 cm


Christ carrying the Cross




St Anne

‘sancta anna tidher’


The Annunciation

‘salutaciones’ [Virgin Mary]


St Birgitta

prayer to Saint Birgitta


*St Katarina of Sweden

prayer to Saint Katarina of Sweden

H: 4 cm


Holy Face/Sancta Facies

prayer to the Holy Face

H: 3.5 cm


Calvary/Man of Sorrows/ ‘xv bøner aff wars hærra ihesu christi pino’20 Arma Christi

full page


*Mass of St Gregory

St Mechthild’s prayers at the resurrection of Christ21

H: 4 cm



‘fæm bøner aff jomfru maria drøwilsom’22

H: 3.4 cm


Apocalyptic Virgin

Pope Sixtus’s prayer to be read in front of the image of the Apocalyptic Virgin23

½ page


Monogram of Jesus

‘en godh bøn aff wars hærra ihesu christi nampne’24

½ page


Image size


full page 15

H: 4 cm ½ page


¼ page

17 18


Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp. 9, 27 (nos 6, 14). Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp. 260–74 (no. 123a). 17  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, p. 396 (no. 185). 18  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp. 423–25 (no. 210). 19  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, p. 190 (no. 80). 20  For the Swedish translation of the Fifteen Oes/Quindecim orationes (mistakenly) ascribed to St Birgitta, see Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp. 75–93 (no. 31). See further n. 23. 21  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp. 112–13 (no. 44). 22  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp. 285–90 (no. 126). 23  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, no. 103. This is a Swedish adaption of the indulgence prayer Ave sanctissima Maria mater dei ascribed to Pope Sixtus IV. See Sixten Ringbom, ‘Maria in sole and the Virgin of the Rosary’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 25 (1962), 326–30. 24  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, p. 59 (no. 20). The prayer to the Most Holy Name of Jesus, O bone Jesu! O piissime Jesu! O dulcissime Jesu! […], is traditionally ascribed to St Bernardino da Siena, in Latin. 16 


Eva Lindqvist Sandgren

depicting the Calvary and Arma Christi still exists among the few preserved Vadstena miniatures in other prayer books.25 At fol. 163v a half-page miniature is missing. The Swedish rubric promises a generous indulgence from Pope Sixtus IV (1471–84) when reading this prayer. For an art historian the missing scene is defined as the Apocalyptic Virgin. What follows is a Swedish translation of the Ave sanctissima Maria mater dei, ascribed to the same pope.26 This topic was common in contemporary spirituality and seems to have been a popular theme also among the Birgittines around 1500. The motif is depicted on their altarpieces, textiles, and in their prayer books.27 The text column in MS C 12 was adjusted to fit with the image size, but there are no physical remnants left of the miniature. However, a closer look at the empty image surface makes it possible to discern an imprint on the parchment, showing that it had a ½ cm wide straight frame. Normally, a medi­eval book of hours had a standard motif at the beginning of the penitential psalms; in MS C 12 the psalms seemingly begin without a miniature on fol. 22r (see Figure 2).28 There is a vague red shadow in the outer margin, but it is doubtful if it is an imprint from a lost image.29 (If an image were ever placed there, it would have been most suitable to have depicted the penitent King David.) Nine folios later, on fol. 31v, the litany in the psalms begins. The image traces here are more evident. The long rubric of the litany tells us that, when the names of the saints are read, one should not just think of but also look at the bleeding Lord carrying the cross. When this part of the 25 

Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 68, fol. 97v (Calvary), and Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 43, fol. 160r (Arma Christi). 26  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, p. 226 (no. 103); Ringbom, ‘Maria in sole and the Virgin of the Rosary’. 27  There are two altarpieces in Vadstena Abbey church and one from the Danish Maribo Abbey (now in Engestofte church). The subject was depicted in at least two of the prayer books from Vadstena (Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 80, and Gießen, Justus-LiebigUniversität, Universtitätsbibliothek, MS 881 in 8o). The prayer is included in several of the prayer books but seemingly without images. Some liturgical embroideries from Vadstena and Naantali/Nådendal (near Turku/Åbo in present-day Finland) also depict the Virgin ‘standing in the sun’. 28  The art-historical literature on books of hours is vast. For a survey of the icono­graphy of books of hours see, for example, Eva Lindqvist Sandgren, The Book of Hours of Johannete Ravenelle and the Parisian Book Illumination around 1400, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Figura, n.s., 20 (Uppsala: Uppsala Universitet, 2002). 29  The red ink initial on the preceding folio could also have caused the red ink traces, but it does not fit exactly.

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liturgy was performed on the Fridays, the nuns would have first gone around their cloister walk reciting the psalms and then ended up in the church, where they were instructed to read the litany kneeling in their choir.30 The Carrying of the Cross is a most suitable subject to accompany any litany, and was normally included as the second motif in the Birgittine pictorial programme of the Stations of the Cross. Three such pictorial cycles were present in Vadstena Abbey for visiting lay people as well as for the inhabitants of the two convents in the monastery.31 The insertion of the motif at this place in the manu­script could, however, be a substitute if no such image was present in the nuns’ choir. To discuss the frontispieces in the Vadstena prayer books we have to return to the beginning of the prayer book. Evidently two introductory images are now missing, a small one at the right outer margin of fol. 2r and and a full-page miniature on fol. 1v (see Plate 1). The first text in the manu­script is the Swedish translation of the Trinity Office, ‘sancta trinitatis tidher’. If applying the same close reading of the text in this case as above, an image of the Trinity would be the most expected. One should bear in mind that the Vadstena sisters held the devotion of the Trinity in very high reverence, and consequently the Trinity Office and other Trinity prayers are rather common in their prayer books. The Office was even presented in Swedish in some other prayer books, not just in MS C 12.32 In eleven of the Vadstena prayer books the Trinity Office is even placed first among the Offices.33 The answer to what is a probable and suitable opening scene in the Vadstena prayer books must, nevertheless, be vague. Preserved are a Wound of Christ in Birgitta Andersdotter’s prayer book (Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 80), a Pietà in Anna Karlsdotter’s (Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 30 

The nuns’ customary book, called the Lucidarium, gives detailed instructions for this liturgy; see Alf Härdelin, Världen som yta och fönster, Scripta minora, 13 (Stockholm: Sällskapet Runica et Mediævalia, 2005), p. 151, especially n. 150. 31  Iwar Andersson, Vadstena klosterkyrka: Kyrkobyggnaden, Sveriges kyrkor, 213, 3 vols (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1983–91), i (1991), pp. 52–53; Sune Zachrisson, ‘Om andaktsvägar i Vadstena kloster’, I Kristi och hans moders spår, ed. by Alf Härdelin, Scripta minora, 8 (Stockholm: Sällskapet Runica et Mediævalia, 2003), pp. 137–62. 32  Three more of the prayer books have the Trinity Office in Swedish: Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MSS A 80 and A 81, and Gießen, Justus-Liebig-Universität, Universtitätsbibliothek, MS 881 in 8o. 33  Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MSS A 12, A 36, A 38, A 81, A 82, A 82a, Rålamb 4 in 8o; Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 471; Stockholm, Riksarkivet, MS E 9068 (formerly Skokloster MS 8 in 8o); Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz, MS Theol. Lat. Oct. 71; Gießen, Justus-Liebig-Universität, Universtitätsbibliothek, MS 881 in 8o.


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82a),34 a Virgin and child in Ingegerd Ambjörnsdotter’s (Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 43), and finally, a Trinity scene in Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 36. All the extant opening miniatures may function as devotional images, with or without a closely related textual content. Therefore, I suggest that the subject for the opening image in the Vadstena prayer books, including MS C 12, was chosen probably more as a suitable motif for the whole manu­script, not just associated with the first major text or the text next on the page. In the case of MS C 12 this is even more probable, since there was also an image on the first text page, fol. 2r (see Plate 1). Indeed, the Trinity is even a more plausible pictorial theme here, at the beginning of the proper Trinity Office text, and definitely so in combination with another devotional image as frontispiece. Miniatures are often the central focus when discussing book illumination, but the secondary decoration of the manu­script is also important to orientate the reader in the large number of texts. This prayer book has a large number of red and blue lombard initials throughout the book. Occasionally they are painted in gold. Did the scribe herself or an illuminator make them? Since there are no other sources to tell us about the production of the manu­scripts but the manu­scripts themselves, it is necessary to look closer at them. At first glance it might seem that the illuminated letters in the manu­scripts from the nuns in Vadstena are very similar, but it is certainly possible to distinguish variations. These variants generally match the changes of scribe. The conformity in change of scribe and shift of illuminated letter style is particularly evident in the case of Sister Christina. Since she spent sixty years in the Abbey and has left the largest manu­script heritage of all of the Vadstena nuns, it might even be possible to trace a kind of development, though some features seem to be constant. These features are also present in MS C 12. For major text parts in MS C 12, which mainly have no images close by, Sister Christina inserted large golden champ-letters, ‘lettre champiée’, normally four to five lines high (see Plate 1, and Figures 2, 6, and 8).35 These major initials have a specific design that makes them 34  Claes Gejrot connects the decoration in the prayer book (Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 82a) with examples from England, noting that the miniature on fol. 33r is very similar to work associated with Hermann Scheere and his workshop; see Claes Gejrot, ‘Anna Karlsdotters bönbok: en tvåspråkig handskrift från 1400-talet’, in Medeltida skrift- och språkkultur: nio förelasningar från ett symposium i Stockholm våren 1992, ed. by Inger Lindell, Opuscula, 2 (Stockholm: Sällskapet Runica et Mediævalia, 1994), pp. 13–60 (p. 53 n. 48). 35  For terminology, see the home page of Vocabulaire codicologique by Denis Muzerelle: [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. See also the ref-

Christina Hansdotter Brask


attributable to Sister Christina. In her hierarchy of book illumination this is the highest kind of decorated initial, and she never applies marginal borders to her works. These initials never have attached marginal stems, and they have a rather square form, with deep-cut concave corners. The fact that the large decorated golden initials lack marginal stems actually places them in the fifteenth century, preferably in the latter part. Moreover, their blue, red, and white parts are painted in a dry-looking manner, and the gold is attached on a very thin ground. It seems that she used egg white as adhesive for the gold and silver, since the gold often has crackled in ‘her’ initials, but this is not confirmed in MS C 12. The next step in the ornamental hierarchy of Sister Christina is the penflourished initials. Here she uses red and blue highlighted by white, rarely anything else. Their size varies from two to four lines normally (see Plate 1, and Figures 3, and 4). The initials habitually have two hanging marginal stems: one upwards and one downwards. The upper one normally projects at an angle of 45 degrees out in the margin, while the lower one hangs down more, also being slightly longer. Small curling hooks of a uniform design decorate the marginal descenders throughout her work. Compared with the initial decoration of the other scribes in Vadstena, they are easily identifiable. An interesting habit of Christina and some of the other Vadstena sisters is occasionally to decorate the sprays of the pen-flourished initials with small hearts. This is the case in this manu­script. Such hearts are found on pen-flourished initials on several folios, but there does not seem to be a systemized use of this detail in MS C 12.36 Yet another feature of Sister Christina’s production is the trace of the miniature frame on fol. 131v. This kind of frame seems to have been employed foremost by Sister Christina since it only occurs in other manu­scripts when she was taking part in the copying. This occurs twice in another prayer book solely written by Sister Christina: Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 443 on fols 11v and 53v. Such a frame is also painted around the pasted-in image on fol. 2r in the lectionary, Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 3, enclosing the same motif as fol. 11v in MS C 443. In all other Vadstena manu­scripts the nuns employ other kinds of significant pen-flourished frames. An illuminating erence book on book illumination terminology by Christine Jakobi Mirwald, Buchmalerei: Terminologie und Kunstgeschichte (Berlin: Reimer, 2008). 36  Small suspended hearts are placed on fols 48v, 52v, 59r, 63v, 68v, 144r, 149v, 190v, and 191v. For further discussion on the importance of the marginal hearts, see Eva Lindqvist Sandgren, ‘Hearts of Love and Pain: Images for Devotion in Vadstena Abbey’, in Words and Matter: The Virgin Mary in Late Medi­eval Parish Life, ed. by Ann-Catrine Eriksson, Virginia Langum, and Jonas Carlquist (Stockholm: Sällskapet Runica et Mediævalia, 2015), pp. 50–65.


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nun colleague might, of course, be an alternative explanation for what might be called co-variance in style of text and decoration, but there are no traces of such arrangements in the scriptorium. On the contrary, Christina seems to have cooperated with numerous scribes during her sixty years in the monastery.37 If the size of the illuminations are taken as a witness to the importance of the texts, the full-page miniatures would signal their significance by emphasizing the opening of the whole book and, at the ‘xv bøner aff wars hærra ihesu christi pino’ (that is, Quindecim orationes), beginning on fol. 131v (see Figure 6). Slightly less important would then be the three half-page miniatures, used for the Annunciation (‘salutaciones’) on fol. 91r (see Figure 4), the Apocalyptic Virgin (Pope Sixtus’s prayer to be read in front of the image of the Virgin) on fol. 163r, and the prayer to the name of Christ (‘en godh bøn aff wars hærra ihesu christi nampne’) on fol. 186r. Taking the text embellishment as an indication of the importance of the textual parts, the Latin Offices stand out, together with the penitential psalms and the Office of the Dead. The illuminations in the prayer book are one witness to which texts were regarded as important. Another witness is the wear and tear of the book. Did the nun read more frequently from the prayers that were furnished with more illuminations? Taking a look at the pages in MS C 12, one notices that some parts are indeed more worn than others. Fortunately, the manu­script is complete and preserved in its original wooden binding, and as mentioned initially, written solely by one scribe.38 Most worn are the prayers on leaves 9–18, the prayers dealing with how to obtain the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and the search for eternal blessedness.39 The penitential psalms (fols 21v–36v) is also thumbed a great deal. The ‘salutaciones’ (fols 91r–106r), some shorter personal prayers and in connection to Holy Communion (fols 107r–116r and 182r–190r),40 37 

While there are indications in the course of the manu­script production that Christina acted as a supervisor in the scriptorium, there are no actual textual witnesses to this; in other words, no documents mention anything about the organization of the scriptorium. Other female Vadstena scribes show the same co-variant tendencies, that is, when the script changes from one style to another, there are also changes in the style of decoration, indicating that the scribes would seem to have been responsible for their own illumination. 38  Hedström, Medeltidens svenska bönböcker, p. 498, who also gives a survey of the distribution of the quires on pp. 498–500. 39  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp. 28 (no. 16) and 473–74 (no. 252). 40  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, respectively pp.  472 (no.  250), 444 (no. 228), 109–11 (no. 43), 169–70 (no. 67), 296–98 (no. 130), 445–47 (no. 229:2), 22 (no. 10:4), 171–74 (no. 69), 59–60 (no. 20), 450 (no. 232).

Figure 6. The ‘xv bøner aff wars hærra ihesu christi pino’ [Quindecim orationes] with traces of a framed image on the preceding page. Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 12, fols 131v–132r. Photo © Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek.

Christina Hansdotter Brask 163


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the ‘xv bøner aff wars hærra ihesu christi pino’ (fols 132r–140v), the eight prayers at the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ (fols 150r–152r), ‘fæm bøner aff jomfru maria drøwilsom’ (fols 152r–157v), the prayer to the Apocalyptic Virgin (fols 163r–164r), prayers to a protective angel, All Saints, and St Andrew (fols 164r–167r)41 all belong to the more worn parts of the manu­script. The least worn are the Latin collect prayers and Christmas antiphons (fols 39r–47v), St Birgitta’s prayer to the Virgin (fols 88v–90v),42 the prayer to all angels (fol. 120r),43 St Mechthild von Hackeborn’s five prayers at the resurrection of Christ (fols 147r–150r),44 five prayers on the assumption of the Virgin (fols 157v–162r),45 and two shorter prayers to Christ and the Virgin (fols 168r–171r).46 An interesting aspect of this short survey is the clean folios at the prayer to the Holy Face on fol. 121v, and the comparatively low use of the ‘sancta anna tidher’ (see Figure 3), despite the fact that the cult of St Anne was popular in Vadstena. She is often depicted in the pictorial heritage from the abbey, and an image of her was already installed in the abbey church in 1418.47 Another point that may be deduced from the wear and tear is the frequency of the reading of the Swedish translations of the Quindecim orationes (‘xv bøner aff wars hærra ihesu christi pino’, the sorrows of the Virgin (‘fæm bøner aff jomfru maria drøwilsom’), and the Swedish version of Ave sanctissima Maria mater dei (that is, the prayer to the Apocalyptic Virgin). This is, however, entirely in line with Birgittine spirituality at the time of Sister Christina. A confirmation of the pre41  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp. 357 (no. 154), 365–66 (no. 160), and 381 (no. 173). 42  Birgitta of Sweden, Heliga Birgittas uppenbarelser, ed. by G. E. Klemming, Svenska fornskriftsällskapet, 1st ser., Svenska skrifter, 14, 5 vols (Uppsala: Norstedt, 1857–84), iv (1862), pp. 171–73. 43  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp. 352–53 (no. 149). 44  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp. 403–04 (no. 192). Jons Budde, Hel. Mechthilds uppenbarelser, ed. by Robert Geete, Svenska fornskriftssällskapet, 1st ser., Svenska skrifter, 116–17 (Stockholm: Norstedt, 1899), pp. 381–83. 45  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp. 312–16 and 302–03 (nos 136, 133) respectively. 46  Svenska böner från medeltiden, ed. by Geete, pp.  232–33 (no.  111), pp.  335–36 (no. 142), and p. 200 (no. 85). Birgitta of Sweden, Heliga Birgittas uppenbarelser, ed. by Klemming, iv (1862), pp. 170–71. 47  DV 406 notes that Queen Philippa (1394–1430) founded a St Anne altar in the abbey church of Vadstena.

Christina Hansdotter Brask

Figure 7. St Mechthild’s prayers [Mass of St Gregory]. Tinted woodcut. Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 12, fol. 150v. Photo © Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek.



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viously mentioned weekly ritual of the convent is also the thumbed pages of the penitential psalms and its litany (see Figure 2).48 The prayer books commonly had bookmarks to help the reader find her way through the texts. In MS C 12 such bookmarks were either fastened by or made with silk threads. The green or red thread is still discernible on leaves 106, 116, 140, 150 (see Figure 7), 162, 168, 170, 186, and 188. This shows that it was the Swedish part of the prayer book, with shorter texts, that was marked out in this way. The distribution of the bookmarks mainly in the Swedish parts could be explained by a preference for the Swedish texts compared to the Latin ones. Another possibility is that the Swedish texts were more for private use than the longer (Latin) Offices, which were more or less learned by heart and recited collectively. In some of these cases the bookmarks correspond to the more worn parts (fols 106, 116, 140, 150, and 186), but not in all. If the convent book owner herself had inserted the bookmarks, a higher correspondence between the wear and tear and the book marks might have been expected. So, even if there is a bookmark, presumably added by the book binder, it is not certain that the adjoining prayer corresponds to the wear and tear, that is, the frequently read texts. The proposed use of the prayers was not always the same as the one actually performed. The three preserved pictures in MS C 12 are all small printed images, that is, woodcuts (see Figures 5, 7, and 8). It has not yet been possible to trace them to a known printer, either in Sweden or elsewhere in Europe, but it is unlikely that they are Vadstena work. It is not known if any woodcuts were ever made in Vadstena. The most important objection to a Vadstena attribution of any prints at all is the fact that the expensive printing equipment that was installed in early 1495 was burned in an accidental fire, just six months after its installation.49 The Memorial Book, Vadstenadiariet, is furthermore very silent when it comes to providing information on handicrafts and artisans inside the walls. One little printed image has been attributed to Vadstena by Isak Collijn about hundred years ago, but mainly because it was regarded as an unskilled work.50 The lay brother Gerhard from Germany has been suggested as its creator, because he is said to have been talented in both woodcraft and painting, and because of 48 

See above n. 30. The printing press is mentioned only after it has been burnt; see DV 921. 50  Isak Collijn, Icono­g raphia Birgittina Typo­g raphica: Birgitta & Katherina i medeltida bildtryck (Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1915), p. 48; Mereth Lindgren, Bilden av Birgitta (Stockholm: Proprius, 2002), pp. 31–32. 49 

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Figure 8. The ‘fæm bøner aff jomfru maria drøwilsom’ [Pietà]. Tinted woodcut. Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 12, fol. 152r. Photo © Uppsala universitetsbibliotek.



Eva Lindqvist Sandgren

the lack of further information.51 Nevertheless, even though the Vadstena convent seemingly was only able to supply itself with printed items for more than half a year, its book collection does contain prints, both incunabula and single sheet prints, but imported ones. In two prayer books, Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MSS A 12 and A 43, the pasted-in images are mainly printed miniatures. Some of the prints stem from German print houses, while some come from the Low Countries.52 There are several indications that the lost images in MS C 12 were printed, as are the extant images. The lost images on fol. 2r (see Plate 1), fol. 48r, and fol. 116r were all of the same elliptical shape as the preserved Katarina image on fol. 117r and the Mass of St Gregory on fol. 150v (see Figure 7). The image fragments on fols 131v (see Figure 6) and 163v show that there must have been printed images here, as does the imprint on fol. 186r. The frame remaining in the other cases, however, gives no clue to answer this question. Some of the missing images in MS C 12 might, of course, have been hand-painted ones, as is the still extant little Mass of St Gregory in the prayer book of Ingegerd Ambjörnsdotter (Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 43, fol. 119r), a manu­script that still has a number of printed miniatures.53 If prints could be inserted into handwritten books, it was, as Peter Schmidt has shown, as likely that hand-painted images were inserted into printed books.54 The intention was to improve the books. To leave a place for hand-painted initials on the printed page was habitual during this time, and printed books were commonly supposed to be completed by hand-made decoration. To mix hand painted and printed material in the books was more frequent at this time than modern scholars have imagined. This complementary illumination activity is also visible in a Birgittine breviary printed in Lübeck, completed by the Vadstena nuns (Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, Sv. rar. 10:90). The insertion of imported images in the nuns’ manu­scripts gives us a hint of their international contacts.55 As the inscriptions on the miniatures in Ingegerd 51 

His profession is mentioned in 1487; see DV 868. The images in the prayer book in Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 43 are studied in Maja Braaten, ‘Grafiske trykk i birgittinsk kontekst: med utgangspunkt i Ingegerd Ambjörnsdotters bönnebok’ (unpublished master’s thesis, Universitetet i Oslo, 2006). 53  See Braaten, ‘Grafiske trykk i birgittinsk kontekst’, pp. 99–105; Sandgren, ‘Birgittinska bönboksbilder’, pp. 24–25. 54  See Peter Schmidt, Gedruckte Bilder in handgeschriebenen Büchern, Pictura et poesis, 16 (Köln: Böhlau, 2003). 55  The evidence of contacts within the Order, of course, does not exclude the possibility of 52 

Christina Hansdotter Brask


Ambjörnsdotter’s prayer book (Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 43) reveal, there was an exchange with some of the many Birgittine convents, notably the print-machine-owning convent in Dendermonde.56 There are also physical witnesses of contact with the German houses and their print makers. The splendid great Bible paraphrase of the sisters, Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 1 (dated 1526), opens with a full-page print of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin, printed in Nürnberg in the early 1520s. The subject was indeed a popular devotional theme at this period and shows that Vadstena Abbey was definitely current with what was fashionable in the cura monialium at the time.57 This up-to-date-ness in devotional matters is also apparent in the prayer book MS C 12 by Christina Hansdotter Brask, in texts as well as in icono­g raphy. Among the texts we find several examples of widespread prayers related to indulgences, popularized in the latter part of the fifteenth century. In connection to at least five of the original twelve miniatures of the prayer book there was a promise of indulgence. Apart from the aforementioned Apocalyptic Virgin and the Holy Name of Jesus, the images of the Arma Christi, the Man of Sorrows,58 the Holy Face, and the Mass of St Gregory were also associated with indulgences. A nun with such a prayer book in her hands had a very effective tool to help reduce her presumed time in purgatory before reaching her promised reward. Despite this up-to-date capacity in catechetical and spiritual matters, if the locally produced book illuminations from Vadstena Abbey are considered from an international perspective, their design and the accomplishment of the painting might give an impression of backward narrow-mindedness. The icono­ graphy is definitely up to date, but the nuns’ artistic skills cannot be compared favourably with professional workshops. In fact, there never seems to have been contacts with other monastic institutions, but these contacts were, however, never noticed by the writers of the Vadstenadiariet. 56  ‘Teneramonde ex traditur’ is even stamped in the print on fol.  43v in Stockholm, ­Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 43. On the print exchanges, see M. L. de Kreek, ‘“Geprent te Mariënwater”: onderzoek naar — en voorlopige inventarisatie van — mogelijke “Mariënwaterprentjes”’, in Birgitta van Zweden 1303–1373: 600 jaar kunst en cultuur van haar kloosterorder, ed. by L. van Liebergen (Uden: Museum voor religieuze kunst, 1986), pp. 17–30; Braaten, ‘Grafiske trykk i birgittinsk kontekst’, pp. 79–84. See also the essay by Mary C. Erler in the current volume. 57  See Eva Lindqvist Sandgren, ‘Bilden av Kristi sidosår i Birgitta Andersdotters bönbok’, Memento mori: døden i middelalderens billedverden, ed. by Kristin B. Aavitsland and Lena Liepe (Oslo: Novus, 2011), pp. 119–40. 58  It has not yet been possible to decide if the image in MS C 12 depicted the Arma Christi or the Man of Sorrows.


Eva Lindqvist Sandgren

any professional illuminators’ workshops in medi­eval Sweden at all. There were certainly professional secular scribes, but most likely no specialization in illumination nor professional training comparable to the workshops on the continent.59 The technical skills in Vadstena Abbey seem to have been learnt in the nuns’ scriptorium, and most illuminating and writing sisters might have been trained there, though we lack information about how they were organized. Furthermore, the Vadstenadiariet only mentions specific skills or handicrafts in exceptional cases, such as that of Sister Christina Hansdotter Brask. Her capacity must have been outstanding even in the opinion of the monks who wrote the obituary in the Vadstenadiariet. The quantity of her almost twenty preserved works tells us that she was a very prolific scribe, but the quality of her illuminations reveals that she was never trained in a professional illuminators’ workshop. Yet, the only preserved printed book attributed to the Vadstena printing press carries an illuminated initial in her hand, which might be an indication of the convent’s high confidence in her skills in book illumination or/and of her important role in the monastery’s book production on the whole.60 New manu­ scripts and fragments in her hand are discovered all the time, but the organization of the nuns’ scriptorium and her role in it still remains obscure to us. Sister Christina continued copying books even when she was old and her handwriting unsteady. With a doddering hand at the end of her life, she still pleaded with her fellow nuns in another prayer book (Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, MS C 443, fol. 10v) to ‘bidhin for minne fatike siæl Oc glømen ekke ch gambla so[m] screff ’ [‘pray for my poor soul and do not forget the old c h who wrote’].

59  It is regrettably impossible to identify a regional tradition of Swedish book illumination. The Swedish vestiges of such activities are too vast and have never been studied thoroughly. 60  Uppsala uni­ver­si­tets­biblio­tek, Sv. rar. 10:223, fol. 1r.

Devotional Books from the Birgittine Abbey of Maribo Anne Mette Hansen


n 1401 Queen Margrete  I (1353–1412) donated her estate, Grimstrup, situated in the middle of Lolland near the town of Maribo, ‘til eet closter at byggæs i ware frwæ oc sancti Bened[icti] hedher’ [‘for a monastery to be constructed in honour of Our Lady and St Benedict’].1 Yet only in 1408 was the estate handed over to the Birgittine Order, which was thereby established in Denmark for the first time.2 The Birgittine Order had been approved in 1370 1  See København Rigsarkivet, NKR 1889, 27 August 1401, Hälsingborg, Sweden; online edition: Diplomatarium Danicum, no. 14010827001 (København: Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab, since 2010) [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. In this document King Erik of Pomerania assents to Queen Margrete’s donations of landed property to churches and monasteries. See also C. C. Haugner, Maribo Historie, i: Kloster og Kirke (Maribo: Forfatterens Forlag, 1937), pp. 18–24; Otto Norn and Aage Roussell, ‘Maribo Domkirke’, in Danmarks Kirker: 8 Maribo Amt, 2 vols (København: Nationalmuseet, 1948–51), i, 29–88 and ii, 1477–80 (i, 29); Immanuel Felter, Maribo Domkirke 1416–1966: med særligt henblik på kirkebygningen i middelalderen og i dag (Maribo: Lolland–Falsters historiske Samfund, 1966), pp. 30–32; Leif Plith Lauritsen, ‘Maribo, Habitaculum Mariae 1416– c. 1556’, in Birgitta Atlas: Saint Birgitta’s Monasteries/Die Klöster der Heiligen Birgitta. A Trans­ european Project/Ein transeuropaïsches Projekt, ed. by Ulla Sander Olsen, Tore Nyberg, and Per Sloth-Carlsen ([n.p.]: Societas Birgitta Europa, 2013), pp. 63–64. See also Vivian Etting, ‘Dronning Margrete den 1., Erik af Pommern og stiftelsen af Maribo Kloster’, and Leif Plith Lauritsen, ‘Kirken og klosterets bygninger før reformationen’, in Maribo Domkirke: Kloster-, by- og domkirke gennem 600 år, ed. by Henrik B. Frederiksen (Odense: Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 2016), pp. 11–21 and 34–45. In this essay all transcriptions are diplomatic unless otherwise stated; that is, they are in accordance with the ortho­graphy and punctuation of the primary source. 2  See Queen Margrete’s deed of the foundation of Grimstrup, 1408, København, Rigs­ arkivet, Registratur over Maribo Klosters Breve (1624) Pergamentz breffue 51, ‘Registratur

Anne Mette Hansen ([email protected]) is Associate Professor of Old Norse Philology, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, Institut for Nordiske Studier og Sprogvidenskab, Københavns Universitet.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 171–185 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS




Anne Mette Hansen

and in 1384 the mother house at Vadstena came into use.3 There were close ties between Queen Margrete and the Birgittine Order. As a child, Margrete was brought up by Märta Ulfsdotter (c.  1319–71), a daughter of Birgitta of Vadstena (1303–73); she played an active role in the canonization process of St Birgitta, and in 1403–04 she spent Christmas at Vadstena Abbey and was admitted as a sister of the Order.4 The monastery of Maribo, however, was not realized until a few years after Margrete’s death in 1412, and it was placed at another site, in the vicinity of the village of Skemminge located on a strip of land between two lakes on which the municipal town of Maribo subsequently grew. On 27 September 1416 Margrete’s foster son, King Erik VII of Pomerania (c. 1382–1459), endowed an estate on Zealand ‘til et Kloster, som skal bygges i Schemynge i Laland, af den Orden, som er i Watzstenæ i Swerighe’ [‘for an abbey that is going to be built at Skemminge on Lolland of the monastic Order of Vadstena in Sweden’], as it is stated in the royal charter, and he also gave permission for the construction of a municipal town in connection with the abbey: ‘i Schemmynge maa bygges en Købstad, hvilken nyde skal alle Privilegier og Frihed at købe og sælge’ [‘at Skemminge a municipal town may be built, which may enjoy all the privileges and license to buy and sell’].5 Two years later, in 1418, the pope confirmed that the town could be named Maribo after the holy

over Maribo Klosters Breve’, in De ældste danske Archivregistraturer, ed. by T. A. Becker and W. Christensen, 5 vols (København: Det Kongelige Danske Selskab for Fædrelandets Historie og Sprog, 1854–1910), iii (1865), 253–312 (p. 259). The register of the archives of Maribo cloister, drawn up in 1624, lists more than a thousand items. Most of the letters were lost in the fire of Sorø Academy in 1813. 3  Diarium Vadstenense: The Memorial Book of Vadstena Abbey. A Critical Edition with an Introduction, ed. by Claes Gejrot, Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, Studia latina Stockholmiensia, 33 (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1988), nos 27 and 41. 4  Märta Ulfsdotter brought up Margrete with her own daughter Ingegerd Knutsdotter (1356–1412), who became the first elected abbess of Vadstena in 1384. Margrete visited Vadstena on a number of occasions; see Diarium Vadstenense, ed. by Gejrot, nos 103, 120, 123. On the relationships between Margrete and the Birgittine Order, see Vivian Etting, ‘Margrete and the Brigittine Order’, in Margrete I, Regent of the North: The Kalmar Union 600 Years. Essays and Catalogue, ed. by Poul Grinder-Hansen (København: Nationalmuseet, 1997), pp. 251–55. 5  Repertorium diplomaticum regni Danici mediævalis: Fortegnelse over Danmarks Breve fra Middelalderen, ed. by Kr. Erslev, 1st ser., 4 vols (København: G. E. C. Gad, 1894–1912), iii (1906), 220 (rep. 5606 and 5607). See also Johnny Grandjean Gøgsig Jakobsen, ‘Maribo Kloster og by: Forholdet mellem kloster og by i Maribo med udblik til andre købstadsklostre på Lolland-Falster og Sydsjælland’, in Maribo Domkirke: Kloster-, by- og domkirke gennem 600 år, ed. by Henrik B. Frederiksen (Odense: Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 2016), pp. 22–33.

Devotional Books from the Birgittine Abbey of Maribo


virgin. The abbey, ‘Habitaculum Mariae’, housed sixty nuns and twenty-five monks. The nunnery continued for a couple of decades after the Reformation in Denmark in 1536, but in 1556 it was confiscated and converted to a Protestant foundation for unmarried daughters of noble families. In 1621 the foundation was dissolved, and the buildings and adjoining estate were donated to Sorø Academy.6 The abbey church became the Danish Lutheran parish church of Maribo in 1596. Five late medi­eval prayer books and a few fragments of two books in Danish are preserved from the abbey of Maribo. In this essay I will provide an introduction to these devotional vernacular books, broadly in chronological order, addressing the overall content of the books and something of the relationship among the manu­scripts, with particular attention paid to the first two that have named owners. The earliest are the so-called prayer book of Marine Isdatter (København, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, MS GKS 1614 4o), from the first years of the 1490s and the slightly later prayer book of Anna Axeldatter Brahe (København, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, MS Thott 553 4o), with the date of 1497. Also from the end of the fifteenth century is a book of devotion: København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MS AM 72 8vo. From around 1500 originate the prayer book København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MS AM 75 8vo, and the miscellany Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 29. Written in the same hand as the prayer books of Marine Isdatter and Anna Brahe are a few fragments of a book of hours, København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MS AM 1056 XII 4to, and a passional, København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, AM 79 I η 8vo; for ease of comparison, these fragments will be dealt with below after the books of Marine Isdatter and Anna Brahe. (There is also a sixth manu­script primarily in Latin, København, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, MS GKS 3457 8o, with the date 1520, which will not be considered here.)7 6 

In 1586 King Frederik II (1534–88) decreed that the Cistercian monastery at Sorø on Zeeland should be a school for boys. The first academy was founded in 1623 by King Christian IV (1577–1648). 7  The manu­scripts and their affiliation to Maribo have been discussed by P. D. Steidl, Vor Frues Sange fra Danmarks Middelalder (København: Katholsk Forlag, 1918), pp. 59–67; Merete Geert Andersen, ‘Birgitta: Danmark’, in Kulturhistorisk leksikon for nordisk middelalder fra vikingetid til reformationstid, xxii, ed. by Allan Karker and others (København: Rosenkilde & Bagger, 1978), cols 114–21; Thelma Jexlev: ‘Anna Brahes bønnebog — et birgittinsk håndskrift fra Maribo’, in Birgitta, hendes værk og hendes klostre i Norden/Birgitta her Works, and her Five Abbeys in the Nordic Countries, ed. by Tore Nyberg, Odense Uni­ver­sity Studies in History and Social Sciences, 10 (Odense: Odense Universitetsforlag, 1991), pp. 323–28; Mette Nordentoft: ‘Nogle sprogtræk i Den gammeldanske Passionstraktat’, Selskab for Nordisk Filologi:


Anne Mette Hansen

All the manu­scripts here are written in the same type of script, the widespread Gothic half cursive (gotisk halvkursiv), characteristic of manu­script books for private use in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. According to an inscription on the front pastedown, København, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, GKS 1614 4o first belonged to a nun in the convent, Marine Isdatter: ‘Tænnæ bog hørær søstær marine iss daatær tel konvænt søstær i maribo’ [‘This book belongs to Sister Marina daughter of Ib (a short form of Jacob), sister in the convent of Maribo’]. Below this note the year ‘1474’ has been added subsequently in a post-medi­eval script, and it is in agreement with a rubric that mentions the visit by the Danish king Christian I (1426–81) to Pope Sixtus IV in Rome in the year 1474.8 The book passed on to other nuns in the house. On fol. 105v is written in the margin of a prayer contemplating the life, passion, and death of Jesus Christ: ‘Elsebe Skinkels Datter, Priorisse i Maribo Kloster’ [‘Elsebe Skinkel, prioress in the cloister of Maribo’]. Elsebe Skinkel ‘Perlestikkeren’ [‘the pearl-stitcher’], of the extinct noble family Skinkel (Tinhuus is the other name of the family) is known to have died in Maribo in 1575.9 From the epithet it is evident that Elsebe Skinkel was occupied with embroidery. Sofie Gyldenstjerne, a daughter of the member of the Danish council of state, Mogens Gyldenstjerne (1485–1569), was admitted to the convent after her mother Anna Sparre’s death in 1564. In 1582 she was elected unanimously by the sisters as abbess and subsequently appointed by the king. A year before her removal from office in 1596, Sofie Gyldenstjerne presented the prayer book to her niece Else Munk as is written on fol. 100v in the margin of the above-mentioned prayer to Jesus Christ: ‘Denne Bog tilhører Årsberetning 1994–1995 (København: Selskab for Nordisk Filologi, 1996), pp. 41–54; Pil Dahlerup, Dansk litteratur: Middelalder, 2 vols (København: Gydlendal, 1998), i: Religiøs litteratur, pp. 465–73. The medi­eval Danish prayer books were edited by the Society for Danish Language and Literature during the years 1946–82: Middelalderens danske Bønnebøger, ed. by Karl Martin Nielsen, 5 vols (København: Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab/Gyldendalske Boghandel, 1945–82 (hereafter Middelalderens danske Bønnebøger plus number of volume followed by number of prayer). 8  ‘Item aar effter guds byrd Mocdlxxiiii/ tha spwrdæ then høybornæ førstæ Cristiern som var danmarks swerigis oc norgis konnyngh etcetera then verduge fadher pawæ sixtum om thette forscreffne afflat ær sant’ [‘Likewise, the year 1474 after the birth of God, the high-born Christian, king of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, et cetera, asked the worthy father Pope Sixtus if the aforementioned indulgence was true’] (fol. 73v). The rubric initiates the Seven Prayers of St Gregory. 9  See the information on Elsebe Skinkel in Danmarks Adels Aarbog, 72.2, ed. by Albert Fabritius (København: Dansk Adelsforening/Schultz Forlag 1955), p. 117.

Devotional Books from the Birgittine Abbey of Maribo


mig, Else Munk, og den blev givet mig af min kære Moster Sofie Gyldenstjerne, Abedisse i Maribo Kloster, Anno 1595. Gud give os begge den evige Glæde. Amen. Else Munk med egen Haand’ [‘This book belongs to me, Else Munk, and it was given to me by my dear mother’s sister Sofie Gyldenstjerne, abbess in the cloister of Maribo in the year 1595. May God give us both eternal joy, Amen. Else Munk, in her own hand’]. The book measures 192 × 134 mm, making it slightly smaller than Anna Brahe’s book in København, Det kongelige Bibliotek, MS Thott 553 4o below. It comprises 155 foliated leaves (plus two flyleaves at the front and at the back). The outer and inner bifolium of each quire are made of parchment. There are red initials (lombards), red rubrics, and initial letters stroked in red. It is bound in a contemporary binding of the same type as the binding of Anna Brahe’s book and with the same pattern of decoration. The bulk of the manu­ script, fols 1–144r, is written in the same hand as Anna Brahe’s book, whereas another person has added two readings on the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ on fols 148r–155v, leaving fols 144v–147v blank.10 Marine’s book does not contain a calendar or other preliminary texts, and the disposition of the slightly more than one hundred prayers partly follows the conventional sequence of the litany according to the addressed figures (the Trinity, God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, archangels, saints); it is partly arranged thematically: –– Prayers to the Trinity, fols 1r–2v –– A prayer to the Virgin Mary, fol. 3v –– Prayers to Jesus Christ alternating with prayers to Mary, fols 3v–18v –– Two prayers to St Anne, fols 18v–23r –– Prayer to Birgitta and Katarina of Sweden, fols 23r–24r –– Prayer to the Trinity, fols 24r–25v –– Prayers to the Virgin Mary, fols 25v–28v –– Prayers to Jesus Christ, including a prayer for the priest, fols 29r–35v –– Prayers to the Virgin Mary, fols 35v–41v –– A prayer to Jesus Christ, fols 41v–42v –– Prayers to the Virgin Mary, fols 42–59v 10 

As pointed out by Jexlev, ‘Anna Brahes bønnebog’, p. 327.

Anne Mette Hansen


–– A prayer to Jesus Christ, fols 59v–62r –– Two prayers to All Saints and one’s favourite saint, fols 62r–64r –– A prayer to the Trinity, fols 64r–66v –– Prayer to the Lord for protection of the house, fols 66v–67v –– Prayers to Jesus Christ, including a single prayer to the Virgin Mary, fols 67v–80r –– Prayers to male saints and martyrs, fols 80r–89r –– Prayers to Jesus Christ and the Trinity, fols 89r–92r –– A prayer to the Virgin Mary, fols 92r–93v –– A prayer to the Trinity, fols 93v–94r –– Prayers to Jesus Christ, fols 94r–97r –– Prayers to the Virgin Mary, fols 97r–98v –– Prayers to the Trinity, Our Lord, and Jesus Christ, including two morning prayers, one of which — according to the accompanying rubric — was read by ‘sancta birgitta hwer dagh før æn hwn gik wdh aff sith sænghe hærberæ’ [‘St Birgitta every day before she went out of her bedchamber’], the other addressed to the Virgin Mary, fols 98v–124v –– The Seven Joys of the Virgin Mary, fols 125–127v –– Prayers to various male and female saints and martyrs, fols 127v–139v –– Prayers to the Trinity, our Lord and Jesus Christ, fols 139v–144r Among the final series of prayers is a prayer on the gestures and the bodily performance of the praying person during devotion.11 A great number of the prayers, around fifty, are also found in Anna Brahe’s book, including among others the prayer to St Birgitta and her daughter. These prayers often occur in series though not necessarily following the same order as in Anna Brahe’s book below. The prayer book of Anna Axeldatter Brahe (København, Det kongelige Bibliotek, MS Thott 553 4o) was commissioned by a nun of the same name in 1497 according to the concluding scribal colophon on fol. 214v: ‘Thenne bogh lodh syster Anna bradis datter scriffue Aar effter gudz byrdh M°cdxcseptimo’ 11 

Middelalderens danske Bønnebøger, iv, 962.

Devotional Books from the Birgittine Abbey of Maribo


[‘Sister Anna Bradesdaughter had this book written in the year 1497 after the birth of God’]. Anna, who is mentioned in a deed from 1491 and a will from 1505, was the daughter of the Scanian nobleman Aksel Brahe (d. 1487). Like many other female members of the nobility in Skåne, Anna and her sister Birgitte were admitted to the Birgittine house of Maribo, where Anna advanced from a common sister to prioress. She must have died at some point before 1545, since a note on the front pastedown of the manu­script states that in 1545 Birgitte Axeldatter Brahe, who was abbess in the 1530s and 1540s, passed the book on to a third sister by the name of Elsebe Axeldatter Brahe, married to Hans Jepsen Skovgaard til Gundestrup (d. 1574). The note ends with a prayer for mercy for the soul of Anna Brahe: 1545 var min Hustru Elsebe Brade og jeg i Maribo Kloster og talte med hendes kære Søster, Søster Birgit Brade, Abbedisse i førnævnte Maribo, og da gav hun hende denne Bog, som begge deres kære Søster, Søster Anna Brade, Priorisse i førnævnte Maribo, tilforn lod skrive. Gud være hendes Sjæl med alle kristne Sjæle naadig. Amen. H. S. K.12 [In 1545 my wife Elsebe Brahe and I visited the abbey of Maribo and spoke to her dear sister, Sister Birgitte Brahe, abbess in the aforementioned Maribo, and on that occasion she gave her this book, which their dear sister, Sister Anna Brahe, prioress in the aforementioned Maribo, previously had ordered to be written. May God have mercy on her soul and on every Christian soul. Amen.]

The book measures 201 × 127 mm and consists of 233 parchment leaves, including two originally blank leaves at the front. There are red initials (lombards), red rubrics, initial letters stroked in red, and red underlining of key words, such as ‘holy’, ‘blessed’, and ‘soul’, and of names of the addressed divine and holy figures. A red six-line intarsia initial decorated with pen work marks the beginning of the prayers on fol. 1r. It is written in a practised Gothic half cursive (gotisk halvkursiv).13 The contemporary binding is made of wooden boards covered with calf and decorated with a number of lines and stamps (pomegranate in the central panel). There are remnants of metal fastenings. A representation of the Trinity in the form of a Seat of Mercy is placed as a frontispiece to the prayers. God the Father is sitting on a throne with his crucified son placed between the knees and the Holy Spirit represented as a dove on 12 

Middelalderens danske Bønnebøger, i, p. XXXII. See Albert Derolez, The Palaeo­g raphy of Gothic Manu­scripts: From the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2003), pp. 163, 168–69. On plate 115 Derolez describes the script as ‘a large and bold cursive libraria’). 13 


Anne Mette Hansen

the right cross arm. In the background there are two female saints, St Barbara with her tower attribute, and likely a crowned Virgin Mary. The feet of Christ are nailed separately. Below the full page devotional image a subsequent user has written a petition for a blessing: ‘nv signe meg thet rosen ffarve blod som iom­ffru marie vnder sitt welsignede hiærte drog’ [‘do bless me with the rose-coloured blood that the Virgin Mary draws under her blessed heart’]. A similar petition has been added in the lower margin of the first leaf: ‘nv signe meg wor herris iesu christi hellige ffem wnder i dag oc hver dag fra alle wnde stunder’ [‘do bless me with the holy five wounds of Christ today and each day from all evil times’]. In addition to a preliminary calendar containing St Birgitta’s feast days, 23 July (death) and 7 October (canonization) tables with instructions for the calculation of Easter, and a list of the good and bad consequences of bloodletting on the thirty days of the month, the book contains around 170 prayers in Danish, including a rosary and the hours of St Anne, in addition to a few hymns in Latin. As regards the arrangement of the prayers they follow the usual pattern of a prayer book, that is, the sequence of the litany, although it is unique that prayers to female saints precede those to male saints. Anna’s book contains prayers for private devotion as well as prayers to be read during Mass: for example, prayers on Christ’s passion concentrating on his great sufferings on the cross. The distribution of the prayers is as follows: –– Prayers to the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, including a prayer for protection of the house and a prayer to the Holy Cross, fols 1r–14r –– Prayers to Jesus Christ, fols 14v–84v –– Prayers to the Virgin Mary, fols 84v–156r –– Hours of St Anne, fols 156r–160v –– Prayers to St Anne, fols 160v–180r –– Prayers to Sts Birgitta and Katarina of Sweden, fols 180r–182r –– Prayers to other female saints and martyrs (Mary Jacob and Mary Salome, sisters of the Virgin Mary; Sts Mary Magdalene; Ursula; Catherine of Alexandria; Margaret; Dorothy; Barbara; Agnes; Gertrude; Chiara d’Assisi; Apollonia; Helena), fols 182r–190r –– Prayer to the Guardian Angel, fols 190r–192r –– Prayers to male saints and martyrs (St Joachim, father of the Virgin Mary; St Joseph; the Three Kings of the Orient; the apostles Sts Peter and Paul; the apostle and evangelist St John; the apostle St Andrew; Sts Augustine;

Devotional Books from the Birgittine Abbey of Maribo


Anthony; Francesco d’Assisi; Lawrence; Stephen; Christopher; Erasmus; John the Baptist; George; Jerome; Nicholas; Justus; plus the Ten Thousand Martyrs; Fifteen Holy Helpers;14 the Twenty-Four Prophets; and St Sebastian), fols 192r–211v –– Prayer to All Saints, fols 211v–213r –– Prayer to one’s favourite saint: ‘aff hwat helgen tw vilt læse aff ’ [‘of whatever saint you will read’], fol. 213r: ‘O hellige sancte .N. hielp mek i myn drøffuelse’ [‘O holy St N. [that is, nomen = name], help me in my sorrow’] –– Prayer to Jesus as the bridegroom of the (female) worshipper: ‘Veni veni veni dulcis ihesu bone deus mitissime domine som iek troor til tek, som iek som hobes til, oc myn trøst ær til tek Amen’ [‘Come, come, come sweet Jesus, good Jesus, most gentle Lord, in whom I believe, in whom I have hope, and my comfort is in you, Amen’], fols 213r–214v There are several prayers to the commissioner’s name saint St Anne, sixteen in all, but curiously her name is not written in the owner’s prayer. There are two prayers to St Birgitta, one of which is also addressed to ‘sancta katherina henne kære datter’ [‘her dear daughter St Katerina’], the other being ‘een skøn bøn aff vor kære moder sancta birgitta’ [‘a lovely prayer to our dear mother St Birgitta’]. The former is also found in the prayer book of Marine Isdatter, the latter in the miscellany Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 29. Both prayers are also represented in the devotional book entitled the Visdoms Spejl (Mirror of Wisdom) (transmitted in two extant manu­scripts, København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MSS AM 782 4to and AM 784 4to).15 In this latter book the prayers are arranged according to the calendar, and the two prayers 14  The Holy Helpers (Vierzehnheiligen), the cult of which originates in Southern Germany, formed a group of fourteen saints with effective intercession that were venerated together. In Denmark the number of helpers was usually fifteen. In the prayer books of Anna Brahe and Marine Isdatter, the addressed number of helpers in the intercessory prayer ‘Aff the xv nødhhielpere’ [‘On the Fifteen Savers’] is sixteen: George, Blaise, Pantaleon, Erasmus, Vitus, Christopher, Dionysius, Cyriacus, Agathius, the monk Magnus (additional), Eustace, Giles, Catherine of Alexandria, Margaret of Antioch, Dorothy (additional) and Barbara. Middelalderens danske Bønnebøger, ii, 328. 15  Middelalderens danske Bønnebøger, iii, 818, 819. This Visdoms Spejl is a work composed by Johannes Johansen, a subteacher from the town of Fåborg on Funen, as it is stated in the postscript or colophon: ‘completum est opusculum hoc per me ioannem ioannis hipododasculum foburghensem […] Mdxxiii’. Heinrich Seuse’s Horologium sapientiae was also translated into Danish; it is transmitted in København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MS AM 783 4to.

Anne Mette Hansen


are placed on the saint’s canonization day, 7 October. In extant Danish prayer books, prayers to St Birgitta are found in three versions. Apart from the two mentioned prayers, which are in prose form, one versified prayer is known: ‘O birgitta moder mildæ / thu kamst i verdæn som gud vilde’ [‘O Birgitta, gentle mother, you came into this world by God’s will’] (transmitted in three extant books, København, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, MSS GKS 1613 4o and GKS 1615 4o, and København, Den Arnamagnæaske Samling, MS AM 420 12mo).16 A number of small marginal miniatures, sixty-three in all, accompany the prayers. The images depict the addressed figures or are representations of popular devotional images, such as the Pietà, the Man of Sorrows, Mass of St Gregory, the Five Wounds of Christ, the Last Supper, Anna Selbdritt (depicting the Virgin Mary and child with St Anne), and so forth. In comparison to the practised script, the images appear to have been executed by a non-professional painter, most likely the scribe, another person affiliated to the scriptorium of the abbey, or the first user of the book, Anna Brahe.17 The parts of a written prayer are: a rubric, the prayer text proper, and occasionally a marginal image. Rubrics are written in red ink, and they are partly headings, partly accompanying text placed in front of the prayer text (initial rubric), in the middle of the text, or following the prayer (final rubric). A rubric may be an integral part of the prayer text as well as an additional instruction containing ecclesiastical authorization (for example, that the prayer has a papal promulgation, information on the effects of the prayer, that is, how much indulgence is granted for saying it, and how it has to be read devoutly). Verse marks indicate verses, and para­graph marks indicate para­graphs. The prayers to St Apollonia and St Helena on fol. 189v are typical of the layout of the prayer book of Anna Brahe. The rubrics are headings identifying the addressed figure ‘een skøn bøn aff sancta appolonia’ [‘a lovely prayer of St Apollonia’] and ‘Aff sancta Helena drotningh een godh bøn’ [‘a good prayer of Queen St Helena’] or the type of prayer (for example, a succeeding collect (‘collecta’) or a preceding 16  17 

Middelalderens danske Bønnebøger, iv, 880.

In the catalogue of the collection of manu­s cripts belonging to Count Otto Thott (1703–85) the images are described as ‘figures outlined in a unworked way’ [‘Cod. membr. cum figuris rudi admodum Minerva delineatis’]; see ‘Index codicum manu­scriptorum’, in Catalogi Bibliothecae Thottianae, vii: Libros cum ab inventa typo­graphia ad annum mdxxx excusos tum manu­scriptos continens, ed. by R. Nyerup (København: Sebastian Popp, 1795), p. 409. The cultural monthly magazine Minerva was published in the years 1785–1807 by the Danish intellectual liberal elite. In the current volume Eva Sandgren Lindqvist discusses non-professional illustrations by Christina Hansdotter Brask in Vadstena.

Devotional Books from the Birgittine Abbey of Maribo


antiphon). Two-line monochrome initials initiate the prayer texts proper, and initial capital letters may be stroked in red. Red underlining marks key words such as ‘til siæl’ [‘for soul’], ‘pynæss’ [‘suffering’], ‘ihesu christi’, ‘appollonia’, and ‘Constantini’. The book was in use after the Reformation. In several rubrics, texts concerning the amount of the papal indulgence belonging to the performance of the prayer have been erased, or attempted erasure has been made. One instance is the prayer to the Holy Cross on fol. 9r in which the words ‘oc ther til ha­ffuer han M dage til afflat’ [‘and in addition he [the praying person] has one thousand days of indulgence’] are scratched out. Another occurrence is a eucharistic prayer on fol. 45bis verso; here a user tried to remove the following lines: ‘til huilken pawe benedictus then tolffte gaff alle rætte scrifftede menniske ther henne gudelige læse, so mange dage afflat’ [‘to which (prayer) Pope Benedict XII granted indulgence in the number of days (corresponding to the number of wounds on the body of Christ) to every person that read her (the prayer) with piety after having properly confessed’]. The amount of indulgence was not erased since it is equivalent to the number of the wounds of Christ, which are given as ‘v M iiii C oc sextii oc sæx’ [‘five thousand four hundred and sixty-six’].18 We may now turn to the fragments. The two fragmentary manu­scripts were written by the same person who also wrote Marine’s and Anna’s books. The first fragmentary manu­script, København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MS AM 1056 XII 4to, consists of one leaf (fol. 1) and five fragments of leaves (fols 2–6) originating from a book of hours or a prayer book. In the seventeenth century these fragments were used as covering material for financial records of an estate as has often been the fate of pre-Reformation liturgical and religious manu­ scripts in Scandinavia. There are initials (lombards), red rubrics, and initial letters are stroked in red. The fragments contain parts of one prayer to Jesus Christ (fols 6v, 1r–v), of the Hours of the Holy Spirit (fols 2r–v, 4r–v) and the Hours of the Cross (fols 5r–v, 3r–v). The prayer to Jesus Christ is titled ‘O bone Jesu’, as it says in the rubric (on fol. 6v): ‘Item her effterscriwes een meget godh bøn aff ihesu verdigstæ naffn som kallis O bone ihesu hwo som henne hwer dagh gudelige læss […]’ (the rest of the text is missing on the fragment) [‘Likewise, hereafter 18 

There are also other traces of subsequent use; small rectangular pieces have been cut out of the outer margins. For instance, on fol. 9r (prayer to the Holy Cross) there may have been a depiction of the crucifixion.


Anne Mette Hansen

is written a very good prayer of the most worthy names of Jesus which is called O good Jesus; whoever reads it (the prayer) daily (shall not be condemned)’]. This prayer is also found in Anna’s and Marine’s books, only in a variant version with slightly different wording.19 The fragments also contain parts of the Hours of the Holy Spirit: ‘Hæær begynnes tidernæ aff then hellige andh’ [‘Hereby the Hours of the Holy Spirit begin’] and the Hours of the Cross.20 The second fragmentary manu­script, København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MS AM 79 I η 8vo, contains the upper half of a single leaf of a passional. This text too was written by the scribe of Marine’s and Anna’s books, and red underlining marks significant words in the text, such as ‘søn’ [‘son’], ‘fader’ [‘father’], ‘grædh’ [‘wept’], ‘iherusalem’ [‘Jerusalem’], and ‘hiærte’ [‘heart’]. The text is an Old Danish adaption of Heinrich von St. Gallen’s Extendit manum passion treatise (see also København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MS AM 72 8vo below). In the book of hours of Else Holgersdatter Rosenkrantz (København, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, GKS 1614 4o), c.  1500, the rubric introduces the text in the following way: ‘Hæræ æffer skriffwæs noghæt aff vors herræ pinsæl som skullæ begyndæs ath læsæs pa palmæ løghærdagh’ [‘Hereafter is written something about Our Lord’s passion to be read beginning on Palm Saturday’].21 The text was also edited and printed in 1509 by the first printer of Copenhagen, Gotfred af Ghemen (d. 1510) in his Gudelige Bønner [Godly Prayers]. The piece in MS AM 79 I η 8vo concerns the Virgin Mary at the tomb of Christ: oc kystæ graffuen, oc grædh meget beskelige, oc met sodan røst, som hwn tha kwnnæ talæ sagde hwn Myn aldrekæristæ søn, jek maa ickæ længher dwælis nær tek jek antwordher tek thin fader, oc saa op met øgnene til hymmelen oc sagde Endeligh fader jek antworder tek myn søn oc myn siæl […]. [and [Mary] kissed the tomb and wept bitterly; and speaking with the voice she was capable of, she said: My dearest son, I must not dwell near you any longer, I entrust you to your father; and she looked up towards heaven and said at last: Father, I commit my son and my soul to you […]].22


Middelalderens danske Bønnebøger, ii, 200. Middelalderens danske Bønnebøger, iv, 1165, 1166. 21  Middelalderens danske Bønnebøger, iv, 857. 22  Gotfred af Ghemen, Gudelige Bønner (København: Gotfred af Ghemen, 1509), ed. by Det Kongelige Bibliotek with an introduction (in Danish) by Anne Mette Hansen: [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. 20 

Devotional Books from the Birgittine Abbey of Maribo


Unlike the previous manu­scripts, neither the scribe nor the owner of the next codex (the third of the five full manu­scripts discussed here) may be identified, but in its contents it demonstrates links with the other prayer books. The greater part of København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MS AM 72 8vo consists of a translation into Danish of the so-called Extendit manum treatise, ascribed to Heinrich von St. Gallen. A Marian lament forms part of this widely disseminated late medi­eval treatise on the passion. Another Danish version is found in Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 31 from c. 1500. Both extant Danish texts most likely rely on the same Swedish translation of a Low German version/translation of the work.23 The latter part of MS AM 72 8vo comprises the following prayer texts: fols 114r–126r: the Hours of St Mary Magdalene, including the psalms of David in Latin which are not represented in København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, AM 75 8vo (below); fol. 126r– v: a prayer to St Barbara; fols 127r–129v: three prayers to the Virgin Mary; and fols 130r–147r: a rosary of the Virgin: ‘Godhe mænniskæ sighe at thet hær æfter fylgher kalles vor frw saltere’ [‘Good people say that the following is called the Psalter of our Lady’]. This Psalter of Our Lady is also transmitted in København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MS AM 75 8vo and in Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 29 (below). The Latin source, a rhymed Psalterium beatae Mariae Virginis, is found in several manu­scripts from the twelfth to the fifteenth century: ‘Ave, porta paradisi’.24 Finally, we see a more direct link with the prayer book owned by Anna Brahe (København, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, MS Thott 553 4o) in the next volumes, as the prayer books, København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MS AM 75 8vo and Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 29 (the fourth and fifth of the full manu­scripts discussed here) share a great deal of material with Anna’s book. Like the calendar in Anna’s book, the calendar in Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 29 contains feast days of Danish saints: the date of death (7 January) and Translation (25 June) of St Canute Lavard (1096–1131); the date of death (10 July) of St Canute (c. 1042–86); the commemoration day (16 June) of William of Æbelholt (c. 1127–1203); the feast day (18 May) of Erik IX, king of Sweden (c. 1160); and three feast days of St Birgitta, 28 May 23 

See Nordentoft, ‘Nogle sprogtræk i den gammeldanske passionstraktat’, p. 51; Gammeldansk Passionstraktat: duplikeret til brug for ordbog over det ældre danske sprog, ed. by Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab (København: Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab, 1968). 24  Gereimte Psalterien des Mittelalters, ed. by Guido Maria Dreves, Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi, 35 (Leipzig: Minerva, 1900), pp. 189–99.


Anne Mette Hansen

(translation), 23 July (death), and 7 October (canonization).25 København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MS AM 75 8vo is textually dependent on Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 29, but the compilers also made use of other exemplars. The prayer book is made of paper, and several scribes were actively involved; a change in hand most often occurs when a new gathering begins. A codicological analysis of the whole book, including an examination of paper quality and watermarks, might elucidate the production process of this composite book of devotion. The Hours of Mary Magdalene comprise the fourth quire of the book. The instructional rubric prescribe that an antiphon has to be read before each of the seven hours: ‘Her byris sancte [marie] magdalene thider. thennæ antiphona skal leses synnerlik og serligh for alle thidher’ [‘Hereby the Hours of St Mary Magdalene begin. This antiphon shall be read separately and individually before all the hours’]. The rubrication, the initials in the form of red lombards, and the line fillers are made in a style resembling that of Marine’s and Anna’s books and the fragments (above). The fifth quire contains the Hours of St Anne and a rosary of the Virgin Mary: ‘Thætæ æfftherscreffne ær iomfru marie rosen krantzs poo danskæ’ [‘The following writing is the Virgin Mary’s rosary in Danish’] beginning with the words ‘Aue, Salue, Gaude, vale O maria, iech flæther thik ikke sommer krantz, æn een andhelich krantz’ [‘Hail, good day, rejoice, farewell O Mary, I do not weave you a summer’s garland but a spiritual garland’]. The binding is a contemporary leather binding, and there are remnants of blind tooling in a style similar to the bindings of Anna’s and Marine’s books, with horizontal and vertical double lines and pomegranates in the central compartment. Therefore, one might say that even the bindings of such books serve to imply the connections among these nuns and their prayer books. In Denmark the production of handwritten books continued into the Renaissance; however, in this period the majority of the preserved prayer books was written by pious lay women of the nobility in their own hands as is often stated in the books (for example, ‘med mÿn egen hand’ [‘in my own hand’]). 25 

Stockholm, Kungliga Biblioteket, MS A 29 was subsequently brought to Vadstena; see Merete Geert Andersen, ‘Birgitta: Danmark’. See also Britta Olrik Frederiksen, ‘Vulgatas 118: Davidssalme i gammeldansk oversættelse’, in Opuscula, 8 (1985), 264–97 (pp. 266–67); also Thelma Jexlev, ‘Anna Brahes Bønnebog’, p. 327; and Anne Mette Hansen’s article on books of devotion in the Reformation and Renaissance: ‘– Og denne bøn skal bedes med stor længsel og stor gudelighed, og med et ydmygt hjerte: Håndskrevne bønnebøger fra senmiddelalder og renæssance’, in Kvindernes renæssance og reformation, ed. by Grethe Jacobsen (København: Museum Tusculanums Forlag, 2017), pp. 259–78.

Devotional Books from the Birgittine Abbey of Maribo


The prayer books from the Birgittine abbey of Maribo show this continuity of interest between lay and religious.26 They also clearly demonstrate that they were commissioned by and produced for individual users and that each book is different from any other as regards the choice of texts. Nevertheless, there is inevitably some interesting overlap not only between these manu­scripts themselves but also in terms of broader Birgittine relationships. These books not only share a great deal of material with Swedish prayer books from Vadstena but also contain texts that stem from Middle Low German devotional literature. As more work is done on Birgittine prayers throughout the European tradition, we will be in a better position to see how the books of the likes of Marine Isdatter and Anna Brahe fit into this wider picture of female devotion at the end of the Middle Ages.27


For a further discussion of reading in lay and secular female circles, see the essay by Sara S. Poor in the current volume. 27  Much valuable work has already been done in this area by the analysis of the Swedish prayer books in Ingela Hedström, Medeltidens svenska bönböcker: kvinnligt skriftbruk i Vadstena kloster, Acta Humaniora, 405 (Oslo: Unipub, 2009); see also Ville Walta, ‘Libraries, Manu­ scripts and Book Culture in Vadstena Abbey’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Helsinkingin yliopisto, 2014).

Scribal Engagement and the ­ val English Nun: Late Medie The Quest Concludes? Veronica O’Mara


n previous essays I investigated some of the evidence for — and against — scribal literacy by nuns in late medi­eval England.1 The current essay is the third in an integrated series that explores material mainly from the fifteenth to the first half of the sixteenth century — this time particularly from Syon Abbey. In the first essay I concentrated on the evidence from nuns’ ownership inscriptions before discussing examples of manu­scripts from selected convents, 1  See Veronica O’Mara, ‘The Late Medi­e val English Nun and her Scribal Activity: A Complicated Quest’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 26 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 69–93, and ‘Nuns and Writing in Late Medi­eval England: The Quest Continues’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 27 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), pp. 123–47. Throughout this study the focus has been restricted to England. For historical studies of nuns in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, see O’Mara, ‘Nuns and Writing in Late Medi­eval England’, p. 126 n. 15. Kimm Perkins-Curran, ‘“Quhat say ye now, my lady priores? How have ye usit your office, can ye ges?” Politics, Power and Realities of the Office of a Prioress in her Community in Late Medi­eval Scotland’, in Monasteries and Society in the British Isles in the Later Middle Ages, ed. by Janet Burton and Karen Stöber (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2008), pp. 124–41, details examples of Scottish nuns’ administrative prowess. There are two early sixteenth-century books from the Edinburgh Dominican convent of St Caterina da Siena (the so-called ‘Senis’): Edinburgh, Edinburgh Uni­ver­sity Library, MS 150, and a printed book, Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, H8.f. 17, which both contain potential evidence of scribal literacy; see David N. Bell, What Nuns Read: Books and Libraries in Medi­eval English Nunneries, Cistercian Studies Series, 158 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian, 1995), p. 137, for a brief description.

Veronica O’Mara ([email protected]) is Professor of Medieval English Literature at the University of Hull.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 187–208 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS




Veronica O’Mara

and in the second I examined prayers and devotional texts added to various manu­scripts to see what light, if any, they cast on English nuns’ potential scribal activity. In both essays, especially the second, some attention was paid to the contrasts between the English situation and continental Europe. Such differences operated at all levels. They included differences in the educational facilities available (or rather not available) to English girls before they entered the convent and the possible opportunities open to them for training once they became nuns. There were differences also in the size, wealth, and location of nunneries, with English houses routinely being smaller and poorer than mainland European convents, if areas like Germany are taken as the norm.2 The vast majority of English nuns observed the Benedictine Rule, a fact that is unsurprising, given that the earliest (and wealthiest) houses were Anglo-Saxon royal foundations. The Benedictines are followed closely by those of the Cistercian and the Augustinian orders, with a mere handful of Franciscan convents and a few other houses.3 Compared with the continent therefore, England had a very limited range of orders.4 Even if it is not completely clear what significance this has for its overall poor scribal literacy levels, it is noticeable that England only had one Dominican house, Dartford in Kent, and one Birgittine convent, Syon Abbey in Middlesex. Given the mass of reformist Dominican and learned Birgittine continental convents, England is unusual in having so few, and the two that exist do so for unique historical reasons and with firm initial ties to Europe.5 Even so, neither really compares to their continental counterparts, as 2 

Part of the problem in a European context is to recognize what the ‘norm’ actually is. See the lists and localizations (with accompanying map) of the various female orders in David Knowles and R. Neville Hadcock, Medi­eval Religious Houses: England and Wales (London: Longman, 1971; 1st edn, 1953), pp. 251–89, in addition to the double houses on pp. 194–96 and 202. These figures are the basis for most subsequent work on the area, but for refinements, see Roberta Gilchrist, Contemplation and Action: The Other Monasticism (London: Leicester Uni­ver­sity Press, 1995), pp. 110–11. 4  There is some uncertainty about the actual number of nunneries in medi­e val England; see O’Mara, ‘The Late Medi­eval English Nun and her Scribal Activity’, p. 75 n. 30. 5  The former, established in late 1356 with the arrival of four sisters probably from Poissy Priory near Paris, was founded by Edward III (d. 1377) building on earlier plans; see Paul Lee, Nunneries, Learning and Spirituality in Late Medi­eval English Society: The Dominican Priory of Dartford (Woodbridge: York Medi­eval Press, 2001), pp. 15–22. The foundation stone of the latter was laid in 1415 by Henry V (d. 1422) (whose sister Philippa was married to the Swedish king Erik of Pomerania), and the community was established with the help of various nuns and priests from Vadstena; see Bridget Morris, St Birgitta of Sweden, Studies in Medi­eval Mysticism, 1 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1999), p. 171. 3 

Scribal Engagement and the Late Medi­eval English Nun


we shall see. English houses tended in the main to be situated outside large urban centres (the homes of commercial book production), unlike nunneries in the Low Countries, for instance. Yet, paradoxically, English nuns (and indeed to an extent English male religious) — often located in remote parts of the country — seemed to demonstrate an increasing reliance on obtaining their manu­scripts through professional or commercial means rather than producing the books themselves. In addition, compared to the situation in Europe, English manu­scripts, particularly those associated with women, are sorely lacking in the explicit colophons and inscriptions that would enable definitive identification of nuns’ hands. Whereas the fabric of English monasticism was virtually swept away by the mid-sixteenth century, various medi­eval continental nunneries survived at least until the time of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century (and some happily continue into present times). While certain English nuns continued in religion after the Dissolution, either informally at home or in other orders abroad,6 the only English Order with an unbroken history from the Middle Ages to the present (albeit with over three hundred years spent on the continent) was that of the Birgittines of Syon Abbey.7 This continental sojourn as well as the opportunity to be re-instituted during the reign of Mary I may have enabled more manu­ scripts from Syon to survive than for any other convent (even if the numbers of Syon manu­scripts were always high, as we shall see). 6  See Virginia R. Bainbridge, ‘Syon Abbey: Women and Learning c. 1415–1600’; Claire Walker, ‘Community and Isolation: The Bridgettines of Syon in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries’; and Caroline Bowden, ‘Books and Reading at Syon Abbey, Lisbon, in the Seventeenth Century’, in Syon Abbey and its Books: Reading, Writing and Religion, c. 1400–1700, ed. by E. A. Jones and Alexandra Walsham, Studies in Modern British Religious History, 24 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2010), pp. 82–103, 155–76, and 177–202, respectively. See in particular Caroline Bowden, gen. ed., English Convents in Exile, 1600–1800, 6 vols (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2012–13), together with the accompanying website ‘Who Were the Nuns? A Prosopo­g raphical Study of the English Convents in Exile, 1600–1800’ [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]; Mary C. Erler, Reading and Writing during the Dissolution: Monks, Friars, and Nuns 1530–1558 (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2013); The English Convent in Exile, 1600–1800, Communities, Culture and Identity, ed. by Caroline Bowden and James Kelly (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013); and Victoria Van Hyning, ‘Cloistered Voices: English Nuns in Exile, 1550–1800’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Uni­ver­sity of Sheffield, 2014). 7  Although it was officially the six hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the Birgittines in 2015, in 2011 the few remaining Birgittine nuns moved out of their Syon Abbey monastic house in South Brent (Devon) and moved to Plymouth (Devon); as long as the Birgittine liturgy continues to be recited, Syon Abbey will be recognized.


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Beyond any single nunnery, most monastic rules were aimed at male religious, with some added material for females, but with little about their education or writing. Regulatory material produced directly for English nuns is not any better. The Barking Ordinale account about the yearly distribution of a book to each nun is well known, but it causes us to wonder why there was not a more frequent or more plentiful distribution.8 Other comment is incidental;9 for instance, in The Rewle of Sustris Menouresses Enclosid (a Middle English translation of the Rule for Minoresses as amended by Urban IV (1261–64) in 1263 and later revised by Boniface VIII (1294–1303)), there is a reference to the requirement that the abbess or another sister in the presence of the abbess should first read any letters received or sent.10 Nuns of Aldgate (London) are particularly noted for leaving books to each other and inscribing them accordingly,11 and at least the last abbess of Denney (Cam­bridgeshire), Elizabeth Throckmorton, had bookish and possibly reformist tendencies as she requested William Tyndale’s translation of Desiderius Erasmus’s Enchiridion militis christiani.12 Yet, there is no proof one way or another that any of their putative letter-writing extended to manu­script production; indeed, there is at least one volume that was bought for Aldgate: London, British Library, MS Harley 2397.13 Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 255, complete with the arms of the prioress of Dartford (Kent), Elizabeth Cressener (1488/89–1537), on fol. 44r, contains an English early sixteenth-century commentary on the Rule of St Augustine. This works methodically through the Rule and yet says not a single word about writing.14 8  The Ordinale and Customary of the Benedictine Nuns of Barking Abbey, ed. by J. B. L. Tolhurst, Henry Bradshaw Society, 65–66, 2 vols (London: Harrison, 1927–28), i: Calendar and Temporale, pp. 67–68, with commentary by Laurentia McLachlan in ii: Sanctorale, pp. 373–74, who notes that the distribution of books on the first Monday of Lent is ordered in Chapter 48 of the Benedictine Rule. 9  See also the example given in Bell, What Nuns Read, pp. 73 and 92 n. 129, about how a nun at Thetford (Norfolk) in a visitation of 1514 feared that the prioress was going to accept ‘indoctas personas’ [‘untaught persons’] as nuns in the convent. 10  See A Fifteenth-Century Courtesy Book, ed. by R. W. Chambers, and Two Fifteenth-Century Franciscan Rules, ed. by Walter W. Seton, Early English Text Society, o.s. 148 (London: Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press,1914), p. 96, ll. 16–19. 11  See Bell, What Nuns Read, pp. 149–52 (pp. 149–50). 12  See Bell, What Nuns Read, pp. 73–74. 13  See O’Mara, ‘The Late Medi­eval English Nun and Her Scribal Activity’, p. 80. 14  The manu­script is laid out most carefully and was clearly meant for consultation or reading aloud. For references to Cressener, see p. 239 of the index entry in Lee, Nunneries, Learning

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Likewise, the specially commissioned translation of the Rule of St Benedict that was produced in print by Bishop Richard Fox of Winchester for the nuns of his diocese in 1517 says nothing about scribal activity.15 In the accompanying manu­ scripts containing the Latin profession ceremony with an English explanation produced by Fox around the same time (c. 1516) for the convents of Romsey, Wherwell, Saint Mary Winchester, and Wintney, the newly professed nun is allowed to sign or make a cross, which implies either pragmatism in the event of haste and/or flexibility in the face of illiteracy, while all mention of writing equipment is omitted.16 Moreover, in contrast to the vast numbers of manu­scripts available from some continental nunneries, of the sixty-seven convents listed in Bell’s What Nuns Read, twenty-two have only references rather than surviving manu­scripts, and thirty-three had only one or two extant manu­scripts. The twelve houses below are the only ones with more than two extant manu­scripts or printed books.17 Therefore, England compares poorly to most of the continent; for example, we know that some 330 manu­scripts were owned in women’s houses in the Low Countries.18 Yet, if any credence is given to survival rates as indicaand Spirituality in Late Medi­eval English Society. 15  See further O’Mara, ‘Nuns and Writing in Late Medi­eval England’, p. 128. 16  See Joan Greatrex, ‘On Ministering to “Certayne Devoute and Religious Women”: Bishop Fox and the Benedictine Nuns of Winchester Diocese on the Eve of the Dissolution’, in Women in the Church, ed. by W. J. Sheils and Diana Wood, Studies in Church History, 27 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), pp. 223–35 (p. 233 and n. 48), and Mary Erler, ‘Bishop Richard Fox’s Manu­script Gifts to the Winchester Nuns: A Second Surviving Example’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 52 (2001), 334–37. The two surviving manu­scripts, of the original four, Cam­ bridge, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Library, MS Mm.3.13 and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Barlow 11 are written in the same professional hand. The text (from the Cam­bridge copy) is in Monumenta ritualia ecclesiae anglicanae, ed. by William Maskell, 3 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1882), iii, 331–59 (p. 343). 17  The research of Mary Erler (and other investigation by Bell) has added further to these; for information, see O’Mara, ‘The Late Medi­eval English Nun and her Scribal Activity’, p. 76 n. 35. Bell excluded material not clearly linked to any one nun or house so there are other examples, particularly liturgical ones, yet to be included; see further Virginia Blanton, ‘The Devotional Reading of Nuns: Three Legendaries of Native Saints in Late Medi­e val England’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­e val Women: Texts and Contexts, 26 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 185–206 (pp. 185–88) for other caveats about Bell’s original figures. 18  See Karl Stooker and Theo Verbeij, Collecties op orde: Middelnederlandse handschriften uit kloosters en semi-religieuze gemeenschappen in de Nederlanden, Miscellanea Neerlandica, 15–16, 2 vols (Leuven: Peeters, 1997); for a caveat about their methods of accounting, see


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tions of what once existed, and taking Bell’s original figures just at face value, the numbers of surviving manu­scripts or — far less likely — printed books are as follows: Syon (48 and 12 that may have belonged to the nuns, plus a few others); Barking (15), Dartford (9); Shaftesbury (7); Amesbury (6); Campsey Ash (5, with a reference to an untraced book); London Aldgate (5, with a reference to an untraced manu­script); Winchester (5); Tarrant Keynston or Kaines (4); Wherwell (4), Wilton (3, with a reference to a fourth); and Carrow (3) would lead the English female monastic field.19 This would broadly equate with what is known about the ‘big five’, Shaftesbury (Dorset), Syon (Middlesex), Amesbury (Wiltshire), Barking (Essex), and Wilton (Wiltshire) in terms of size, wealth, and dominance, though only a gambling person would wager that Syon’s fifteenth-century library was more than three times as big as that of the Benedictine Anglo-Saxon foundation of Barking, or that the library of the Cistercians of Tarrant Keynston, founded only in the thirteenth century, was slightly larger than that of another Anglo-Saxon foundation, the Benedictine convent of Wilton.20 Yet, it is not always a simple case of choosing manu­scripts from a particular house or Order and being in a position to cast a bright light on nuns’ scribal literacies. As an initial experiment, before moving to the Birgittines, I have chosen Dartford particularly because of the aforementioned references to the reformist tendencies of the Dominicans and their importance on the continent. Moreover, much has rightly been made of Dartford’s reputation and the admirable administrative skills of its early sixteenth-century prioress, Elizabeth Cressener. Yet, even here, if three particular manu­scripts out of the nine listed by Bell for Dartford, are selected, three different answers to the state of female scribal literacy in that convent may be given. Patricia Stoop, ‘From Reading to Writing: The Multiple Levels of Literacy of the Sister Scribes in the Brussels Convent of Jericho’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­e val Women: Texts and Contexts, 27 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), pp. 47–66 (p. 48 n. 4). 19  For an account of the survival rates of the most ‘popular’ Middle English texts, see Michael G. Sargent, ‘What do the Numbers Mean? A Textual Critic’s Observations on Some Patterns of Middle English Manu­script Transmission’, in Design and Distribution of Late Medi­ eval Manu­scripts in England, ed. by Margaret Connolly and Linne R. Mooney (Woodbridge: York Medi­eval Press, 2008), pp. 205–44. 20  The survival rates for libraries is subject to all kinds of vagaries; Sargent, ‘What do the Numbers Mean?’ calculates that the survival rate for books from the Syon male library was about one in fifty-one (p. 211).

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London, British Library, MS Harley 2254 is a fifteenth-century vellum manu­script containing English mystical texts by Walter Hilton. On flyleaf i verso there is an ownership inscription: ‘Thys boyk longyth to Dame alys braintwath | the worchypfull prioras of Dartford’ [‘This book belongs to Dame Alice Branthwayte, the honourable prioress of Dartford’], written in a competent cursive hand of the second half of the fifteenth century. Below the name of Alice Branthwayte (prioress in the late 1460s and 1470s) are Latin requests for prayers for ‘Elizabith Rede’ and ‘Iohanne Newmarche’ (who was not a nun but a gentlewoman).21 These last two hands, which are in a competent cursive quasi-textura script, look very similar but are not identical. None of the hands recording ownership is that of the main text. While they demonstrate the sharing of books by nuns within Dartford, they do not support the hypothesis that these nuns wrote the inscriptions. It would seem unlikely that Alice would refer to herself as ‘worchypfull’, and, while it could be postulated that Johanna Newmarch wrote the name of Elizabeth Rede, probably neither the latter nor the former wrote their own names as in both cases prayers are being asked for their souls. The whole manu­script is a professional enterprise, and there is no proof that any of these named nuns had a part in its production; their names are simply recorded, presumably by later anonymous hands. The second example, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 322, is a far more elaborate production. Written on parchment by one hand occasionally adopting different stylistic layouts, and with various small illustrations (fols 10r, 15r, 19v, and 27r), it contains an extensive collection of common Middle English devotional material. On fol. i recto it is recorded in a hand of the last quarter of the fifteenth century that William Baron donated the book to the ‘nonrye of detforde and specially to the vse of dame pernelle wrattisley’ [‘nunnery of Dartford and specially for the use of Dame Pernelle Wrattisley’]. Research has shown that the manu­script was probably produced in a professional scriptorium and afterwards donated to this nun at Dartford.22 Pernelle (or Parnel) 21  See Kate Harris, ‘The Origins and Make-Up of Cam­b ridge Uni­v er­s ity Library MS Ff.1.6’, Transactions of the Cam­bridge Biblio­graphical Society, 8 (1983), 299–333, who comments that Joan (formerly Shirley), the wife of Robert Newmarch, was a gentlewoman to Isabel, countess of Warwick (d. 1439), and was resident at St Bartholomew’s Priory, London, at the time of her death in 1453, but that no mention of MS Harley 2254 was made in her will. 22  See A. I. Doyle, ‘Books Connected with the Vere Family and Barking Abbey’, Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society, n.s., 25 (1958), 222–43 (with illustrations between pp. 224 and 225, and between pp. 238 and 239); and Andrew Taylor, ‘Into his Secret Chamber: Reading and Privacy in Late Medi­eval England’, in The Practice and Representation of Reading in


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Wrattisley no doubt benefitted from the material presented by her uncle; she herself has left no apparent trace on the volume.23 Finally, London, Society of Antiquaries, MS 717, a fifteenth-century manu­ script containing Latin liturgical material, has a striking notice on fol. 55r: ‘Orate pro animam sororis Emme Wyntyr qui fieri fecit istum librum’ [‘Pray for the soul of Sister Emma Winter who caused this book to be made’]. Emma Winter of Dartford also owned Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson G.59, which contains a translation of the Disticha Catonis in English verse. Emma’s signature is on the final folio (fol. 13r): ‘Suster Emme Wynter’. She also owned Downside Abbey, MS 26542, a collection of English and Latin mystical and devotional material. This has an inscription on fol. iii verso specifiying the gift of the book to ‘Betryce Chaumbir and aftir hir decese to Sustir Emme Wynter and to Sustir Denyse Caston, nonnes of Dertforthe’ [‘Beatrice Chambers, and, after her death, to Sister Emma Winter and to Sister Denise Caston, nuns of Dartford ’].24 This last inscription merely testifies that Emma Winter was alive when it was written. While the notice in MS 717 could imply that the inscriber has made the object (or part thereof ) personally, it more than likely implies a commission. There are various hands responsible for MS 717, but the poor condition of the manu­script means that it is difficult to link any of them securely to the signature. In any case, given that this inscription and that in MS Rawlinson G.59 are in different hands, it is impossible to identify her true signature (that is, her hand). Dartford therefore had nuns who were capable of recording ownership, who were engaged readers and eager commissioners who could cope with liturgical Latin, but perhaps — in these three instances at least — were happy to delegate the writing responsibility for the books needed. In this they were not alone, as will be seen with the Birgittines.25 Therefore, having made some attempt to discuss manu­scripts from various parts of the country and from convents of different sizes in the earlier essays, in the last in the current series I shall now concentrate on a single institution, the England, ed. by James Raven, Helen Small, and Naomi Tadmor (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ ver­sity Press, 1996), pp. 41–61 (with illustrations on pp. 54 and 56). 23  For a discussion of William Baron, his family, and his piety, see Amy Appleford, Learning to Die in London, 1380–1540 (Philadelphia: Uni­ver­sity of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), pp. 107–27. I am grateful to the reader of this volume for alerting me to this reference. 24  The opening ‘Ave […] Amen’, and the last sentence ‘to- […] it’ are written in a different hand. 25  See further Lee, Nunneries, Learning and Spirituality in Late Medi­eval English Society, pp. 167–216, for a discussion of all these Dartford books.

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Birgittine house of Syon Abbey. This is for three reasons. First, because the extensive number of manu­scripts available from Syon provides a critical mass over a century, if defined historically (1415 to 1539) or just over half a century in terms of actual manu­scripts (c. 1480s to c. 1550s); and the house itself was large, even if it may not have got up to the full complement for Birgittine houses of sixty sisters and twenty-five brothers proposed by Birgitta originally.26 Second, as one of the many daughter houses of the mother house in Vadstena (1384), Syon provides a valuable point of comparison with Vadstena and the other Birgittine houses dotted around Europe. Shortly after Birgitta’s canonization in 1391, Santa Maria del Paradiso, the first house outside Sweden, was established in Florence in 1394, followed in quick succession by Marienbrunn (Gdańsk) in 1396; Scala Coeli (Genoa) in 1403; Mariental (near Tallinn) in 1407; Marienwohlde (near Lübeck) in 1413; Syon in 1415; Maribo (Lolland) in 1416; and so forth. In certain parts of Europe there were particular concentrations. There were no fewer than seven Birgittine convents founded in the Low Countries between c. 1437 and 1484: Mariënwater (Rosmalen); Mariënkamp (Kampen); Mariënburg (Soest); Mariëntroon (Dendermonde); Mariënsterre (Gouda); Mariënvoorne (Brielle); and Mariënwijngaard (Utrecht).27 Third, if evidence of definite female scribal activity cannot be found in Syon — probably the best known house in medi­eval England — then there may be little hope of finding it anywhere in England. Nevertheless, despite the fact that more manu­scripts are available from Syon than any other convent in England and despite various rules and much observation on reading, comment on writing is non-existent, incidental, or ambiguous.28 26 

The numbers for Syon are slightly fewer: there were forty-one sisters and fourteen brothers in 1428, and fifty-six women and seventeen men in 1539. 27  Marienbaum/Mariënboom (in Kleve), is now part of Germany. For a full list of Birgittine houses in the Low Countries (with dates), see Ulla Sander Olsen, ‘The Life and Works of St Birgitta in Netherlandish Translations’, in The Translations of the Works of St Birgitta of Sweden into the European Vernaculars, ed. by Bridget Morris and Veronica O’Mara, The Medi­ eval Translator, 7 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000), pp. 117–51 (pp. 118–19). See also Ulla Sander Olsen, Tore Nyberg, and Per Sloth Carlsen, eds, Birgitta Atlas: Saint Birgitta’s Monasteries/ Die Klöster der Heiligen Birgitta. A Transeuropean Project/Ein transeuropaïsches Projekt ([n.p.]: Societas Birgitta Europa, 2013), pp. 210–65 (where the foundation dates occasionally differ from the previous source); the Birgitta Atlas contains full details for all Birgittine houses, including the early houses mentioned above; see respectively pp. 86–89 (Paradiso); pp. 102–06 (Marienbrunn); pp. 89–93 (Scala Coeli); pp. 58–62 (Mariental); pp. 160–64 (Marienwohlde); pp. 148–57 (Syon); pp. 63–67 (Maribo). For Paradiso as a centre for Birgittine book production, see the essay by Melissa Moreton in this volume. 28  For reading, see the essay by Ann M. Hutchison in the current volume.


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For instance, the Syon Additions prepared for the nuns in London, British Library, MS Arundel 146 (fol. 46r–v) request that at their profession a nun should do the following: ‘Into wytnes of alle and eche of the seyd premysses, I haue made my sygne manuell [fol. 46v] in thys present wrytynge — whiche sygne may be made to fore, for lettyng of tyme’ [‘In witness of all and each of the stated promises, I have made my manual sign in this present document — which sign may be made in advance owing to lack of time’].29 Such signatures or possibly marks at profession cannot always be an indication of nuns’ scribal literacy — or illiteracy — as the encouragement to sign or make a mark may be decoded in different ways, though it would seem likely here that a signature in the modern sense of the term is what is implied. Elsewhere in the Syon Additions in MS Arundel 146, exacting guidelines for the life of a nun are provided. On fol. 40v there is a section ‘Of stondyng’ [‘On standing’] with precise instructions on how ‘they schal not stonde vpon oo fote alone, holdyng vp þat other, nor one ouer another; nor ȝet holde ther chynnes or chekes in ther handes’ [‘they shall not stand on one foot alone, holding up the other, nor [cross] one over the other, nor yet hold their chins or cheeks with their hands’]. What is very surprising, given this sort of extreme postural detail, is that at no point is there anything about writing. It is significant too that, as far as we aware, no medi­e val or early modern copy of the Lucidarium, the Vadstena customary specifically produced for the sisters (matching the Liber usuum for the brothers) existed in England. This text circulated throughout Dutch, Finnish, and German Birgittine houses and had much to say about convent living. It also sets out plainly what the nuns’ duties were with regard to writing: ‘The systra som kunno scriffua, gangin til at scriffua, Oc the som skulu owirläsa gangin til at rätta bökir’ [‘The sisters who can write shall go to write. And those who should over-read [that is, proofread] shall go to correct books’].30 Indeed, there is a pronounced Birgittine female 29 

This text is edited in The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure, iv: The Syon Additions for the Sisters from the British Library MS Arundel 146, ed. by James Hogg, Salzburg Studien zur Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 6 (Salzburg: Universität Salzburg, 1980). After ‘wrytynge’ there follows a large ‘E.’ ‘M’. These may be just an example, but they could also be the initials of the abbess at the time this text was written. The only candidate is the fourth abbess, Elizabeth Muston, who was abbess between 1456 and 1497; see The Heads of Religious Houses: England and Wales, iii: 1337–1540, ed. by David M. Smith (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2008), p. 698. If this is the case, then it adds further information to the material commissioned by this dynamic abbess who was also the patron of The Myoure of oure Ladye. 30  Birgitta of Sweden, Heliga Birgittas uppenbarelser, ed. by G. E. Klemming, Svenska fornskriftsällskapet, 1st ser.: Svenska skrifter, 14, 5 vols (Uppsala: Norstedt, 1857–84), v

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involvement in the known medi­eval copies. According to Ingela Hedström, a German translation was written at the convent of Gnadenberg (near Nürnberg) between the 1440s and 1450s; the renowned scribe Christina Hansdotter Brask (1459–1520) wrote a version in Old Swedish in the late 1480s to late 1490s; the third, in German, was written by a named sister of Maihingen (near Nürnberg) in 1497; the fourth copy, dating from c. 1500, is in Dutch and was owned by a nun from Mariënwater in Rosmalen; and, finally, a Latin fragment that must have belonged to Naantali/Nådendal, near Turku/Åbo (the only Birgittine house in Finland), may also have been copied by Christina Hansdotter Brask. Eight of the nine post-medi­e val copies, ranging from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, are also connected with Dutch or German nunneries. The ninth copy was that associated with Syon Abbey, an English translation from a German text, made as late as the 1940s.31 While it is possible that medi­eval Syon had a copy of which there is no record, it is striking that the English house apparently did without a book for over five hundred years that their continental sisters regarded as indispensable from the beginning. There is then an immediate contrast between the other Birgittine houses and Syon which appears to go its own way both in not embracing what was seen as fundamental elsewhere and — to a large extent — appearing not to follow this female fashion for inhouse production of manu­scripts. In the first essay much was made of London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 546 and the colophon by the unidentified Syon nun who signs herself as a ‘scrybler’, which is incidentally the sort of term that is sometimes found in Swedish manu­scripts.32 Nevertheless, over three quarters of the manu­script was written by three male scribes: William Darker, a Carthusian of Sheen (responsible for fols 57r–77v), and ‘Master John warde’ and ‘Robart Davemport’, two seculars, who were respectively responsible for fols 1r–27r and fols 29r–52r. This should give pause (1883–84), p. 81. I am grateful to Nils Dverstorp for alerting me to this quotation and for allowing me to use his translation; for further information, see Nils Dverstorp, ‘Step by Step: The Process of Writing a Manu­script in the Female Convent of Vadstena’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­e val Women: Texts and Contexts, 27 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), pp. 109–22 (p. 119). 31  Ingela Hedström, ‘One Customary to Rule Them All: On the Lucidarium and its Transmission’, in The Birgittine Experience: Papers from the Birgitta Conference in Stockholm 2011, ed. by Claes Gejrot, Mia Åkestam, and Roger Andersson, Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien, Konferenser, 82 (Stockholm: Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien, 2013), pp. 351–69. 32  For this case, see O’Mara, ‘The Late Medi­eval English Nun and her Scribal Activity’, p. 78.


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for thought before there is any headlong rush to assume that Birgittine nuns at Syon were routinely writing manu­scripts, like their fellow sisters in Vadstena and in the other daughter houses in Europe. Oddly, and as often noted, there is no evidence of a Syon scriptorium. Much of what is known about Syon’s scribal activity comes from chance references, a few financial accounts, and the identification of non-Syon scribes. Indeed, the fact that Darker and these two lay men above wrote virtually the whole book serves to encapsulate much that is important about Syon manu­scripts at the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth. One factor is the importance of Carthusian scribes and the second concerns the part played by lay scribes connected with Syon. Darker is responsible for umpteen Middle English manu­scripts, of which a sizeable number are Birgittine. Alongside Darker is a host of other Carthusian scribes, some of whom worked closely with Syon. In the case of Joanna Sewell of Syon (d. 2 July 1532), and her spiritual advisor, the Carthusian James Grenehalgh, who wrote several manu­scripts, the relationship may have been considered too close, as he was removed from the Sheen charterhouse to Coventry in 1507 or 1508 and died in the Hull charterhouse in 1529 or 1530.33 In addition, it is clear that the Syon nuns — living alongside Birgittine brothers who were perfectly adept scribes — saw no shame in asking for outside help. The best example of this is that in 1482 the abbess Elizabeth Muston commissioned a lay man, Thomas Baillie (previously referred to as ‘Raille’), to repair books from the male and female libraries.34 This repair would seem to have extended to making good missing passages and updating various volumes. And it was another steward, Robert Taylor, who wrote the Myroure of oure Ladye.35 Likewise, as was demonstrated by the last manu­script studied in the second essay, Dublin, Marsh’s Library, MS Z.4.4.3, owned by Alice Rade and Alice Hastings, Syon nuns were not worried about using material that had been produced for contexts beyond Syon.36 33  Much has been written about the ways in which Grenehalgh encouraged Sewell in her theological education and his use of her monogram, ‘J.S.’, or a combined monogram, ‘J.G.S’, to mark particular passages; for a brief overview see Bell, What Nuns Read, pp. 172–73, and references therein. 34  Robert Jowitt Whitwell, ‘An Ordinance for Syon Library, 1482’, The English Historical Review, 25 (1910), 121–23. 35  He signs the text, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson C. 941, fol. 139v, describing himself as ‘wryter of this booke’; the first half of the text is in Aberdeen, Aberdeen Uni­ver­ sity Library, MS 134. 36  O’Mara, ‘Nuns and Writing in Late Medi­eval England’, pp. 144–46.

Scribal Engagement and the Late Medi­eval English Nun


Yet, even if Syon sought external assistance, there are links with Vadstena in other respects. Any hint of scribal ability from Syon comes at the end of the Middle Ages. The Syon sacristan’s accounts from the early sixteenth century testify to the purchase of large quantities of writing materials (though without any specification about whether these were for the male or female sides of the monastery).37 Similarly, for reasons that no one seems able to explain adequately, the heyday of manu­script production among the Swedish nuns was in the last decades of the fifteenth and first decades of the sixteenth century.38 Perhaps there was some localized reason for this, such as the arrival of a particularly charismatic character in the convent — much of this activity centres around the figure of Christina Hansdotter Brask, the most prolific female scribe in Vadstena.39 What happened in Syon can hardly be called a similar upsurge in scribal production, but it is noticeable that something happened around the 1480s to increase the production of Birgittine material (albeit that this was as much outside as inside Syon). The dedication of the new church on 20 August 1488 may have acted as a spur, in the same way that moves in the late 1480s towards the canonization of Katarina, the daughter of Birgitta, may have encouraged more bookish production in Sweden. In keeping with this rise in activity at the mother house, the Syon Martyrology (London, British Library, MS Additional 22285) was produced in the second half of the fifteenth century (probably the last quarter). This contains a few examples of nuns’ names that can be linked with books to very varying extents — and in some rare cases — to scribal involvement. To illustrate this, a selection of names may be examined.40 As noted in the first essay, Elizabeth Woodford (d. 5 March 1523) may have signed her name in London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 546 (and possibly, though less likely, was responsible for some material in the same manu­script). Conversely, we know about Elizabeth Edward’s (d. 10 October s. a.) manu­script, London, British Library, MS Cotton Appendix XIV, but only because it was commissioned for her use, as noted on fol. 56v, which shows that neither she nor possibly any other Syon scribe, male or female, pro37 

Mary Carpenter Erler, ‘Syon Abbey’s Care for Books: Its Sacristan’s Account Rolls 1506/7–1535/6’, Scriptorium, 39 (1985), 293–307. 38  See, in particular, Ingela Hedström, Medeltidens svenska bönböcker: kvinnligt skriftbruk i Vadstena kloster, Acta Humaniora, 405 (Oslo: Unipub, 2009). 39  Much has been written about Christina Hansdotter Brask; see, for example, Hedström, Medeltidens svenska bönböcker and references therein. See also Eva Lindqvist Sandgren’s essay in this collection. 40  For other examples, see the entry for Syon in Bell, What Nuns Read, pp. 175–210.


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duced it.41 At the end of the period Clemence Tresham (11 September s. a.), Edith Morpath (d. 31 October 1536), and Katherine Palmer (d. 19 December 1576) owned printed books of mystical and devotional or homiletic material, but nothing is known of their own writing, if any, apart from their signatures. Yet, Katherine Palmer, the last abbess before the Dissolution, had a doughty reputation and bookish tendencies, so it would be unusual if she had not been responsible for some literary activity.42 The ownership inscription of Elizabeth Ogull (d. 15 January, s. a.) occurs at the end of a Syon psalter in London, British Library, MS Harley 487 (fol. 218v). However, like the mass of other signatures explored, this does not point to other involvement in the manu­script by this nun. Emendations amount to little more than crossing through and scrubbing out, particularly in the litany on fols 193v–197r, so it is impossible to tell who is responsible. Other names include Anne Digne (d. 13 February 1517) and Anne Amersham (d. 21 October 1533), one of whom wrote both names in Cam­bridge, Uni­ver­sity Library, MS Additional 8885 together with a Latin petitionary phrase, as noted in my first essay. In itself all this proves is that one or other of them — could write an ownership inscription and a few Latin words.43 James Hogg asserts that Anne Amersham wrote the whole manu­script, but the hand does not occur again.44 Yet, as will be shown later, this is not to imply that nuns were not responsible for writing any part of this processional. All these samples indicate is that it is possible to identify some Syon nuns’ signatures. For instance, as noted in the first essay, there are four examples in two manu­scripts of the ‘signature’ of Anne Colville (d. 30 October 1531), and so it is possible to isolate the three identical ones that are in her hand.45 In the early sixteenth century she was a treasurer at Syon, so this and the identification of 41 

See O’Mara, ‘The Late Medi­eval English Nun and her Scribal Activity’, p. 80. For instance, Mary C. Erler, Reading and Writing during the Dissolution, pp. 108–09, notes that William Peryn dedicated his Spirituall Exercyses, published in London in 1557, to Katherine Palmer and another nun (Dorothy Clement, a Poor Clare). 43  In her petition to the Virgin Mary, the nun has written ‘obliuiscere me’ [‘forget me’], thus leaving out the important negative, but this could be a simple slip rather than an indication of poor Latin ability. 44  See The Rewyll of Seynt Savioure and A Ladder of Foure Ronges by the which Men Mowe Clyme to Heven, ed. by James Hogg (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, 2003), p. vii n. 6. 45  See O’Mara, ‘The Late Medi­e val English Nun and her Scribal Activity’, p. 80; see also Bainbridge, ‘Syon Abbey: Women and Learning c. 1415–1600’, pp. 88–89 for bio­g raphical information. 42 

Scribal Engagement and the Late Medi­eval English Nun

Figure 9. Ownership inscription by Mary Nevel. Oxford, St John’s College, MS 167, flyleaf, fol. ii recto. 1535–57/58. Reproduced by permission of the President and Fellows of St John’s College, Oxford.



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her signature opens up the possibility of matching up a manu­script or document to Anne at some point in the future. However, only two female names found in the Martyrology have any real claims to scribal activity in the full sense of the term. The earliest is Anna Karlsdotter (d. before 1450), Anglicized as Anna Charles, who was most probably responsible for a Latin and Swedish prayer book (Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A82a). Anna was one of the four professed sisters who came from Vadstena to help establish Syon, and, though it would be natural to conclude that she influenced the English postulants in manu­script production, there is no proof of this. Given the English decoration, Claes Gejrot (who first brought the case to our attention) supposes that Anna wrote the manu­script in England, perhaps writing out the Swedish prayers from memory.46 Leaving room to speculate that some of the other Swedish nuns could or did write and that there were other (anonymous) nuns with scribal interests in the interim, it is not until much later after similar detective work that another nun-scribe is discovered. This is Mary Nevel, who entered Syon on 3 April 1535 and died either on 17 October 1557 or 1558 (both dates are given in the Syon Martyrology). Mary Nevel was first brought to attention by Christopher de Hamel, who says that she was perhaps chantress at Syon and therefore would have had to ensure the updating of the liturgical books.47 De Hamel’s first significant breakthrough was in locating the signature of Mary Nevel in Oxford, St John’s College, MS 167. This manu­script has the customary index tabs associated with Syon manu­scripts, as well as other alphabetical markers identifying areas that have been corrected. The flyleaf (fol. ii recto) of MS 167 shows Mary’s ownership inscription, alongside those of Thomasina Grove and a Brother James Stock, all in very different hands (see Figure 9), which serve to prove that each is responsible for their own inscriptions.48 There can be no doubt that this dis46  See Claes Gejrot, ‘Anna Karlsdotters bönbok: en tvåspråkig handskrift från 1400-talet’, in Medeltida skrift- och språkkultur: nio förelasningar från ett symposium i Stockholm våren 1992, ed. by Inger Lindell, Opuscula, 2 (Stockholm: Sällskapet Runica et Mediævalia, 1994), pp. 13–60. The three other sisters were Kristina Esbjörnsdotter, Kristina Finvidsdotter, and Ragnhild Tidekesdotter, along with three young girls (‘puellae’), Margareta Finvidsdotter, Margareta Johansdotter, and Marina Toresdotter. All seven died at Syon; see The Martiloge of Syon Abbey: The Texts Relevant to the History of the English Birgittines, ed. and trans. by Claes Gejrot, Sällskapet Runica et Medi­evalia (Stockholm: Centre for Medi­eval Studies, Stockholm Uni­ver­sity, 2015), pp. 14–16. 47  Christopher de Hamel, Syon Abbey: The Library of the Bridgettine Nuns and their Peregrinations after the Reformation (London: Roxburghe Club, 1991), p. 108. 48  Thomasina Grove’s death is recorded in 1566; see The Martiloge of Syon Abbey, ed. by Gejrot, pp. 122–23; there is no mention of James Stock.

Scribal Engagement and the Late Medi­eval English Nun


tinctive signature in textus quadratus (the most sophisticated form of textura or textualis) can only be in the hand of Mary Nevel herself. De Hamel also said that Mary’s hand seemed to be responsible for two intriguing bookmarks found in the Syon Martyrology (London, British Library, MS Additional 22285), both of which are suspended from coloured tape. The first of these (numbered 11–12) (see Figure 10) is inscribed with the same text each side, the variant Latin forms: ‘Benefactor’ | ‘Benefactores’; ‘Benefactrix’ | ‘Benefactrices’ (no. 11), and so on, which the reader of the Martyrology would need to adapt appropriately for reading names aloud to the Syon Chapter. The second one (numbered 120–23) is, as De Hamel describes it ‘a very ingenious kind of double volvelle, with two revolving vellum disks showing numbers through little windows thereby referring instantly backwards or forwards to other sections during public reading of the book’.49 De Hamel also posits that Mary Nevel was responsible for some correction in Oxford, St John’s College, MS 167, and for parts of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 62. In addition, on the basis of De Hamel’s original discovery and the work of others, my own researches have added to the bookmarks in the Syon Martyrology parts of a further three manu­scripts; possibly two fragments and part of another; plus almost one whole manu­script to what may be ascribed to Mary Nevel. These are parts of Oxford, St John’s College, MS 167 (not those outlined by De Hamel), parts of Cam­bridge, Uni­ver­sity Library, MS Additional 8885 and a page in Edinburgh, Uni­ver­sity Library, MS 59; possibly (or possibly not) Exeter, Exeter Uni­ver­sity Library, MS 262, Fragments 5 and 7, Syon Abbey Medi­e val and Early Modern Manu­script Collection, and possibly (or possibly not) the final double spread from the Archives of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle, DNP, MS 505a; as well as virtually the whole of London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 3600. This last item is very important because, with the exception of text attributable to female hands in the Findern Anthology, it is currently virtually the only known manu­script of early secular or religious material in England written almost entirely by a woman, let alone a nun.50 The evidence for ascribing any or all of these manu­scripts to Mary Nevel is extremely complicated and to explain it properly would necessitate full and careful palaeo­g raphical scrutiny of each of the manu­scripts mentioned above 49 

De Hamel, Syon Abbey, p. 108. The Findern Anthology, about which there is an extensive literature, is Cam­bridge, Cam­ bridge Uni­ver­sity Library, MS Ff.1.6; see further, Harris, ‘The Origins and Make-Up of Cam­ bridge Uni­ver­sity Library MS Ff.1.6’. 50 


Veronica O’Mara

Figure 10. Bookmark by Mary Nevel in the Syon Martyrology. London, British Library, MS Additional 22285. 1535–57/58. © The British Library Board.

Scribal Engagement and the Late Medi­eval English Nun


— something that is beyond the scope of the current study but is fully discussed elsewhere.51 For now it will suffice to say that, while I agree with De Hamel’s comments on Mary’s responsibility for the two bookmarks in the Syon Martyrology, his conclusions about her involvement (beyond her signature) in Oxford, St John’s College, MS 167 needs modification, as he associates the wrong parts of the manu­script with her, and her input into Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS 62 is sorely in doubt. It is very significant that for England we have come as near as we can get — at last — to locating at least one named English nun who — with a fair degree of certainty — can properly be labelled as a scribe.52 And by this I mean that she was responsible not for a few snippets here and there but that she may have fulfilled the office of ‘scribe’, like many of her continental Birgittine sisters. However, in my first essay I noted that ‘one swallow does not make a summer’, and this is still true. It is not clear what went on at Syon between the arrival of the Swedish nun Anna Karlsdotter in 1415 and Mary Nevel over a hundred years later on the eve of the Dissolution. Anna Karlsdotter probably wrote her own prayer book, may or may not have written anything else, and possibly never encouraged the English nuns to follow her example. Yet, if the evidence here is to be believed, Mary Nevel was a very active and apparently a prolific scribe. Of all the manu­scripts here, the discovery of her hand in most of London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 3600 is the most important. This volume contains almost 150 folios and some 140 devotional items in English and Latin (some of which are repeated in both languages). Indeed, the fact that the majority is in Latin and that many of the texts are either unique or translations from other sources opens up a further possibility that Mary Nevel was not only able to write but that both her Latin and — perhaps her translational powers — were also good. It is true that it is still not clear how representative, if at all, Mary Nevel was. Are we glimpsing in her production of the prayers and 51 

See O’Mara, ‘A Syon Scribe Revealed by her Signature: Mary Nevel and her Manu­ scripts’, in Continuity and Change: Papers from the Birgitta Conference at Dartington 2015, ed. by Elin Andersson, Claes Gejrot, E. A. Jones, and Mia Åkestam, Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien, Konferenser, 93 (Stockholm: Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien, 2017), pp. 283–308. 52  In O’Mara, ‘The Late Medi­eval English Nun and her Scribal Activity’, pp. 82–84, and O’Mara, ‘Nuns and Writing in Late Medi­eval England’, pp. 135–38, there is also some compelling (albeit complicated) evidence that Margery Birkenhead, a Benedictine from Chester, may have been responsible for a Latin processional and/or English prayers in San Marino, Huntington Library, MS EL 34 B7.


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devotions in London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 3600 the end of a tradition that started off with Anna Karlsdotter’s prayer book in Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS A 82a? Is this just almost a one-off example of a Syon nun who through force of circumstances resorted to writing her own manu­scripts? Or is Mary Nevel from Syon the equivalent of Christina Hansdotter Brask from Vadstena? Given that the former was also responsible for liturgical material, it would seem that Mary definitely had some ‘official’ scribal position, though what this says about female scribal activity in Syon down through the years can only be guessed, especially considering the strong counter evidence from Carthusian and commercial scribal activity associated with Syon. It also has to be said that Mary Nevel is writing at a particularly late point, as all the evidence dates her hand to the first half of the sixteenth century, a time when there is generally more trace of female scribal literacy in England in any case.53 Yet the prospect of such a mass of material attributable to the Syon nun, Mary Nevel, is still a most exciting discovery on which to end this quest, except that it is not at all at an end. This case must be further pursued in its widest context, and so this is really the beginning of another quest.54 There is a dense scribal overlap in manu­scripts associated with Syon, not only in those specially commissioned for the house, for instance, the many written by the Carthusian William Darker, and those bought from London workshops, but also those that may have been ‘in-house’ productions. For instance, one of the hands of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 62 also features in Cam­bridge, St John’s College, MS A.11 (which contains Birgittine legislative texts) and elsewhere. It will take some time to unravel all this and much scrutiny of ducts, inks, and letter-forms. A proper investigation of the liturgical — and other — manu­ scripts produced for or by the Birgittine sisters may yield much information about the range of hands involved. This might help to identify more female involvement in these manu­scripts, but it would also enable us to isolate the different male scribes responsible for these works. And by male scribes I do not necessarily just mean male Birgittine scribes but male scribes of other orders, like the Carthusians, whom we know wrote for Syon monastery, as well as commercial scribes. The business of learning about female scribal engagement is equally important for the light it will cast on all writing activity in England.


The issue of the dating is addressed in my essay, ‘A Syon Scribe Revealed by her Signature’. I intend to follow up Mary Nevel’s hand and other Syon hands in a further study; see also O’Mara, ‘A Syon Scribe Revealed by her Signature’. 54 

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Without summarizing all three essays, it can be agreed that reconstructing the picture of nuns’ scribal literacies is like making a jigsaw where most of the pieces are hidden, lost, or were deliberately thrown away during the Dissolution. Most essentially, England was not Europe, though it is knowledge of what was going on in parts of Europe, both in major and minor respects, that helps so much in reconstructing and decoding the English situation. In the course of preparing these three essays, an extensive list of manu­scripts, printed books, and archives (though not all of them) from virtually all convents in late medi­e val England (that is, from the fourteenth, fifteenth, and early sixteenth centuries) have been investigated. This means that manu­scripts from the following institutions have all been examined: Amesbury (Wiltshire); Ankerwyke (Buckinghamshire); Barking (Essex); Bruisyard (Suffolk); Campsey Ash (Suffolk); Chester (Cheshire); Dartford (Kent); Denney (Suffolk); Flixton (Suffolk); Godstow (Oxfordshire); Hampole (West Yorkshire); Ickleton (Cam­ bridgeshire); Kington St Michael (Wiltshire); Lacock (Wiltshire); London Holywell (London); London Aldgate (London); Malling (Kent); Marrick (North Yorkshire); Nun Coton (Lincolnshire); Nuneaton (Warwickshire); Polsloe (Devon); Romsey (Hampshire); Shaftesbury (Dorset); Stamford (Lincolnshire); Syon (Middlesex); Tarrant Keynston (Dorset); Thetford (Norfolk); Wherwell (Hampshire); Wilton (Wiltshire); and Winchester (Hampshire), plus Edinburgh (Lothian) in Scotland. The convents not in this list are either those that have material that dates from the Anglo-Saxon period to the thirteenth century (fourteen houses) or have references to manu­scripts or printed books but no extant material (twenty-two convents).55 In addition, a small selection of surrender documents from female houses has been scrutinized, from Burnham (Buckinghamshire), Chatteris (Cam­bridgeshire), Tarrant Keynston (Dorset), Watton (East Yorkshire), as well as records from Syon (Middlesex). Only a fraction of these has been discussed, and not all the manu­scripts from all the houses have been examined as this is an on-going project. If this study has done anything, it should have proved that in the quest for evidence of nuns’ scribal literacy in late medi­eval England, what has been absolutely essential is painstaking analysis of the manu­script material, not the wish-fulfilling assumption or the argument based on imaginative conjecture but a sceptical appraisal of every scrap of textual and historical evidence. In this 55 

This is not to argue that nuns’ hands cannot be sought in manu­scripts earlier than the fourteenth century; it was simply a way of narrowing down the focus for the initial survey of material.


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way something as apparently insignificant as the fifteen letters in a signature can lead to an English nun — Mary Nevel of Syon — who produced various liturgical and devotional volumes in Latin and Middle English in her distinctive hand. That the quest for the scribal engagement of the English nun cannot conclude with her or the nuns studied thus far is self-evident.56


I am grateful to the custodians of the manu­scripts cited here for permission to consult them, and to the British Library Board and the President and Fellows of St John’s College, Oxford for permission to reproduce manu­scripts in their care.

Memorializing Living Saints in the Milanese Convent of Santa Marta in the Late Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century Brian Richardson


ven after the printing press had become well established in Italy, some communities of nuns continued to produce handwritten books of many kinds, and for several different reasons, as they did elsewhere in Europe.1 They might be unable to obtain or to afford printed copies of the texts that they required for collective worship and the conduct of their spiritual lives, such as the Offices of saints, choir books, rules of their order, sermons, and theological or devotional works. They might simply prefer to have a text in manu­script even if it were available in print. They might wish to have a specific set of texts combined in a single miscellaneous volume. Nuns composed and transcribed their own works for use only or mainly within their institutions, including convent chronicles, accounts of the spiritual lives of their sisters, poetry, or plays for 1  See, for instance, Cynthia J. Cyrus, The Scribes for Women’s Convents in Late Medi­eval Germany (Toronto: Uni­ver­sity of Toronto Press, 2009); Ingela Hedström, ‘Vadstena Abbey and Female Literacy in Late Medi­eval Sweden’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­e val Women: Texts and Contexts, 26 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 253–72; Patricia Stoop, ‘From Reading to Writing: The Multiple Levels of Literacy of the Sister Scribes in the Brussels Convent of Jericho’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 27 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), pp. 47–66.

Brian Richardson ([email protected]) is Emeritus Professor of Italian Language at the University of Leeds.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 209–225 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS




Brian Richardson

their entertainment.2 A few convents, at least in Florence, had what one would now call an income stream based on their production and sale of manu­scripts.3 When manu­script books were made in convents, their writing might be entrusted to a select group of nuns as a regular activity. These nuns would have had to be technically competent in ruling lines and margins on paper or parchment as a guide for writing, in using whichever script was appropriate for the kind of text or texts concerned, and often in the simple decoration of initial letters.4 Those who came from professional or upper-class families might well have learned to write a good hand before they took the veil; if not, it is likely that a few convents offered the opportunity for them to learn calli­graphy, perhaps in some cases taking advantage of the teaching offered to their young lay boarders (educande).5 The nature of their copying was dictated by the specific circumstances of the convent. I wish here to focus on the functions — both traditional and innovative — of the copying that took place within one insti2  Discussions of works composed in convents include Elissa Weaver, Convent Theatre in Early Modern Italy: Spiritual Fun and Learning for Women (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­ sity Press, 2002), pp. 32–34; K. J. P. Lowe, Nuns’ Chronicles and Convent Culture in Renaissance and Counter-Reformation Italy (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2003); Gianna Pomata and Gabriella Zarri, ‘Introduzione’, in I monasteri femminili come centri di cultura fra Rinascimento e Barocco: atti del convegno storico internazionale, Bologna, 8–10 dicembre 2000, ed. by Gianna Pomata and Gabriella Zarri (Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2005), pp. ix–xliv (pp. xxvii–xxxvii); Elisabetta Graziosi, ‘Arcipelago sommerso: le rime delle monache tra obbedienza e trasgressione’, in I monasteri femminili come centri di cultura fra Rinascimento e Barocco: atti del convegno storico internazionale, Bologna, 8–10 dicembre 2000, ed. by Gianna Pomata and Gabriella Zarri (Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2005), pp. 145–73. 3  Kate Lowe, ‘Women’s Work at the Benedictine Convent of Le Murate in Florence: Suora Battista Carducci’s Roman Missal of 1509’, in Women and the Book: Assessing the Visual Evidence, ed. by Lesley Smith and Jane H. M. Taylor (London: British Library, 1997), pp. 133–46; Sharon T. Strocchia, Nuns and Nunneries in Renaissance Florence (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Uni­ver­sity Press, 2009), pp. 144–47. 4  Rosanna Miriello notes that only eleven of eighty-one surviving manu­scripts owned in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by the nuns and monks of the Birgittine convent of Santa Maria del Paradiso, Florence, were wholly or partly written on parchment: I manoscritti del Monastero del Paradiso di Firenze (Florence: Sismel, 2007), p. 27. The texts contained in these manu­scripts now dispersed in various libraries (nos 6, 7, 13, 31, 32, 34, 58, 59, 62, 76, 81 in Miriello’s catalogue) are mostly by or about St Birgitta, but also include, for example, a breviary, extracts to be sung on feast days, and an Office of the Virgin and Saints. The scribes working in this mixed institution, and their scripts, are discussed on pp. 30–41. 5  On this topic, see Weaver, Convent Theatre in Early Modern Italy, pp. 25–26; Gabriella Zarri, ‘Novizie ed educande nei monasteri italiani post-tridentini’, Via spiritus, 18 (2011), 7–23.

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tution, the Observant Augustinian convent of Santa Marta in Milan, but for purposes of comparison I shall begin with a brief outline of copying within the Clarissan convent of Santa Maria di Monteluce in Perugia. Monteluce housed about seventy nuns, some from important families of Perugia, and a few of them dedicated much of their time to producing manu­ script books. Occasionally they made translations from Latin into the vernacular, something that was unusual for nuns in Italy. In other respects their scribal activities can be taken as fairly representative of those houses that produced books primarily for the benefit of the spiritual lives of their own sisters. The texts that were transcribed included a chronicle of the convent from 1448 onwards (still kept in the convent), breviaries, rules of the Clarissan Order (one copy of which was read aloud while the nuns ate their meals), spiritual treatises, and lives of saints. For instance, the entry in the chronicle that records the death of a Sister Felicita in 1510 states: Scripse de sua mano lo libro delle collatione de Iohanni Cassiano, le omelie de sancto Gregorio, et lo suo Dialogho, lo tractato de sancto Bernardo Sopra Missus est, la vita della beata Angela da Fuligno, la vita della beata Eustochia de Messina et più altre operecte.6 [She wrote in her hand the book of the Collationes of John Cassian, the homilies of St Gregory and his Dialogue, the treatise of St Bernard Super Missus est, the life of Blessed Angela da Foligno, the life of Blessed Eustochia of Messina, and several other short works.]

The scribes’ work at Monteluce could also be carried out in collaboration in the interests of speed. In about 1514, for example, the abbess Veronica Graziani ordered the transcription of treatises on the Ascension and on the Holy Spirit written by their confessor, the Observant friar Gabriele da Perugia, initially dividing the work among four sisters, all of whom used a regular semi-gothic hand. Brother Gabriele himself decided that his treatise on the Immaculate Conception was to be transcribed by a fifth sister. The whole operation was completed in about five months.7 In 1570 a team of three nuns undertook the making of a copy (also still kept in the convent) of an account of the early 6 

Memoriale di Monteluce: cronaca del monastero delle clarisse di Perugia dal 1448 al 1838, intro. by Ugolino Nicolini (Santa Maria degli Angeli: Edizioni Porziuncola, 1983), p. 100. 7  Memoriale di Monteluce, p.  107; Patrizia Bertini Malgarini, Marzia Caria, and Ugo Vignuzzi, ‘Clarisse dell’Osservanza e scritture “di pietà” in volgare tra Foligno e Monteluce’, Bollettino storico della città di Foligno, 31–34 (2007–11), 297–335 (pp. 319–20).


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Franciscan Order, the Franceschina or Specchio dell’Ordine Minore [Mirror of the Order of Friars Minor] by Giacomo Oddi (d. 1487). One sister took charge of expenditure, another was responsible for the supply of paper and other materials and for correcting the text, while copying was the task of a third person, first Sister Virginia Randoli and then, after Virginia’s death, Sister Modesta Tezi, both of them able to use a small gothic rotunda script for this text. This was the more formal hand that, in a larger size, was standard for texts such as offices and choir books. Decoration was commissioned from an artist outside the convent.8 It seems that none of the nuns in Monteluce used the humanistic scripts that had been developed in Italy during the fifteenth century. But these scripts were chiefly associated with elite secular culture.9 For instance, the manu­scripts produced or owned by the Birgittine house of Santa Maria del Paradiso in Florence in this period are almost all in semi-gothic or even mercantile hands; only two surviving manu­scripts out of eighty-one are written in a humanistic cursive script, and these were not necessarily transcribed in this monastery.10 Manu­script production in Monteluce seems to have been typical in another respect: it could respond to a certain extent to suggestions by male Franciscans. We saw that Brother Gabriele da Perugia played a limited role in having his treatises copied out. The tribute paid in the convent chronicle to Sister Battista, from the Perugian family of the Alfani, on her death in 1523 shows that one of her scribal tasks was undertaken at the request of the male hierarchy of her Order: Et oltra lo spiritu, era docta in sapere intendere et scrivere libri, et a consolatione delle soi figliole scripse lo libro delli sancti padri tucto de sua mano, la legenda della nostra madre sancta Chiara: la retrasse de più libri, aseptolla et compusela distinta in capitoli, come appare. La qual cosa li fo comandata dalli reverendi padri generali, che li arechavano li dicti libri, et da loro fo poi reveduta et commendata, che stava benissimo.11 8  Memoriale di Monteluce, pp. 206 and 223, and pls 10 and 11. See also Ugolino Nicolini, ‘I minori osservanti di Monteripido e lo “scriptorium” delle Clarisse di Monteluce in Perugia nei secoli xv e xvi’, Picenum seraphicum, 8 (1971), 100–30 (p. 112). 9  A recent survey of the origin and development of these scripts is Stefano Zamponi, ‘La scrittura umanistica’, Archiv für Diplomatik, Schriftsgeschichte, Siegel- und Wappenkunde, 50 (2004), 467–504. 10  Miriello, I manoscritti del Monastero del Paradiso di Firenze, pp. 30–41 for a discussion of scripts; pp. 87–88 on the early sixteenth-century manu­script, Firenze, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS Conventi Soppressi A.III.1695; p. 124 on a manu­script of the same library dating from after 1523, MS Conventi Soppressi E.III.1465. 11  Memoriale di Monteluce, pp.  124–25 and pls 1–5, 7. On Battista Alfani, see also

Memorializing Living Saints in the Milanese Convent of Santa Marta 213 [And apart from her spirit, she was learned in understanding and writing books, and for the consolation of her daughters she wrote the book of the Holy Fathers entirely in her own hand [and] the life of our mother St Clare. She drew it from several books, put it in order, and composed it divided into chapters, as can be seen. She was ordered to do this by the reverend Fathers General, who brought her the said books, and it was then reviewed by them and commended as excellent.]

However, the chronicle of Monteluce gives the impression that most of the nuns’ work as scribes was executed without any notable intervention from outside the convent walls, and certainly without intervention from outside their own Order. The creation of manu­scripts in the same period by the Observant Augustinian nuns of the convent of Santa Marta in Milan resembled that of the Clarissans of Monteluce in several respects but was unusual in others, as far as one can judge from some of their manu­scripts that are now kept in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana of Milan. As in Monteluce, some nuns worked on the transcription of books that were necessary to the devotions of the sisters. Sister Benedetta da Vimercate (1425?–1515), who entered the convent in 1457, was renowned for work of this kind: according to a chronicle of the convent, ‘Fu quella che scrise […] molti altri libri de oratione et tuti li libri da canto et che non sono in canto in palpere che se adopereno al presente in Choro honia zorno’ [‘It was she who wrote […] many other prayer books, and all the choir books and other books on paper that are now used in the choir every day’].12 The kind of prayer book that Benedetta would have written, and very possibly one actually copied by her, is an Office of St Martha, formerly owned by the convent, which was copied in a gothic rotunda script in black and red ink but otherwise undecorated (Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS Trotti 531). The chronicle just mentioned was compiled by Sister Veronica Stampa, who joined the Order in 1500. At the start, she tells us that she took on the office of convent treasurer in 1517: ‘Essendo io suor Veronicha di Stampe l’anno del Nicolini, ‘I minori osservanti di Monteripido e lo “scriptorium” delle Clarisse di Monteluce in Perugia nei secoli xv e xvi’, pp. 128–29; Bertini Malgarini, Caria, and Vignuzzi, ‘Clarisse dell’Osservanza e scritture “di pietà” in volgare tra Foligno e Monteluce’, pp. 310–13. ‘Lo libro delli sancti padri’ was probably Domenico Cavalca’s translation of the Vitae patrum, which was much read in female communities: see Carlo Delcorno, La tradizione delle ‘Vite dei santi padri’ (Venezia: Istituto veneto di scienze lettere ed arti, 2000), pp. 521–23. 12  In Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS M 19 suss., bundle 1, p. 34. Transcriptions from manu­scripts follow the original spelling, except that the consonant v is distinguished from the vowel or semi-consonant u.


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signore 1517 misa alo offitio da la canzelaria o vero thesorera del monasterio nostro’ [‘I, Sister Veronica Stampa, in the year of Our Lord 1517 having been given the office of the chancery, or treasurer of our monastery’]. Her hand is related to the humanistic cursive style but with some semi-gothic influence in the letter r, which is occasionally shaped like the number 2. Sister Veronica was succeeded as ‘cancelliera’ by Sister Bianca Caterina da Balsamo. According to one account, she had joined the convent in 1504 as an uneducated girl (‘non havendo ella lettere, né scienza imparata’) but nevertheless composed ‘cose spirituali’ [‘spiritual writings’] of profound learning.13 An example of Bianca Caterina’s writing, an informal version of the humanistic cursive hand, is found in a short administrative document that she transcribed, recording a decision taken in 1525 to limit the term of office of the prioress to three years.14 A later series of bio­graphies of the nuns was compiled by Sister Chiara Serafina, who entered Santa Marta in 1587.15 Another kind of record kept by the sisters was a register of all the nuns on their vestition, with the subsequent dates of their deaths.16 We can note, then, that the humanistic cursive style of handwriting was influencing the work of the nuns of Santa Marta by around the second decade of the sixteenth century. Another nun used a well-controlled version of this hand to copy works including a Latin Office of St Martha, ‘personalized’ for the convent with the insertion of a rosary (‘Rosarium’) written by one of the nuns’ confessors, Francesco Ladino (Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS Trotti 404; the rosary is on fols 30r–37r).17 13 

Francesco Bonardi, ‘Origine e progressi del venerando monastero di Santa Marta di Milano, con la vita e morte di alcune monache del medemo’, Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS L 56 suss., pp. 114–16. Bianca died in 1545. 14  Giovanni Pietro Puricelli, Chronica del monastero delle monache di Santa Martha dell’ordine di Sant’Agostino in Milano, Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS C 75 inf., fol. 43r–v; the document is inserted here as fols 56–57. The decision was evidently a reaction to the exceptionally long third term of office of Arcangela Panigarola, mentioned below; as is noted in Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS O 165 sup., fol. 38v, this term was imposed on her ‘contra il costumo del Monasterio’ [‘against the monastery’s custom’]. 15  This is transcribed in Bonardi, ‘Origine e progressi del venerando monastero di Santa Marta di Milano’, p. 72 onwards. 16  Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS G 150 suss.; see Lucia Sebastiani, ‘Cronaca e agio­ grafia nei monasteri femminili’, in Raccolte di vite di santi dal xiii al xviii secolo: strutture, messaggi, fruizioni, ed. by Sofia Boesch Gajano (Fasano: Schena, 1990), pp. 159–68 (pp. 162–63). 17  The first leaf of some sermons given by Ladino ‘alle sue figliole in Christo’ [‘to his daughters in Christ’], written by a nun in a humanistic cursive hand, is in Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS M 19 suss., bundle 2, fol. 2.

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But the main respect in which scribal work by the nuns of Santa Marta was exceptional, in comparison with that of Monteluce and other convents, was its use in promoting the veneration of two nuns of the house. They came from contrasting social origins but both acquired a reputation as visionaries in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries: Veronica Negroni da Binasco (1445–97), beatified in December 1517, and Arcangela Panigarola (1468–1525).18 In the cases of other contemporary holy women who belonged to orders such as the Dominicans or the Franciscans, hagio­graphical bio­graphies were composed by male devotees, or occasionally the woman herself might pen an account of her revelations.19 In Santa Marta, however, the reputations of the two holy women of the convent were promoted by the scribal work of their sisters, during the two women’s lives and posthumously. There is a partial parallel in the participation of Dominican nuns in Venice in copying manu­scripts in order to promote the figure of St Caterina da Siena after her death in 1380, but this activity was co-ordinated by a friar and the scribes included laypersons.20 The Historia circa l’angeliche al monastero di San Paolo di Milano [History of the Angelic Sisters of the Monastery of St Paul in Milan] composed in 1584–85 by a member of the Angelic Sisters of St Paul, Paola Antonia Sfondrati, does not give prominence to one of the leading figures in the foundation of the Order, Paola Antonia Negri.21 18  On the context, see Agostino Saba, Federico Borromeo e i mistici del suo tempo: con la vita e la corrispondenza inedita di Caterina Vannini da Siena (Firenze: Olschki, 1933), pp. 8–15; Gabriella Zarri, ‘Le sante vive’, in Le sante vive: profezie di corte e devozione femminile tra ’400 e ’500 (Torino: Rosenberg & Sellier, 1990), pp. 87–163 (pp. 95–96) [‘Living Saints: A Typology of Female Sanctity in the Early Sixteenth Century’, in Women and Religion in Medi­eval and Renaissance Italy, ed. by Daniel Bornstein and Roberto Rusconi, trans. by Margery J. Schneider, Women in Culture and Society (Chicago: Uni­ver­sity of Chicago Press, 1996), pp. 219–303 (pp. 226–27)]; Massimo Firpo, ‘Paola Antonia Negri, monaca angelica (1508–1555)’, in Rinascimento al femminile, ed. by Ottavia Niccoli (Bari: Laterza, 1991), pp. 35–82 (pp. 41–42); Elena Bonora, I conflitti della Controriforma: santità e obbedienza nell’esperienza religiosa dei primi barnabiti (Firenze: Le Lettere, 1998), pp. 31–57; Tamar Herzig, Savonarola’s Women: Visions and Reform in Renaissance Italy (Chicago: Uni­ver­sity of Chicago Press, 2008), pp. 155–66; and especially John Gagné, ‘Fixing Texts and Changing Regimes: Manu­script, Print, and Holy Lives in French-Occupied Milan, c. 1500–1525’, in The Saint between Manu­script and Print: Italy 1400–1600, ed. by Alison K. Frazier (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2015), pp. 379–420. I am very grateful to Dr Gagné for sharing his essay with me. 19  Zarri, ‘Le sante vive’, pp. 91–102 [‘Living Saints’, trans. by Schneider, pp. 225–33]. 20  Fernanda Sorelli, La santità imitabile: ‘Leggenda di Maria da Venezia’ di Tommaso da Siena (Venezia: Deputazione di storia patria per le Venezie, 1984), pp. 28–33. 21  P. Renée Baernstein, ‘Vita pubblica, vita familiare e memoria storica nel monastero di San Paolo a Milano’, in I monasteri femminili come centri di cultura fra Rinascimento e Barocco:


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As we shall see, the initial efforts of the scribes of Santa Marta were then developed by male clerics from outside the convent, and indeed from outside the Augustinian Order. These men would have seen the two nuns’ reputations as potentially useful instruments to encourage devotion in others, and also because, as Gabriella Zarri has pointed out, the apparently divinely bestowed prophetic powers of ‘living saints’ could be used by rulers and their supporters in order to reinforce the legitimacy of a regime, and in particular to bolster the authority of one that was newly established and contested.22 In the case of Santa Marta, this was the regime that successive French kings sought to establish in the Duchy of Milan from 1499 onwards, usurping power from the Sforza family. First, Louis XII ousted Ludovico Sforza in 1499 and held the state (after Sforza had returned briefly in 1500) until the battle of Ravenna in 1512; François I then regained control from 1515, after the battle of Marignano, until 1521.23 Milan also played a part in Louis’s attempt to use spiritual influence as well as military force to reinforce his authority in Italy by sponsoring a Church council that would depose Julius II (pope 1503–13): this Gallican Council, which opened in Pisa in November 1511, was moved to Milan from December 1511 to June 1512.24 Veronica, born Giovanna Negroni, came from a relatively poor family and was said to be unable to read the Divine Office when she was accepted as a nun in 1463.25 The first use of manu­script in recording her visions in writing occurred when Veronica recounted them to another sister, Taddea Bonlei of Ferrara, her

atti del convegno storico internazionale, Bologna, 8–10 dicembre 2000, ed. by Gianna Pomata and Gabriella Zarri (Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2005), pp. 297–311 (pp. 300–02). 22  Zarri, ‘Le sante vive’, pp.  100–01 [‘Living Saints’, trans. by Schneider, p.  232], and ‘Potere carismatico e potere politico nelle corti italiani del Rinascimento’, in Poteri carismatici e informali: chiesa e società medioevali, ed. by Agostino Paravicini Bagliani and André Vauchez (Palermo: Sellerio, 1992), pp. 175–91 (p. 181). 23  For an account of these campaigns, see Michael Mallett and Christine Shaw, The Italian Wars, 1494–1559: War, State and Society in Early Modern Europe (Harlow: Pearson, 2012), pp. 38–145. 24  For a summary of the events, see Augustin Renaudet, Le concile gallican de Pise–Milan: Documents florentins (1510–1512) (Paris: Champion, 1922), pp. i–iv. 25  Isidoro Isolani, Inexplicabilis mysterii gesta beatae Veronicae virginis praeclarissimi monasterii Sanctae Marthae urbis Mediolani, sub observatione regulae divi Augustini (Milano: Gottardo da Ponte, 1518), fol. a2v; Puricelli, Chronica del monastero delle monache di Santa Martha dell’ordine di Sant’Agostino in Milano, fol. 9r.

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secretary from April 1467 onwards.26 In a second stage, Sister Benedetta da Vimercate composed a life of Veronica and probably also made the copy of it in Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS I 179 inf.27 Veronica Stampa reveals how this bio­graphy was used when, in her chronicle, she explains why she will deal with the life and miracles of the Blessed Veronica only briefly: per che li è el libro qual scripse la reverenda et digna de onia memoria suor Benedecta da Vimercato, el qual libro manifesta onia cosa; honde essendo stato el dicto libro paregi anni nascosto da seculari et achadendo ne l’anno 1516 che uno certo frate de Santa Maria de le Gratie da Milano vene[n]do parege volte al monasterio nostro per una certa causa et parlando cum la nostra reverenda madre Archangela se exibire [sic] a di coregere la vita della ditta beata et transcrivere in latino, et così fece et ne fo facto uno stampo. (Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS M 19 suss., bundle 1, pp. 36–37) [because there is the book written by the reverend Sister Benedetta da Vimercate, worthy of every memory, which reveals everything. After this book was hidden from lay people for several years, it happened that in 1516 a certain friar of Santa Maria delle Grazie of Milan came several times to our monastery over a certain case and spoke to our reverend Mother Arcangela. He offered to correct the life of the said Blessed Veronica and copy it into Latin. And so he did and it was printed.]

The Dominican friar from Santa Maria delle Grazie was Isidoro Isolani, a supporter of the French regime, and his version of the life of Veronica, the Inexplicabilis mysterii gesta beatae Veronicae virginis, was printed by Gottardo da Ponte in 1518, together with woodcuts that have been attributed to Marco d’Oggiono, as part of a campaign to promote a cult centred on the holy women of Santa Marta.28 Arcangela Panigarola, christened Margarita, was of much higher social status than Veronica: her father, Gottardo Panigarola, was treasurer of the Sforza court. She entered Santa Marta on 27 July 1483, aged about fifteen, 26 

Taddea’s role is mentioned in Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS I 179 inf., fols 212v, 213r, and 217r, and in Puricelli, Chronica del monastero delle monache di Santa Martha dell’ordine di Sant’Agostino in Milano, fols 9v and 30v. Puricelli gives the date of her death as 13 June 1502 (fol. 31r). 27  Filippo Argelati, Bibliotheca scriptorum Mediolanensium, 2 vols (Milano: In Aedibus Palatinis, 1745), ii, cols 1660–61, believed that this manu­script is in the hand of Benedetta. 28  See n. 25 above. On the attribution of the woodcuts, see Domenico Sedini, Marco d’Oggiono: tradizione e rinnovamento in Lombardia tra Quattrocento e Cinquecento (Milano: Jandi Sapi, 1989), pp. 102–03.


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when Benedetta da Vimercate was prioress, and in due course Arcangela became vicaria (deputy prioress) and then prioress for three periods (1500–03, 1506–08, and 1512–25). She gained a reputation as a stern opponent of laxness among the clergy and of papal corruption, and she was openly influenced in this respect by the writings of Girolamo Savonarola (1452–98), who, she claimed, appeared to her in visions.29 Arcangela was certainly able to write her own documents, and we have an example of her hand in a note of 1521 in which she acknowledges a donation of forty soldi from the French king. 30 Like Veronica da Binasco, she used a secretary, Sister Bonaventura Morbi, who entered Santa Marta in 1496 and died in 1550.31 A possible example of Bonaventura’s work is a manu­script (Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS E 56 suss.) containing copies of the letters written by Arcangela from 1512 onwards to two of her ‘spiritual sons’, the bishops Denis Briçonnet (1473–1535) and his elder brother Guillaume (1470–1534).32 In due course, as with Veronica da Binasco, an account of Arcangela’s career as a mystic was compiled within the convent. This process took several years and led to the transcription of a manu­script in two parts: a life story or Legenda and a series of revelations (Libro dele revelationi), now Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS O 165 sup. The same anonymous scribe wrote both parts in an accomplished humanistic cursive hand. The Legenda includes some short works composed by Arcangela: an ‘Eppistoleta quale scripse questa vergine alle sue sorelle’ (fol. 27v) [‘Little letter that this virgin wrote to her sisters’], a ‘Dialogo de l’anima e del sposo scripto per epsa vergine’ (fol. 28r) [‘Dialogue of the soul and the bridegroom written by this virgin’], a ‘Litera quale lei scripse a uno suo figliolo spirituale’ (fol. 28v) [‘Letter that she wrote to a spiritual son of hers’]. The scribe prefaced the Revelations with an explanation of the story of the text, writing in her own voice ‘ale sue sorelle Moniche de Santa Martha’ (fol.  38r–v) [‘to her sister nuns of Santa Marta’]. She begins: ‘Ne li primi anni del ingreso mio in questa religione me ricordo havere scripto et recolto 29 

Herzig, Savonarola’s Women, pp. 157–64, points to references to Savonarola and echoes of his works in writings mentioned below, the Libro dele revelationi and Arcangela’s letters to Denis Briçonnet. 30  Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS E 56 suss., fol. 68r. See also note 37 below. 31  Puricelli, Chronica del monastero delle monache di Santa Martha dell’ordine di Sant’Agostino in Milano, fol. 26v; Bonardi, ‘Origine e progressi del venerando monastero di Santa Marta di Milano’, pp. 102–09. 32  Copies of other letters from Arcangela are found in Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS O 248 sup., fols 1r–5v.

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scripte da altre sorele molte cose dele revelatione dela recolenda memoria dela Reverenda Matre Archangela Panigarola’ [‘In the early years after my entry into this Order I recall having written and collected, written down by other nuns, many writings about the revelations of the late venerable mother Arcangela Panigarola’]. Evidently, some of the sisters had been taking notes during their prioress’s lifetime. The scribe continues: dopo vene a Milano l’anno che ivi fu convocato el concilio contra papa Iullio, el Reverendo Magistro Io. Antonio Comendatore de sancto Antonio di Granobile; il quale facto fiolo spirituale dela prefacta Matre, tolse l’asumpto de scrivere tale libro, e comenzando dal mio principio reduse le cose già scripte per me in lingua v[u]lgare in latino, e dopo li ha agionto molte altre cose; sì che l’opera da me scripta conmintia dal nome de Iesù […] et dura fine al principio de l’anno 1512 exclusive. Da quello principio fin al natale de l’anno 1519 qual[ch]e visione non si trova scripta perfecta; fu racolto et scripto dal prefacto comendatore; le cose che seguiteno sono proprie copiate da scripti ritrovati facti de mane de epsa matre R., nele quale si pò comprendere con quanto simplice et divoto stillo proceda non delectandose de curiositate, non de sutileza de parlare, ma solo de retirare le anime a divotione. (fol. 38r) [afterwards there came to Milan, in the year that the Council against Pope Julius was convened there, the Reverend Master Giovanni Antonio, commendatore of [the abbey of ] Saint-Antoine near Grenoble, who, having been made spiritual son of the aforesaid Mother, undertook the task of writing this book. Starting from my beginning, he translated what I had already written in the vernacular into Latin, and afterwards added many other things to it. Thus the work written by me begins from the name of Jesus […] and goes only up to the start of 1512. From that beginning up to Christmas 1519 some visions are not written in full; it was collected and written by the aforesaid commendatore. The things that follow are specially copied from writings that were found in the hand of that reverend Mother, in which one can see with how simple and devout a style she proceeds, taking pleasure not in vain ornament, not in subtlety of language, but only in drawing souls to devotion.]

In summary, then, the anonymous nun compiled the Libro dele revelationi of Arcangela up to early 1512 and then handed this section to Arcangela’s confessor, Giovanni Antonio Bellotti, another pro-French cleric (born in Ravenna), who had arrived in Milan with the Gallican Council of 1511–12. Bellotti translated what she had written into Latin and added to the work, continuing his account up to the end of 1519 with the use of Arcangela’s own writings. It seems probable that he planned to have the Latin text printed, just as the life of Veronica da Binasco had been printed in 1518, but that his project was then put aside. In this same period the Church was more inclined to treat


Brian Richardson

prophecy with caution.33 Moreover, around 1517–19 Arcangela’s own mysticism came to be seen as confused in its political significance and at odds with the ambitions of the supporters of the French regime. The Legenda mentions an instance where Arcangela, in interpreting a vision of her own, appears to mistake the Spanish king Charles V for François I, and her letters of 1517–19 to the Briçonnet brothers mention her failings, including saying too much and misunderstanding what an angel had said to her.34 Although Arcangela had lost her authority outside Santa Marta, her community continued to cherish their leading figure. The scribe goes on to explain that, after Bellotti’s death in 1528, his Latin version was translated back into Italian: Dopo la morte del predito Comandatore, fu reducta tuta l’opera in v[u]lgare lingua per el Magnifico M. Princivale da Monte ad instantia dela Venerabile suor Bonaventura [Morbi] vicharia alora del Monasterio dove vixe et morse la prefacta Matre, la quale fu singulare fiola in Christo de dita M. et sua secretaria et a lei divota et familiare. (fol. 38r) [After the death of the aforementioned commendatore, the whole work was translated into the vernacular by the magnificent Princivalle da Monte at the instance of the venerable Sister Bonaventura, then vicaress of the convent where the aforesaid Mother lived and died, a singular daughter in Christ of the said Mother, and her secretary, devotee, and close companion.]

Finally, the manu­script returned, as the scribe puts it, ale mane mie per rescriverlo in litera familiare a tute, aciò che ogni cosa se reducha al suo principio, et io che haveva cominciato finisca, et dia la faticha mia in tale opera ala memoria di quella che me generò in Christo, e nela mia professione me promise vita eterna. (fol. 38r) [to my hands to be rewritten in a hand familiar to all [the sisters], so that everything may return to its origins, and I, who had begun it, might finish and devote my efforts to such a work in memory of her who gave birth to me in Christ, and in my profession promised me eternal life.]

The nun adds an explanation of the incompleteness of the account: 33  Gagné, ‘Fixing Texts and Changing Regimes’, p. 408, cites a decree of the Fifth Lateran Council, 1516, that warns against preachers who issue ‘new and false prophecies’. 34  Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MSS O 165 sup., fol. 15r–v, and E 56 suss., fols 34r, 36v, 63v–64r.

Memorializing Living Saints in the Milanese Convent of Santa Marta 221 Sono lasate molte cose, como si pò vedere manifestamente per li interlassi di mesi et anni; e questo per che il scriptore suo [Bellotti] fu necesitato absentarse da Milano per le guerre, et anche da lei [Sister Arcangela] fu mandato a Roma per compagnia et servitio de li duy frateli episcopi de Lodeva [Guillaume Briçonnet] et de San Malo [Denis Briçonnet], fioli spirituali de essa vergine, e lì dimorò per molti mesi. (fol. 38r) [Many things have been omitted, as one can see clearly from the gaps of months and years; and this was because its author had to be absent from Milan because of warfare, and he was also sent by her to Rome in the company and service of the two brothers, bishops of Lodève and Saint-Malo, the virgin’s spiritual sons, and he lived there for many months.]

The writer is referring here to the years around 1516–25. Guillaume Briçonnet served as French ambassador in Rome from May 1516 to March 1517; Denis was appointed joint ambassador, arrived in Rome at the end of October 1516, and left the city in November 1519.35 After the Spanish had driven the French out of Milan in 1521, Bellotti was sent away, for his own safety, to Crema, in Venetian territory, and he remained there until September 1525, some months after Arcangela’s death on 17 January of that year.36 For this later period, the nun’s account therefore had to rely on Arcangela’s own writings: ‘e in tuti quelli tempi non furno scripte alchune cose salvo se qualche cosa scripse lei per sue litere a qualchi soi fioli spirituali. Quelo aduncha ò ritrovato, venerabile sorele, quelo vi do’ (fol. 38v) [‘and in all those times nothing was written unless she wrote something in her letters to some of her spiritual sons. Thus what I have found, venerable sisters, I give you’]. Further on in this manu­script, the anonymous nun adds some detail on the conditions under which her source material was compiled. At one point she recounts how Arcangela’s guardian angel helped her to respond to a request from the nuns for devotions to be said on the feast of All Saints (1 November) by showing her which psalms and antiphons they should recite; but, she adds, queste cose non sono state scripte, sì perché con grandissima difficultate propalava tale cose, sì anchora per che, occupata circa li officii del Monasterio, niuna como-


Michel Veissière, L’Évêque Guillaume Briçonnet (1470–1534): contribution à la connaissance de la Réforme catholique à la veille du Concile de Trente (Provins: Société d’histoire et d’archéologie, 1986), pp. 107–20. 36  For the information about the movements of Bellotti, see Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS O 165 sup, fol. 38r–v.


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dità restava a noi de scrivere, unde molte poche cose annotassemo in comparatione de quelle che ad lei furno dicte. (fol. 99v) [these things were not written down, both because she divulged such things with the greatest difficulty, and also because, occupied as she was in the affairs of the monastery, we were left with no opportunity to write, and hence we noted very few things in comparison with those that were spoken to her.]

All that was transcribed was ‘le litere quale essa dede al colegio dele sorelle per instruere quelle verano dopo noi’ (fol. 99v) [‘the letters that [Arcangela] gave the college of sisters to instruct those who will succeed us’]. In the account, Arcangela asks the Blessed Virgin where to start her writing ‘per che tanto tempo era stata impedita che non haveva possuto scrivere cosa alcuna’ (chap. 87) [‘because she had been hampered for so long that she had been unable to write anything’]. However, she did record in her own hand a ‘visione hebe questa vergine el giorno de santo Michele et la scripse de mane propria parlando in propria persona’ (chap. 152) [‘vision that this virgin had on the feast of St Michael, and she wrote it in her own hand speaking in the first person’].37 The status of this book as an object of reverence for the nuns within Santa Marta is signalled by the high quality of its script and by its elaborate and expensive decoration. Initials are painted in gold and the fore-edges are gilded. The greatest care has been devoted to the image of Arcangela praying at the start of the Libro dele revelationi (fol. 39r), which was clearly painted professionally. It has been attributed to Marco d’Oggiono because of its similarity with the largest woodcut in the 1518 edition of the life of Veronica.38 The resemblance between the figures of the two women praying was undoubtedly intended to link them to one another in the reader’s mind. As we have seen, the spiritual daughter of Arcangela who copied this manu­script suggested that she was writing in a hand that was well known to her sisters (‘in litera familiare a tute’), and this implies that she regularly pro37  There are other references to letters and meditations, on St Michael and other topics, in Arcangela’s own hand (for example, in these Revelations, chaps 154–56, 160, 163, and in Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS H 258 inf., fol. 18v), as well as to a meditation on St Martha dictated by her and transcribed by another sister ‘secundo le medeme sententie, non però secundo le formale parole’ (chap. 158) [‘following the same meaning, but not the exact words’]. The nuns’ church was consecrated on the feast of St Michael: Bonardi, ‘Origine e progressi del venerando monastero di Santa Marta di Milano’, p. 107. 38  Sedini, Marco d’Oggiono, p. 109. However, Marco’s date of death may have been 1524: see Sedini, Marco d’Oggiono, p. 24.

Memorializing Living Saints in the Milanese Convent of Santa Marta 223

duced other documents for use by her community. Another manu­script in her hand can be both compared and contrasted with that of the life and revelations of Arcangela: a further copy of Benedetta da Vimercate’s life of Blessed Veronica (Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS H 39 inf.). This copy is, however, relatively plain in its appearance in comparison with the life of Arcangela. Accomplished though the script is, it becomes particularly irregular on the last page. The same nun added a short passage in the copy of Veronica Stampa’s chronicle in Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS M 19 suss., bundle 1 (p. 8) and copied half a page of text describing the foundation of the convent in the same manu­script, bundle 2 (fol. 3r). A manu­script containing a long collection of texts addressed to the convent by Giovanni Antonio Bellotti was copied out by another nun in a more rapid humanistic cursive hand (Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS P 273 sup.). This includes twenty letters, seven treatises, twelve short meditations during Mass, and other texts, among them a sermon given by Bellotti in 1521 and previously transcribed by Sister Bianca Caterina da Balsamo (fols 31v–33v). Although Sister Arcangela’s male supporters lost faith in her mysticism, her memory was still venerated in the convent in the mid-sixteenth century. In 1557 the prioress, Isabella da Rho, gathered together a book entitled Gierdino spirituale [Spiritual Garden] made up of devotional writings by Arcangela and had it transcribed by a nun (Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS H 258 inf.).39 The title page of the manu­script (fol. iv recto) was decorated, probably inside the convent, with a watercolour representation of the legend according to which St Martha tamed a dragon with the help of an aspergillum or holywater sprinkler. The colophon (an element not found in the earlier manu­scripts from Santa Marta studied here) tells us: ‘Qua finise el libro giamato Gerdino spirituale composto dalla Reverenda madre sor Archangela Parnigarola et racolto dalla Reverenda madre sor Isabella da Ro et rescripto in questa forma a complacenza sua’ [‘Here ends the book called Gierdino spirituale, composed by the Reverend Mother Arcangela Panigarola and collected by the Reverend Mother Isabella da Rho and copied out in this form at her pleasure’], with the date 16 July 1557 (fol. 36v). The non-Tuscan forms (including ‘finise’, ‘giamato’, ‘sor’, ‘racolto’) show that the scribe had not studied the literary usage that had become well established by this date. Reading of the volume by the community does not seem to have been supervised closely: a certain Helena wrote on one 39 

On Sister Isabella, who died in 1565, see Bonardi, ‘Origine e progressi del venerando monastero di Santa Marta di Milano’, pp. 120–22.


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of the flyleaves, ‘Questo libro sia dello mio Monasterio di santa Marta quale io desidero in esso di vivere e di morire’ [‘This book belongs to my Monastery of St Martha, in which I wish to live and die’, fol. ii recto], and the names of two nuns, a Sister Marta Maddalena and Sister Cecilia Visconti, were written on the title page and then erased.40 We can ask in conclusion what the case of Santa Marta can tell us about the literacies of its nuns between the late fifteenth and the mid-sixteenth century, and the uses of their literacies, in comparison with those of their Italian contemporaries. Not all nuns were able to read well on entry into the convent, if one is to believe the story about the Blessed Veronica Negroni. However, it must have been assumed that most nuns would regularly read texts such as the prayer books and choir books copied by Benedetta da Vimercate or the letters written by Arcangela Panigarola to instruct her sisters. The ability to write was not apparently regarded as exceptional among the nuns. There were times when they were simply too busy with convent life to use the pen, but some seem to have written for personal purposes: the scribe of Arcangela’s Revelations said that she collected other nuns’ writings about Arcangela’s visions. And, as in other Italian convents such as that of Monteluce, a few nuns developed accomplished skills in handwriting. The ability of some of these nuns to use humanistic cursive script is striking and shows that their training, whether it took place outside or inside the convent, kept up to date with developments in the secular world. Some manu­scripts produced in Santa Marta paralleled, in their contents, those that were being written in Monteluce and elsewhere: the offices and choir books in Latin used in daily worship, the convent chronicles and summary obituaries of the lives of individual nuns, the letters and routine administrative documents written by the prioresses and their secretaries, using a mainly Tuscan-based vernacular that is not of a high literary standard and shows local influences, but is handled with confidence. Santa Marta was, however, unusual in being the home of two renowned holy women, one of whom made some written records of her spiritual experiences and advice, and it was very unusual in its nuns’ dedication to recording in detail and memorializing the lives and visions of these two ‘living saints’. In order to publicize the sanctity of these women outside the convent walls, male clerics had recourse to the Latin language, and they either certainly used the medium of print, in the case 40 

Cecilia Visconti also added ownership notes to Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS I 179 inf., fols 1r and 239v. A widow of this name asked to become a nun in 1654; see Robert L. Kendrick, Celestial Sirens: Nuns and their Music in Early Modern Milan (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), p. 41 n. 58.

Memorializing Living Saints in the Milanese Convent of Santa Marta 225

of Isolani, or probably intended to use it, in that of Bellotti. A lay man assisted with translation from Bellotti’s Latin into the vernacular. But these men’s work always had as its foundation the vernacular texts composed and handwritten by the nuns. Without the advanced skills in literacy that these nuns possessed, those in Santa Marta who did not know Veronica Negroni and Arcangela Panigarola personally, all those in the outside world, and we today would have known little about what made the two visionary prioresses so remarkable in their time.

Translating and Rewriting

The Legacy of St Margit: A Case-Study of a Dominican Monastery in Hungary Viktória Hedvig Deák OP


hen studying the history of the literature of late medi­eval Hungary — both Latin and vernacular — two facts become obvious immediately: the overall scarcity of sources, and the outstanding and unique role in the production of vernacular manu­scripts of one particular monastery, that of the Dominican nuns on Szűz Mária Szigete (the Isle of the Blessed Virgin Mary), today called Margit-sziget (Margaret-Island), a part of Budapest. In this essay, on the one hand, I will focus on the significance of this monastery, since it provides us with excellent opportunities to study the literacy of a single community as seen throughout the centuries; on the other hand, I will study the possible causes for this and will also shed some light on the indirect role in the production of vernacular texts of one person: St  Margit, or Margaret of Hungary (1242–70), daughter of King Béla IV (1235–70) and Maria Laskaris, at that time a member of the same monastery, whose example in seeking a more personal relationship with God could be an explanation for the relatively high percentage of vernacular works present in a single monastery. In order to explore more fully the literacy of these Dominican nuns, I will first give an overview of the sources concerning St Margit of Hungary, who functions as a link throughout the history of the convent. The sources on her life provide us with the first information on the state of literacy and on possible vernacular manu­scripts existing during her life time. Then, I will briefly present the codices produced in the monastery at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Finally, I would like to reflect on how Margit remained a constant source of inspiration for her fellow sisters: the best witness for this being her vernacular legend, copied in 1510 in the monastery. Viktória Hedvig Deák OP ([email protected]) is Professor of Systematic Theology at Sapientia Szerzetesi Hittudományi Főiskola, Budapest.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 229–249 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS




Viktória Hedvig Deák OP

The overall scarcity of the sources is due to the particular history of the Realm of Hungary from the sixteenth century onwards.1 After the Christianization of the country in the eleventh century, Latin manu­scripts started to be produced continuously, but real developments of a vernacular literature started from the middle of the fifteenth century, mostly in convents. The unique role played by Margit’s monastery is of course part of this larger occurrence of manu­script production: that of the exceptional flourishing of vernacular literature in the convents of Hungary.2 According to the research of Edit Madas, around two to three hundred manu­scripts were copied in this period between 1470 and 1530, which indicates a great interest in vernacular literature.3 This conspicuous development ended abruptly in the second half of the sixteenth century, due to the Dissolution of the monasteries by the Protestant Reformation and by the Turkish occupation of the country from 1541 on. This fact contributed to the destruction of the then extant manu­scripts; in consequence, the manu­ scripts available today represent only a fragment of all the material. To illustrate the devastation of manu­scripts: the codices produced in medi­eval Hungary and still extant nowadays number only 190; according to contemporary research, there were roughly forty-five thousand manu­scripts produced in Hungary during the Middle Ages, which means that less than 0.5% of these survived the historical vicissitudes.4 There are around fifty codices (out of the original two to three hundred), copied from 1470 to 1530, attributed to this vernacular ‘movement’, mainly directed to religious — mostly nuns, non-priest religious — (and a few lay people) who did not read Latin.5 This narrow stratum had a very strong interest in devotional literature. This development could be attributed to the influences of the Devotio moderna and to the Observant Movements of the Franciscan and Dominican Orders. The Observant Movement, whose purpose was a reform of the Order and a return to the life of the early days (observantia), was originated — in the case of the Dominicans — in Italy by Blessed Raimondo da Capua (1330–99), master of the Order of Preachers in the last years of the fourteenth 1 

For an introduction into the history of medi­e val Hungary, see Pál Engel, The Realm of Saint Stephen: A History of Medi­eval Hungary, 895–1526 (London: Tauris, 2005). 2  For a general overview, see János Horváth, A magyar irodalmi műveltség kezdetei (Budapest: Magyar Szemle Társaság, 1931), pp. 111–25. 3  Edit Madas and István Monok, A könyvkultúra Magyarországon a kezdetektől 1730–ig (Budapest: Balassi, [n.d.]), p. 63. 4  Madas and Monok, A könyvkultúra Magyarországon a kezdetektől 1730–ig, p. 15. 5  See Madas and Monok, A könyvkultúra Magyarországon a kezdetektől 1730–ig, p. 63.

The Legacy of St Margit


century.6 The purpose of the Observant Movement was generally a return to the strict following of the rule of the origins (regularis observantia — in the case of nuns it meant a reinforcement of strict enclosure), and thus promoted a more personal spirituality. With regard to Observant Reform in the Hungarian province of the Dominican Order, we have historical evidence about the friars, but there is no direct information on what happened in the female monasteries. However, the Observant Reform necessitated a more purposeful devotional literature.7 The majority of existing vernacular manu­scripts can be linked to the two major mendicant orders, and more particularly to two female monasteries: the Poor Clares’ convent in Óbuda (now part of Budapest) and the Dominican monastery on Margit-sziget or Margaret-Island on the Danube. These two convents — at a geo­g raphical distance of approximately eight kilometres — apparently had an excellent working relationship with each other. In the manu­scripts of the Dominican nuns and of the Poor Clares parallel texts often appear, suggesting a close literary and intellectual relationship between the two convents; from the evidence of the manu­scripts, it seems that they frequently exchanged their favourite readings.8 To illustrate the importance of the Dominican monastery, we have to underline the fact that out of these forty-five extant vernacular codices of this period from Hungary, the largest group (fourteen) may be attributed to the nuns of the monastery in question. Although there were several other Dominican monasteries of nuns in the Middle Ages (probably twelve) in Hungary, there are no manu­scripts today that may be attributed to any of them.9 With the exception of the convent of Veszprém (in Veszprém County, approximately a hundred kilometres from Budapest to the south-west), there are only casual references to other exist6 

On the Observant Movement and the Dominican nuns in Italy, see Sylvie Duval, ‘Mulieres religiosae and sorores clausae: The Dominican Observant Movement and the Diffusion of Strict Enclosure in Italy from the Thirteenth to the Sixteenth Century’, in Mulieres religiosae: Shaping Female Spiritual Authority in the Medi­eval and Early Modern Periods, ed. by Veerle Fraeters and Imke de Gier, Europa Sacra, 12 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014), pp. 193–218. 7  On the Observant Movement in the Dominican Order in fifteenth-century Hungary, see András Harsányi, A domonkos rend Magyarországon a reformáció előtt (Debrecen: Nagy Károly, 1938), pp. 29–75. 8  On the relationship of the literary relationship of the two convents, see especially Kálmán Tímár, ‘Domonkos-rendi magyar kódexek’, Irodalomtörténeti Közlemények, 40 (1930), 265–76, 397–412 (pp. 409–12), and Madas and Monok, A könyvkultúra Magyarországon a kezdetektől 1730–ig, p. 65. 9  On the number of manu­scripts, see Tímár, ‘Domonkos-rendi magyar kódexek’.


Viktória Hedvig Deák OP

ing monasteries of Dominican nuns. There are several lists with the names of these, such as Beregszász (now in the Ukraine and formerly in Bereg County); Székesfehérvár (in the centre of Fejér County, sixty kilometres from Budapest to the south-west), with its first occurrence in 1365; and Pécs, first occurring in 1461 (in the centre of Baranya County, approximately two hundred kilometres from Budapest in the south). Given that in several friaries in Transylvania there were friars who were appointed and referred to as confessor monialium, one can suppose that in these towns (Brassó, Beszterce, Kolozsvár, Segesvár, Nagyszeben — all in present-day Romania, in the Transylvania region) monasteries of Dominican nuns existed.10 As noted, the Dominican monastery on Szűz Mária Szigete played an eminent role in the religious landscape of medi­e val Hungary from its establishment. It was founded with the purpose of providing a suitable home for the would-be saint daughter of King Béla IV, Margit, who was born in 1242.11 Her family, the dynasty of the Árpáds, was remarkable for its marked affinity with the new religious ideals represented by the mendicant orders. Family members, such as her aunt, St Erzsébet or Elisabeth of Thuringia/Hungary (1207–31), were of primary importance as role models for the religious development of Margit, as we will see below. The Hungarian royal family had a particularly good relationship with the leadership of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders.12 10 

Brassó now Brasov, is in the centre of Brasov County, about 166 kilometres north of Bucharest; Beszterce: Bistriţa, the capital city of Bistriţa-Năsăud County in northern Transylvania, situated on the Bistriţa River; Kolozsvár: Cluj-Napoca, the seat of Cluj County, the historical seat of the Transylvanian region; Segesvár: Sighișoara, a city on the Târnava Mare River in Mureș County; Nagyszeben: Sibiu, the capital of Sibiu County, some 215 kilometres north-west of Bucharest. On the monasteries of Dominican nuns, the main source is Sigismundus Ferrarius’s work on the history of the Hungarian province from 1637. He published the medi­eval lists of the convents: see Sigismundus Ferrarius, De rebus Hungaricae provinciae ordinis praedicatorum commentarii (Vienna: Mattheus Formica, 1637), pp. 541–52. Moreover, see Harsányi, A domonkos rend Magyarországon a reformáció előtt, pp. 102–12; and for each monastery: Beatrix F. Romhányi, Kolostorok és társaskáptalanok a középkori Magyarországon (Budapest: Pytheas, 2000). 11  For a more detailed account and further biblio­g raphy on the existing documents concerning the life and medi­eval cult of St Margit, see Viktória Hedvig Deák OP, ‘The Birth of a Legend: The So-called Legenda Maior of Saint Margaret of Hungary and Dominican Hagio­ graphy’, Revue Mabillon, 20 (2009), 87–112. This is based upon Deák’s La légende de sainte Marguerite de Hongrie et l’hagio­graphie dominicaine (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 2013). 12  Among other things, the royal couple, King Béla IV and Maria Laskaris, had Dominican and Franciscan confessors, and very probably the 1254 General Chapter of the Order was convened in the convent of Buda at their invitation.

The Legacy of St Margit


This explains why Margit was entrusted to the care of the Dominicans. Indeed, both the monastery in Veszprém and the one on the Szűz Mária Szigete have been identified as early centres for the first vernacular compositions in Hungary. According to the hypothesis of András Vizkelety, the first Hungarian poem, the so-called Old Hungarian Planctus, or Ómagyar Mária-siralom [The Lamentation of Mary], currently contained in a manu­script of Dominican provenance, Budapest, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, MNy 79 (the so-called Leuven-kódex), was composed by a Hungarian Dominican for the use of the nuns in Veszprém.13 Margit was born during the Tartar invasion of the country in 1241–42. Her parents fled the country and during their exile they took a vow that the child they were expecting would be dedicated to God as a nun, if the invading Tartars left the country. Their desire fulfilled, their daughter was received at the age of four into the Dominican convent of Szent Katalin in Veszprém, where she was given her first religious education.14 There are several indications that this community originally did not belong to any religious order, though the nuns are mentioned as sanctimoniales in the foundation charter of the convent from 1240.15 Later, the Dominicans exercised spiritual authority and jurisdiction over the convent. It seems that the process of affiliation of the monastery of Veszprém followed the pattern of many beguine communities in the Netherlands and Germany, which, despite the reluctance of the Order, desired to be connected officially to the Dominicans.16 Around the end of the 1240s, in order to guarantee a suitable environment for Margit, her father had a new royal convent built for her, which soon became the home of more than seventy nuns, mostly of aristocratic birth. Margit moved to this new convent in 1253. She made her religious profession there in 1254, afterwards leading a saintly life as a Dominican nun until her death on 18 January 1270. This nunnery — unlike the one in Veszprém — was in some sense a ‘classic’ royal foundation: her father built it with the explicit wish of obtaining spiritual help from the nuns. These sisters soon became wealthy 13 

See András Vízkelety, Világ világa, virágnak virága … [Ómagyar Mária-siralom] (Budapest: Európa, 1986), pp. 50–72. 14  There is no evidence regarding the foundation date of this convent; however, it most probably dates from the 1230s. On the foundation of the convent, see Jenő Gutheil, Az Árpádkori Veszprém (Veszprém: Veszprém megyei lapkiadó, 1979), pp. 166–71. 15  See Gutheil, Az Árpádkori Veszprém, pp. 166–71. 16  On this process, see the classic account of Herbert Grundmann, Religious Movements in the Middle Ages (Notre Dame, IN: Uni­ver­sity of Notre Dame Press, 1995), pp. 92–108.


Viktória Hedvig Deák OP

landowners, and the monastery grew to be the richest in Hungary.17 Despite the well-known reluctance of the heads of the Order to take responsibility for nuns, and the fact that the incorporation of nuns’ convents was forbidden by various Chapter provisions at that time, the Order seemingly made an exception at the request of the royal family and officially took the new monastery into its care. In 1259 a community of friars was established beside the monastery, and the friars functioned as chaplains to the monastery: a rare occurence at that time.18 One year after the death of Margit, her brother, King István V, impressed by a miracle that happened in his presence at the tomb, started the process of her canonization. The first part of this process was conducted between 1271 and 1274. It was during this period or shortly thereafter that the so-called Legenda vetus was written, supposedly by a Dominican friar, Marcellus, Margit’s confessor. This is a relatively brief and very restrained legend that focuses on the humility and the poverty of Margit, and only afterwards reports the miracles.19 The vernacular version of this legend is most interesting for our purpose, since it contains the miracles of the 1276 investigation. This important literary document is preserved in a manu­script from 1510, which is Budapest, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, MNy 3. This is a copy written by the Dominican nun, Lea 17 

On the foundation and development of the new convent in the context of the cura monialium question, see Viktória Hedvig Deák OP, ‘Kérdések a nyulakszigeti domonkos apácakolostor alapítása körül’, in Látó szívvel: ünnepi kötet Lukács László 70. születésnapjára, ed. by József Bende, Viktória Hedvig Deák OP, and István Pákozdi (Budapest: Vigilia, 2006), pp. 409–26. On the history of the convent as based on archaeological research, see Rózsa Tóth Feuerné, ‘A Margitszigeti domonkos kolostor’, Budapest Régiségei, 22 (1971), 245–69¸ and Ilona Király, Árpádházi Szent Margit és a Sziget (Budapest: Szent István Társulat, 1979). 18  The Dominicans struggled fiercely against the incorporation of women’s communities into the Order, as well as against the obligation of having to care for them spiritually (the socalled cura monialium) in the interest of greater apostolic freedom; in the end, however, they resigned themselves to the inevitable. On this topic, see generally Grundmann, Religious Movements in the Middle Ages. 19  It was first published by Kornél Bőle in his Árpádházi Boldog Margit szenttéavatási ügye és a legősibb latin Margit-legenda (Budapest: Stephaneum, 1937), pp. 17–43. The unique manu­script of the legend is Roma, Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Vat. Lat. 15237. The text of Bőle is published as Quaedam legenda b. Margaritae de Ungaria, ed. by Albin Ferenc Gombos, Catalogus fontium historiae Hungariae, 3 (Budapest: Szent István Akadémia, 1938), pp. 2009–29 (no. 4322). This text has been emended and republished: ‘Legenda beatae Margaritae de Hungaria’, in the reprinted edition of Scriptores rerum Hungaricarum, tempore ducum regumque stirpis Arpadianae gestarum, ed. by Kornél Szovák and László Veszprémy, 2 vols (Budapest: Nap Kiadó, 1999), ii, 685–709.

The Legacy of St Margit


Ráskay, in the same monastery.20 This vernacular legend (to which I will return below) illustrates best how important it was for the Hungarian Dominicans, especially for the nuns of her monastery, to keep the memory of Margit’s life and deeds alive over the centuries. A second investigation of the life and miracles of Margit began in 1276, the inquisitio in partibus, which was made up of Italian legates who had been named by Pope Innocent V (1276), himself a Dominican. A considerable part of this documentation is still available and includes the testimony of 110 people.21 During the canonization process thirty-eight of Margit’s sisters and some Dominican friars (such as her confessor) testified about her life. In this way we obtain an extraordinary insight both into the inner life of the nunnery and the internal dynamics of the community. These — the legend and the proceedings — are the sources for learning about Margit’s life, since she did not write herself, nor did she have a dedicated person to record her religious experiences. It can be ascertained from these sources that in Hungary Margit was the first person we know who realized the new spiritual ideals of the mendicant orders: those of poverty, humility, service of the poor, devotion to the Eucharist, and to the suffering of Christ. The first information regarding the existence of vernacular compositions or translations in Hungary comes from the sources on the life of St Margit. Reading the testimony of her fellow nuns during her canonization process (1276), it becomes clear that Margit did not understand Latin actively, though she was able to participate in the Office, chanted in Latin according to the customs of her Order. In fact, Margit was able to read the well-known liturgical texts but was not able to understand them in their entirety, to read on her own, or to read and understand an unknown text; her Latin studies were restricted to the


The editions of the Hungarian legends are Szent Margit élete, ed. by György Volf, Nyelvemléktár, 8 (Budapest: Akadémia Nyelvtudományi Bizottsága, 1881); Szent Margit élete, 1510, ed. by János P. Balázs, Régi magyar kódexek, 10 (Budapest: Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság, 1990). 21  Having completed the investigations, the legates sent all the details to Rome. After this step was taken, a long silence followed. It seemed that the canonization process of 1271–76 had been unsuccessful. The text of the canonization process may be found as Inquisitio super vita, conversatione et miraculis beatae Margarethae virginis, Belae IV: Hungarorum regis filiae, sanctimonialis monasterii virginis gloriosae de insula Danubii, Ordinis Praedicatorum, Vesprimiensis diocesis, ed. by Vilmos Fraknói, Monumenta Romana episcopatus Vesprimiensis, 1 (Budapest: Collegium H. H. Romanum, 1896), pp. 162–383 [hereafter referred to as Inquisitio, ed. by Fraknói].


Viktória Hedvig Deák OP

field of learning by heart and understanding the basic prayers.22 Although there are witnesses who mention that she ‘read’ the psalter, or the seven penitential psalms, it seems that in reality she repeated them without understanding them completely.23 Another revealing feature on the level of Latin literacy in the convent is that, during the canonization process, all the nuns made their testimonies in Hungarian, and availed of translation, since they could not speak Latin. To develop a prayer life, Margit had to rely on vernacular preaching, since she was not able to read herself either in Latin or the vernacular; therefore, her spiritual education came from oral tradition. Her personal prayers could therefore be called simple, since they consisted mainly of the repetition of prayers she knew by heart like the Pater noster or the Ave Maria. The custom of spending all her free time in prayer, besides saying the Divine Office, aroused the curiosity of the sisters. For this reason they asked her to teach them how to pray and serve the Lord. All the more stunning was her answer: ‘Commenda corpus tuum et animam tuam domino, et semper cor habeas ad ipsum, ita quod neque mors, neque alia creatura retrahat te de amore Dei’ [‘Offer your body and mind to the Lord, have your heart always with Him, so that neither death, nor any creature could separate you from the love of God’].24 It was thus that she showed them the way to contemplation. She could not say more — neither she nor the other sisters had the means, the education, the imagery, the literature, or the proper words (what could be called the ‘infrastructure’ of mysticism), by means of which a prayer-experience or a mystical experience could be expressed and communicated to others. This lacuna was due to the fact that vernacular 22 

On her Latin studies, see Inquisitio, ed. by Fraknói, p. 165. Inquisitio, ed. by Fraknói, p. 170 reports the fact that the chantress, Sister Katerina, was her teacher of Latin and chant; Inquisitio, ed. by Fraknói, p. 175 says that she learnt the basic prayers in Latin. 23  Inquisitio, ed. by Fraknói, p. 174, mentions: ‘dicebat horas de Sancta Maria’ [‘she prayed the Little Office of the Virgin Mary’]: the so-called Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a brief text which could be learnt easily by heart. Inquisitio, ed. by Fraknói, p. 195: ‘legebat septem psalmos’ [‘she read the seven psalms’]; Inquisitio, ed. by Fraknói, p. 190 says: ‘In cena domini post mandatum orabat et legebat paslterium stando in pedibus in choro’ [‘On Maundy Thursday, after the washing of feet she prayed and read the psalms while standing in the choir’]. Olimpiades reported (Inquisitio, ed. by Fraknói, p. 219): ‘dixit, quod in qualibet die cuiuslibet quadragesime legebat totum psalterium. Interrogata quomodo scit hoc, respondit: “Quia semper videbat psalterium in manu, nisi quando comedebat et quando erat ad officium”’ [‘She said that on each day of Lent she [Margit] read the 150 psalms. When she was asked how she knew that, she answered: “because I saw the book of psalms in her hands all the time, except when she was eating or participating in the Office”’]. 24  Inquisitio, ed. by Fraknói, p. 254.

The Legacy of St Margit


devotional literature was still largely missing in Hungary.25 The lack of Latin explains why Margit asked one of the Dominican friars to read and explain to her the gospel and the lives of the saints (‘evangelium et vite sanctorum’).26 Another witness mentions that on the feast days of the saints she asked one of the friars living in the nearby monastery to read the passion stories of the martyrs.27 Or, as her oldest legend notes: ‘Audiebat avide temporibus opportunis verbum praedicationis et patrum collationes, exempla et legendas sanctorum et precipue miracula gloriose virginis’ [‘She listened with great desire to the words of the sermon, to the readings of the Fathers, the examples and legends of the saints, particularly the miracles of the glorious Virgin’].28 Another important vernacular source for Margit was the passion of Christ, which she loved listening to, especially during Lent and in the last two weeks before Easter: ‘Ab illa dominica quadragesimae, qua cantatur: Iudica me faciebat sibi legi passionem Christi usque ad Sabbatum sanctum, et illam audiebat cum lacrymis et magna devotione, et semper stabat tunc in pedibus’ [‘From the Sunday when “Iudica me” is chanted until Holy Saturday she had read to her the passion of Christ and she listened to it with great devotion and tears, and on these occasions she always stood on her feet’].29 Another witness mentions how moved she was when the passion was read aloud at lunch in the refectory on Palm Sunday.30 Finally, we possess additional information from the Legenda vetus, which suggests the existence of other vernacular texts, that is, legends of the saintly forbears of Margit, all members of the Árpád dynasty. The author writes: Revolvebat crebrius secum et conferebat cum aliis interdum progenitorum suorum vitam et vite sanctitatem, Beati scilicet Stephani […], Beate etiam Elizabeth, amite sue, cuius gloriosa merita tota pene cum gaudio celebrat ecclesia. In huiusmodi igitur meditationibus et collationibus seipsam occupans alta trahebat suspiria, ut eorum imitari vestigia et consequi merita Dei munere efficeretur.

25  As we will see, the flourishing of vernacular literature would happen between 1470 and 1526, for the use of nuns, lay brothers, and some devout lay people. See Madas and Monok, A könyvkultúra Magyarországon a kezdetektől 1730–ig, p. 63. 26  Inquisitio, ed. by Fraknói, p. 254. 27  Inquisitio, ed. by Fraknói, pp. 213 and 232. 28  Legenda Beatae Margaritae, ed. by Szovák and Veszprémy, p. 688. 29  Inquisitio, ed. by Fraknói, p. 177. 30  Inquisitio, ed. by Fraknói, p. 253.


Viktória Hedvig Deák OP

[She frequently pondered the life and sanctity of her predecessors, that of St Stephen, […] and her aunt St Elisabeth, whose glorious merits the whole Church joyfully celebrates, and discussed these with others. Immersed in such meditations and conversations, she sighed deeply within herself, desiring that by the grace of God, she might follow in their footsteps and obtain their merits.]31

It is reasonable to suppose that the convent (or the friars?) had at its disposal in some form a vernacular version of the legends of these saints. The saints mentioned in the Latin text are: St István or Stephen, who was the first king of Hungary and founder of the Christian state (997–1038); his son, St Emmerich or Imre (1007–31) — both canonized on the initiative of King László in 1083; and King St László (1077–95). At the end the legends turn to the example of St Erzsébet, Margit’s aunt, upon whom she consciously modelled herself.32 The information regarding the literacy of Margit, and of those texts which were the sources of her religious development, are all the more interesting for us since they list the principal literary genres of the vernacular manu­scripts which would be produced by the nuns of the same monastery two centuries later. It seems that the spiritual and intellectual need for them existed as early as Margit’s time. In this way her religious needs are responsible in some respects for the birth of these (preliminary?) translations (the existence of which we can only suppose), since otherwise the Dominican friars would have been unable to satisfy the spiritual needs of Margit. Furthermore, one can imagine that as she remained an example for her future sisters to follow, she inspired in some way the production of the sort of vernacular manu­scripts she had relied on in her time. We do not know much about the spiritual-intellectual life of the monastery in later years. (Nevertheless, there are plenty of details regarding their quarrels over their properties and privileges.)33 What seems to be clear is that in the second half of the fifteenth century the relationship of the monastery with the Dominican Order (under the care of which they were supposed to live) became somewhat strained. We do not know the real reason for it; but the nuns — with the help of King Mátyás (1458–90) — asked Pope Pius II (1458–64) to be 31 

Legenda Beatae Margaritae, ed. by Szovák and Veszprémy, p. 689. My translation. On the cult of these saints in medi­eval Hungary, see Gábor Klaniczay, Holy Rulers and Blessed Princesses: Dynastic Cults in Medi­eval Central Europe (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­ sity Press, 2002). 33  On this, see the still unpublished manu­s cript by Lajos Implom, Adatok a Szent Domonkos-rend magyarországi tartományának történetéhez (Vasvár: Rendtörténeti Gyűjtemény, forthcoming), chap. 5. 32 

The Legacy of St Margit


exempted from Dominican oversight so that the monastery could be placed under the jurisdiction of the Holy See alone. This request was granted by the pope in 1459. It meant that the then prioress, Anna, was appointed as superior for good, and the nuns were emancipated from the governance of the friars. The provisions of the bull were later modified in 1474 by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–84), when they received permission to elect their prioress, who then did not need confirmation by the friars. Finally in 1479, after the voluntary resignation of prioress Anna, the nuns re-established their official relationship with the friars, accepting again the jurisdiction of the provincial, though it seems that they retained certain privileges (for example, the free election of their superior, and the restriction of official visitation of the provincial). It seems that this situation — full of tensions — was not the result of the nuns refusing the stricter observance promoted by the friars from the mid-fifteenth century on; on the contrary, they were disturbed by the frequent changes of superiors and the visitations imposed by them.34 On hearing the news of the fateful battle of Mohács in 1526, when the Hungarian troops led by King Lajos II (1516–26) were defeated by the Ottomans, the nuns fled the monastery for a short time, but later returned. They left the monastery again in 1529, but soon returned. Shortly before the occupation of Buda by the Ottomans in 1541, they left the Island for good, in 1540, bringing with them what they deemed to be their most precious property: their books and the relics of St Margit of Hungary. After an odyssey, they settled in the convent of the Poor Clares in Pozsony (Bratislava), a city outside of the territory occupied by the Ottomans. The last nun died there in 1637; they left all their property, the codices included, to the Poor Clares. The flourishing of the monastery’s production of vernacular manu­scripts occurred around the end of the fifteenth century and in the first decades of the sixteenth. As noted, there are fourteen manu­scripts which can be attributed with great probability to the nuns as scribes (with a fifteenth not written by the nuns but owned by the convent). This does not mean, however, that all the nuns of the monastery were able to write. Lea Ráskay, for example, wrote a letter on behalf of the then prioress of the convent, Ilona Bocskay, to her brother, since she herself was unable to write.35 A list of the vernacular manu­scripts produced in the monastery is below; these are housed in the following repositories (all in 34  On the later history of the monastery, see Király, Árpádházi Szent Margit, pp. 145–61; Harsányi, A Domonkos rend, pp. 111–12. 35  On this letter, see Lea Haader, ‘Elena priorissza levele’, Magyar Nyelv, 91 (1995), 420–31.


Viktória Hedvig Deák OP

Budapest): Budapesti Egyetemi Könyvtár, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, and Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Könyvtára (respectively, Budapest Uni­ver­ sity Library, the National Széchényi Library, and the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences). The manu­s cripts usually get their names from the scholar who discovered them; this is how they will henceforth be referred to in this essay (below the full shelf marks and dates, in brackets, are provided):36 1. Winkler-kódex: Budapest, Budapesti Egyetemi Könyvtár, Cod. Hung.  2 (1506). This was copied by three hands for the use of a nun in a monastery.37 It is a book of prayers, with a calendar and excerpts from the gospels. According to fol.  59r, it was copied in 1506, the year King Lajos  II was born. 2. Példák könyve: Budapest, Budapesti Egyetemi Könyvtár, Cod. Hung.  3 (1510). Copied by Lea Ráskay and two other nuns. This is the so-called Book of Examples — based on Johannes Herolt’s Promptuarium exemplorum.38 On fol. 14v Lea Ráskay notes that it was copied in 1510, the year the restoration work on the sanctuary vault had started. On fol. 15v, due to the error of Lea Ráskay, an episode in the life of St Margit can be found (the cure of Petrit Kátay). This fact suggests that the manu­script of Szent Margit élete was copied in the same year. 3. Szent Margit élete: Budapest, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, MNy 3 (1510). Copied by Lea Ráskay, this is the legend of St Margit.39 4. Gömöry-kódex: Budapest, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, MNy 5 (1516). It is copied by Sister Katerina and ten other hands. It is a compilation of different prayers, that is, ‘Fifteen Prayers of St Birgitta’ or Quindecim orationes (in Hungarian), which is (mistakenly) attributed to Birgitta of Sweden; a prayer on the three sorrows of Mary, and many others for different devotional occasions, such as the reception of holy communion and the 36  The website of the Országos Széchényi Könyvtár (National Széchényi Library) contains a full biblio­graphy for each manu­script. See [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. On the Dominican provenance of these manu­scripts, see especially Tímár, ‘Domonkos-rendi magyar kódexek’. 37  Edition (facsimile): Winkler-kódex, 1506, ed. by István Pusztai, Codices Hungarici, 9 (Budapest: Akadémiai, 1988). 38  Edition (facsimile): Példák könyve, 1510, ed. by András Bognár and Ferenc Levárdy, Codices Hungarici, 4 (Budapest: Akadémiai, 1960). 39  Edition (facsimile): Szent Margit élete, 1510, ed. by János P. Balázs, Régi magyar kódexek, 10 (Budapest: Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság, 1990).

The Legacy of St Margit


like. It also contains the Latin Office in honour of St Margit of Hungary.40 On fol. 29v Sister Katerina says that she started to write the book on 12 August 1516. 5. Domonkos-kódex: Budapest, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, MNy 6 (1517). Copied by Lea Ráskay. Contains the life and miracles of St Dominic. The source is the Chronicon of St Antonino di Firenze (or Antonino Pierozzi, 1389–1459) and the Vitae fratrum from the second half of the thirteenth century by Gérard de Frachet.41 At the end of the manu­script (p. 265) Lea Ráskay notes the date of completion: 1517. 6. Cornides-kódex: Budapest, Budapesti Egyetemi Könyvtár, Cod. Hung. 4 (1514–19). Copied by Lea Ráskay. It contains fourteen sermons and eleven legends.42 Several pieces of information on political events, inserted by Lea Ráskay into the text, extend from the year 1514 to 1519. 7. Könyvecske az szent apostoloknak méltóságokról [‘Booklet on the glory and honour of the holy apostles’]: Budapest, Budapesti Egyetemi Könyvtár, Cod. Hung. 5 (1521). Copied by an unknown nun in the monastery who at the end of the codex indicated the year of completion. It is a treatise on the excellent honour due to the apostles.43 8. Sándor-kódex: Budapest, Budapesti Egyetemi Könyvtár, Cod. Hung.  6 (first quarter of the sixteenth century). Copied by an unknown scribe. Contains various texts: a translation of Hroswitha’s Dulcitius, a translation of the Visio Tungdali, and teachings on the joys of heaven.44 There is no direct reference to the date of completion. 9. Horváth-kódex: Budapest, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, MNy 7 (1522). Copied by Lea Ráskay. It contains two sermons from the Hungarian Franciscan, Pelbárt Temesvári (c. 1435–1504) and the teachings of David von 40 

Edition (facsimile): Gömöry-kódex, 1516, ed. by Lea Haader and Zsuzsanna Papp, Régi magyar kódexek, 26 (Budapest: MTA Nyelvtudományi Intézet, 2001). 41  Edition (facsimile): Domonkos-kódex, 1517, ed. by Gyöngyi Komlóssy, Régi magyar kódexek, 9 (Budapest: Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság, 1990). 42  Edition (facsimile): Cornides-kódex, 1514–1519, ed. by András Bognár and Ferenc ­Levárdy, Codices Hungarici, 6 (Budapest: Akadémiai, 1967). 43  Edition (facsimile): Könyvecse az szent apostoloknak méltóságokról, 1521, ed. by István Pusztai, Régi magyar kódexek, 1 (Budapest: Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság, 1985). 44  Edition (facsimile): Sándor-kódex, xvi. század első negyede, ed. by István Pusztai, Régi magyar kódexek, 3 (Budapest: Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság, 1987).


Viktória Hedvig Deák OP

Augsburg (c. 1200–72) on religious life (attributed wrongly to St Bernard de Clairvaux).45 Dated by Lea Ráskay herself. 10. Virginia-kódex: Budapest, Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Könyvtára Kézirattár, K 40 (before 1529). Copied by an unknown scribe. Contains a legend of St Francesco d’Assisi, based on the Legenda aurea and the Rule of St Jerome for nuns.46 There is no direct information on the date of the manu­script; it is supposed that it was produced in the same interval as the Gömöry-kódex and Horváth-kódex.47 11. Érsekújvári-kódex: Budapest, Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Könyvtára Kézirattár, K 45 (1529–31). Copied by Márta Sövényházi, a nun of the same monastery, and two other hands. This one is the largest manu­script. The most important item is a rhymed version of the legend of St Catherine of Alexandria. There are also various sermons for the feasts of the liturgical year, legends, and other devotional texts. The scribes themselves insert the dates into the text.48 12. Thewrewk-kódex: Budapest, Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Könyvtára Kézirattár, K 46 (1531). Copied by Márta Sövényházi and two other nuns. It is a prayer book, which was influenced most by Nicolaus Salycetus’s Antidotarius animae.49 The date is provided by Márta Sövényházi. 13. Bod-kódex: Budapest, Budapesti Egyetemi Könyvtár, Cod. Hung.  7 (beginning of the sixteenth century). It contains a meditation on man’s three enemies and another on death. Its source is Denis the Carthusian’s (1402–71) Aureum speculum.50 There is no direct reference to the completion of the work. 45  Edition (facsimile): Horváth-kódex, 1522, ed. by Lea Haader and Zsuzsanna Papp, Régi magyar kódexek, 17 (Budapest: Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság, 1994). 46  Edition (facsimile): Virginia-kódex, xvi. század eleje, ed. by Zsuzsa Kovács, Régi m ­ agyar kódexek, 11 (Budapest: Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság, ELTE, 1990). 47  See Tímár, ’Domonkos-rendi magyar kódexek’, p. 401. 48  Edition (facsimile): Érsekújvári kódex, 1529–1531, ed. by Lea Haader, Régi magyar kódexek, 32 (Budapest: Tinta, MTA Nyelvtudományi Intézet Nyelvtörténeti Osztály, MTA– OSZK Res Libraria Hungariae/Fragmenta Codicum Kutatócsoport, 2013). 49  Edition (facsimile): Thewrewk-kódex, 1531, ed. by Judit Balázs and Gabriella Uhl, Régi magyar kódexek, 18 (Budapest: MTA Nyelvtudományi Intézete, 1995). 50  Edition (facsimile): Bod-kódex, xvi. század első negyede, ed by István Pusztai, Régi magyar kódexek, 2 (Budapest: ELTE BTK Magyar Nyelvtörténeti és Nyelvjárástani Tanszéke, Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság, 1987).

The Legacy of St Margit


14. Legenda Sancte Cristine: Budapest, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, MNy 15 (1522). This is by anonymous scribe, on the life of St Christina.51 It is supposed that this manu­script was originally part of the Horváth-kódex, hence the same date. 15. Birk-kódex: Budapest, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, MNy 71 (1474). Written by the Hungarian Dominican Pál Váci (d. after 1482), it is in some way an exception, since it was not copied by the nuns themselves; nevertheless, it was possessed by the monastery. A witness to the goals of the Observant Reform, it is only a fragment of the Hungarian translation of the Rule of St Augustine, and a fragment of the constitutions of the nuns. The scribe and translator is Pál Váci.52 According to Sigismundus Ferrarius, he copied the manu­script in 1474.53 After a brief perusal of the manu­scripts which most probably have a provenance from the monastery on Szűz Mária Szigete, some general impressions emerge of the purposes and use of the vernacular codices, and on the community of nuns who produced them. It seems that the scriptorium in the monastery, or the nuns who were in charge of the production of the manu­scripts, had a clear vision of what the community needed. There are only five codices which are of decidedly various content (nos 6 and 8–11). All the rest are created with a single purpose: there are three that are prayer books (nos 1, 4, and 12), three contain autonomous legends (of Sts Margaret, Dominic, and Christina; nos 3, 5, and 10); the Példák könyve [Book of Examples] (no. 2), and the ‘Könyvecske az szent apostoloknak méltóságokról’ [‘Booklet on the glory and honour of the holy apostles’] (no. 7) are both autonomous texts with a teaching purpose.54 There are several works that could be attributed to the direct influence of the Observant Movement of the Order. These are the Rule, the Constitutions, and other works which either provided instructions for the details of the religious life (like the Regula monacharum attributed to St Jerome, and the Formula novitiorum, a popular work in the Middle Ages, by the Franciscan David von 51 

Edition (facsimile): Krisztina-legenda, xvi. század eleje, ed. by Lilla Vekerdy, Régi magyar kódexek, 7 (Budapest: Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság, ELTE, 1988). 52  Edition (facsimile): Birk-kódex, 1474: Szent Ágoston regulái és a Domonkosrendi apácák konstituciói, ed. by István Pusztai, Codices Hungarici, 5 (Budapest: Akadémiai, 1960). 53  Ferrarius, De rebus Hungaricae provinciae Ordinis Praedicatorum, p. 449. 54  On this aspect of Dominican literary production, see Horváth, A magyar irodalmi műveltség kezdetei, pp. 218–38.


Viktória Hedvig Deák OP

Augsburg), or offered authentic personal models of religious life. Of course, the lives of the Order’s saints fit this purpose the best. There is a manu­script containing a compilation of St Dominic’s life (Domonkos-kódex). Beside this, there is the so-called Példák könyve [Book of Examples], which contains the original text of Johannes Herolt’s Promptuarium exemplorum. There are manu­scripts which were destined for public reading in the refectory and in the Chapter room, and there are books which were copied for private use, such as the Gömöry-kódex and the other two prayerbooks (most probably for the use of individual nuns). The latter one is in some respects the most interesting : it offers an opportunity to assess the personal ‘devotional’ taste of the nuns. It was copied by different hands and is a compilation of texts selected according to the personal preferences of the scribes. Moreover, this is the manu­script which contains the Office (in Latin) in honour of St Margit.55 In matins it contains the life of Margit, a text based on the Legenda beatae Margaritae (Legenda vetus). It is still debated when this Office was composed. According to Mezey, it was written near to the first canonization efforts for Margit, probably in the period between 1276 and 1320.56 Pope Pius II conceded the celebration of this Office on the feast day of St Margit, 18 January.57 In any case, the presence of this text in an otherwise vernacular codex shows the interest of the sixteenth-century nuns in the cult of St Margit. Of course, the Office is in Latin, as it was the approved version for liturgical usage. Twentieth-century scholarship has concentrated considerable effort on identifying the provenance of these manu­scripts but less interest has been shown in what these texts reveal about their writers and readers. However, recent scholarship, especially the research of Lea Haader, has tried to identify how the scribes of the manu­scripts of the monastery were related to one another: whether they worked together and whether there was a kind of workshop in the monastery.58 Thorough research of the palaeo­graphical evidence (an investigation of the application by the scribes of g­ rapheme-phoneme correspondences, the types of text organization, dialectal features, and the types of errors 55 

The Office can be found also in Ferrarius, De rebus Hungaricae provinciae, pp. 342–51. László Mezey, Irodalmi anyanyelvűségünk kezdetei az Árpádkor végén (Budapest: Akadémiai, 1955), pp. 51–52. According to Kálmán Tímár, the Office was written in the first half of the fifteenth century; see Kálmán Tímár, Árpád-házi Boldog Margit legendája: a breviáriumi legendák (Kalocsa: Pannonia, 1934), p. 15. 57  See Kálmán, Árpád-házi Boldog Margit legendája, p. 10. 58  On this, see especially Lea Haader, ‘A Nyulak szigeti scriptorium mint műhely’, Magyar Nyelvőr, 128 (2004), 196–205. 56 

The Legacy of St Margit


committed) suggests a common tradition to which different scribes working together belonged. It means that in the monastery there was an efficient workshop, of which the most prolific scribe was Lea Ráskay, who worked between 1510 and 1522 and whose writing can be identified in five manu­scripts. Lea Ráskay’s personal profile emerges best from the remarks she added to the parts copied: from these we are able to identify her as a member of an aristocratic family. From this comes her interest in the affairs of her country: for example, she ends the life of St Dorothea with these words: ‘Vegeztetyk zent dorothea azzonnak elete zent borlobas estyn zombaton. vrnak zvletety vtan. Ezer evt zaz. tyzen neegy eztendevben. Ezen eztendevben levn az kereztes had. magyar orszagnak evrevk emlekevzety. kyben vezenek sok nemes vrak az kegyetlen poor hadnagyoknak kegyetlensegek myat’ [‘Here I have finished the life of St Dorothea, on the eve of the feast of St Barnabas, in the year 1514 after the birth of the Lord. In this year the crusade took place to the eternal memory of Hungary, in which many noble men died because of the cruelty of the low-level soldiers’].59 This refers to the so-called Dózsa rebellion, an unsuccessful peasant revolt, led by nobleman György Dózsa (1470–1514), which resulted in a reduction of the peasants’ social and economic position. Likewise, she reports on other events of national significance, such as the death of Palatine Imre Perényi (d. 1519)60 and the national convention of Bács which offered hope of a national collaboration on the eve of the Turkish invasion. Similarly, she does not fail to report on the important events regarding the monastery, such as the restoration work on their church and its consecration.61 As regards the contents, the texts she copied are considered to be ‘an illustration of the rule’. What she wrote about was the life of St Margit, the life and miracles of St Dominic, examples regarding perfect religious life, sermons and legends connected to the liturgical year (Cornides-kódex), and two scholastic sermons on the life of the Blessed Virgin. These contents, and other factors (such as the size of the codices and her very readable writing), all suggest that these manu­scripts were all destined for common reading in the monastery. There is another anonymous hand whose writing closely resembles that of Lea Ráskay and whose practice is in every respect similar to hers. She would therefore seem to have been a disciple of Ráskay. The third scribe who belongs 59 

Cornides-kódex, ed. by Bognár and Levárdy, fol. 130v. Cornides-kódex, ed. by Bognár and Levárdy, fol. 169v. 61  Példák könyve, ed. by Bognár and Levárdy, fol. 14v; Cornides-kódex, ed. by Bognár and Levárdy, fol. 240v. 60 


Viktória Hedvig Deák OP

to this group and may be identified by name is Katerina [Legéndy]; most probably she was the predecessor of Lea Ráskay as the librarian of the convent. Ráskay mentions her fondly on the occasion of her death in the year 1517, in the Domonkos-kódex: ‘Ezer evt zaz eztendevben […] halanak meg az veen sororok. Legendy kato azzon mynd az tevbby’ [‘In this year the old sisters died, such as Kató Legéndy and several others’].62 Katerina was the main writer of the Gömöry-kódex, a compilation of different prayers in the vernacular. Her personality comes through the texts she chose to include in the Gömöry-kódex: many prayers copied by her are for the dying, or for the dead. In these texts she always includes her own name instead of the commissioner of the codex,63 a certain Cristina, who was very probably one of the nuns in the monastery.64 Her name appears frequently in the prayers copied, but the most telling proof is a note by the scribe who complains that the commissioner has not paid for the book.65 The fact of the inclusion of these prayers suggest that she was severely ill during the copying of the manu­script. At the end of a section she comments: ‘It el vegezuen vannak az imadsag gog kyket akartam az vr istennek dycheretyre en zegeny meltatlan es tudadlan irnom’ [‘Here are finished the prayers which I, poor, unworthy and ignorant person, wrote for the glory of the Lord God’]66 — which means that these were the prayers considered important for her. One can suppose that she was an elderly and sick person: in the same manu­script she inserts on three occasions personal remarks about her health issues, for example: ‘igen fay feyem’ [‘I have a terrible headache’]; ‘igen betek valek’ [‘I was really very sick’].67 The fourth scribe, who can be identified by name is Márta Sövényházi. She follows a different ortho­g raphical system: this suggests that she belonged to the next generation after Lea Ráskay. She is the scribe of the Érsekújvári-kódex (which contains sermons regarding the liturgical year) and of part of the Thewrewk-kódex. 62 

Domonkos-kódex, ed. by Komlóssy, fol. 133r. She named herself Katerina: ‘zabadych meg engemet. te meltatlan zolgalo leanyodat. Katerinat’ [‘Save me, your unworthy handmaid, Katerina’]; Gömöry-kódex, ed. by Haader and Papp, fol. 84r. Lea Ráskay refers to her as Kató. 64  For example, Gömöry-kódex, ed. by Haader and Papp, fol. 84r. 65  ‘En edes cristina nam igen zep az kevnuy myre nem fyzecz’ [‘My dear Cristina, look how beautiful the book is, why are you not paying for it?’]; Gömöry-kódex, ed. by Haader and Papp, fol. 119r. 66  Gömöry-kódex, ed. by Haader and Papp, fol. 86v. 67  Gömöry-kódex, ed. by Haader and Papp, fols 37r and 87r. 63 

The Legacy of St Margit


Finally, the vernacular legend of St Margit is of major importance for our topic. This text, which is a version of the Legenda vetus, enriched with new details and with the testimonies of the 1276 investigation, is the main witness to how important it was for the nuns of later generations to preserve and to actualize the memory and example of Margit. In general, we do not know much about the translators themselves in the case of the other vernacular texts: they could be Dominican friars, or in some cases even the nuns. This question is all the more interesting in the case of the vernacular legend of St Margit. Many scholars have asked whether the Hungarian version is a translation of a preexisting Latin one (developed from the Legenda vetus), or a version compiled originally in Hungarian, though based on the text of the Legenda vetus.68 More particularly, did the scribe — in this case, Lea Ráskay or earlier scribes — add any of those details and local observations (which refer to a more precise localization of events that occurred in the monastery) proper to the Hungarian legend, and which could be attributed only to a person who lived in the same monastery? In spite of an abundant scholarship regarding this manu­script, there is no consensus even regarding the most basic question: when was the Hungarian translation produced? The situation is complicated by the fact that there are very few vernacular texts from previous centuries which could serve as a reliable base for a comparison. What seems to be certain is that the text of 1510 is not an original but a copy — a witness of the enduring importance of the life of Margit for the nuns more than two centuries later.69 With regards to the translator, according to several scholars, it is probable that it was one of the nuns who had modest Latin erudition.70 The most important testimony to this hypothesis, according to László Mezey, are the elementary errors committed by the translator. Two of these may be instructive. At one 68  On this question, still debated, see Ilona M. Nagy’s article, which considers the question of whether or not the Hungarian version was an original compilation to be unresolved, though she favours the idea of a Hungarian compilation, without a precise Latin source-text; see Ilona M. Nagy, ‘A Margit-legenda feltételezett latin anyaszövegének (“Marcellus III.”) kérdéséhez’, in Klárisok: Tanulmánykötet Korompay Klára tiszteletére, ed. by Gábor Csiszár and Anikó Darvas (Budapest: ELTE Magyar Nyelvtudományi, Szociolingvisztikai és Dialektológiai Tanszéke, 2011), pp. 246–53. 69  On the question of dating the Hungarian translation, see Mezey, Irodalmi anyanyelvűségünk, pp. 53–70. 70  This is the opinion of Mezey, Irodalmi anyanyelvűségünk, pp. 64–66, who is followed by Tibor Klaniczay, ‘A Margit-legendák történetének revíziója’, in Tibor Klaniczay and Gábor Klaniczay, Szent Margit legendái és stigmái (Budapest: Argumentum, 1994), pp. 17–91 (p. 48).


Viktória Hedvig Deák OP

point, the Legenda vetus says: ‘Beate etiam Elizabeth, amite sue, cuius gloriosa merita tota pene cum gaudio celebrat ecclesia’ [‘and of her aunt St Elisabeth, whose glorious merits the whole Church joyfully celebrates’]. The first scribe, very probably read ‘amice’ [‘friend’] instead of ‘amite’ [‘aunt’] and wrote friend instead of aunt. According to Mezey’s reconstruction of the history of this error, a later scribe recognized the error and expunged the Hungarian version of amice, and corrected it, adding ‘her beloved aunt’.71 At the end, the last scribe (Lea Ráskay?) did not see the punctus below the word ‘friend’: thus, she left the error, copied both the error and the right version; and so the text was changed to ‘Zent ersebet azzonnak az ev baratyanak es zerelmes nenyenek zentseges eletyt’ [‘the life of St Elisabeth, her friend and beloved aunt’].72 Another telling error is the translation of the phrase ‘sororum ordini incorporatarum’. The translator did not properly understand the meaning of ‘incorporatarum’. He/ she thought that ‘in’ is a privative prefix, so sororum incorporatarum was transformed into ‘testnekeyl lakozo sororoknak’ [‘sisters who live without a body’].73 Beside the interpretative localizations of places in the monastery, the other Hungarian interpolations of the text — missing in the Legenda vetus — include those frequent exclamations and exhortations of the translator by which she/ he encourages the readers, that is, the nuns, to imitate the poverty and humility of such a noble person, as the daughter of the king of Hungary. Phrases like: ‘O ky nag cuda ez · [ho]g il nag felseges kÿrali ma gzat · ilyen genge germeksegenek ideeben · ezenkeppen geterÿe magat’ [‘O how wonderful it is how this child of royal origin disciplined herself at such a tender age’];74 ‘O zeretev atÿamfÿaÿ […] lassatok nezzetek hayolyatok ÿol oda es lassatok mÿt lele az priorissa magerÿ bela kÿralnak leanÿanak ev kenches ladaÿaban’ [‘O beloved breth71 

Szent Margit élete, 1510, ed. by Balázs, fol. 24v. However, according to Ilona M. Nagy, who recently in several articles studied the Hungarian legend and its sources, and worked out a digital concordance of it argues that addressing St Erzsébet as ‘friend and aunt’ could be a feature of the translator’s style, who in other cases also translates one Latin expression with two Hungarian nouns: Margit-legeda (Szent-Margit élete, 1510): A magyar legenda és latin forrásai [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. See also Ilona M. Nagy, ‘Die “Freundschaft” zwischen der Hl. Elisabeth und der Hl. Margit (Reflexionen in der muttersprachlichen Margitlegende)’, in Classica-MediaevaliaNeolatina iii, ed. by Ladislaus Havas and Emericus Tegyey (Debrecen: Societas Neolatina Hungarica Sectio Debreceniensis, 2009), pp. 235–43. 72  See Mezey, Irodalmi anyanyelvűségünk, pp. 64–65. 73  Szent Margit élete, 1510, ed. by Balázs, fol. 3v. 74  Szent Margit élete, 1510, ed. by Balázs, fol. 3v.

The Legacy of St Margit


ren, […] come closer and look what kind of treasures the prioress found in the coffer of St Margit’] — when describing the penitential practices of St Margit — all mirror the lasting impression and admiration that the self-abasement and poverty of Margit left on later generations.75 At the same time it shows how meaningful the message of Margit was for the nuns of the sixteenth century. Two more aspects may be added to explain this enduring effect. There is a phrase in another manu­script, the ‘Könyvecske az szent apostoloknak méltóságokról’ (‘Booklet on the Honour and Glory of the Holy Apostles’), which inserts the example of St Margit (‘St Margit, our lady’) who is even greater than the apostles, since she left greater things behind than the apostles. The second one is the aforementioned insertion into the Gömöry-kódex, written by nuns for a nun, of the Office of St Margit in Latin, as part of their devotion to her.76 As we can see, a relationship may be established between the exceptional role of the monastery in vernacular literacy and the influence of the personal devotion of Margit which soon became an example for the nuns to follow. As the Legenda vetus illustrates (and the Hungarian legend repeats), ‘eius conversatio in ipso claustro quasi pro quadam regula hodie habetur ita, ut si quid minus disciplinate fieri viderint, dicant: Hec non est de regula domine nostre sororis beate Margarite’ [‘her life is still considered a rule in a way that if something questionable happens, the sisters say: this is not according to the rule of our lady, blessed sister Margit’].77 If one asks why one monastery, out of so many in medi­eval Hungary, became the cradle for medi­eval vernacular literature, we cannot but focus again on the person of St Margit. As we saw, Margit’s person, through her spiritual heritage, provided a kind of continuity to the intellectual life of her monastery. Because of her lack of Latin literacy, she needed vernacular works to rely on, and those genres of medi­eval literature that gave her a kind of spiritual food (lives of the saints and the Bible) became vernacular codices in due course, along with her own vita. It seems that not only her life but also her spiritual hunger for vernacular literature proved to be inspirational for her monastery, which occupies a privileged place in the history of Hungarian vernacular literature.


Szent Margit élete, 1510, ed. by Balázs, fol. 48v. It can be found on fols 135r–148r. 77  Legenda Beatae Margaritae, ed. by Szovák and Veszprémy, p. 690. 76 

Anonymous Then, Invisible Now: The Readers of ‘Sermon a dames religioses’ Cate Gunn


t Edmund of Abingdon, archbishop of Canterbury in 1133–40, wrote a guide to the religious life known as the Speculum religiosorum or, in its later lay form, Speculum ecclesie; it is generally believed he composed it while staying at Merton Priory in Surrey during the suspension of the schools at Oxford in 1213–14.1 The original Latin text no longer exists, although what is believed to be an accurate copy dating from the late-fourteenth or early-fifteenth century is found in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Hatton 26.2 Over the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Speculum was translated 1 

See Matthew Paris, The Life of St Edmund by Matthew Paris, ed. and trans., and with a bio­graphy by C. H. Lawrence (Stroud: Sutton, 1996), p. 28; for the original Latin see Matthew Paris, ‘Text of the Vita Sancti Edmundi auctore Matthaeo Parisiensi’, ed. by C. H. Lawrence, in St Edmund of Abingdon: A Study in Hagio­g raphy and History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960), pp. 222–89. Nicholas Watson suggests the dating of the composition of the Speculum is ‘an open question’ and argues that ‘the work’s possible echoes of Grosseteste’s Templum Dei make the 1220s particularly attractive’; see Nicholas Watson, ‘Middle English Versions and Audiences of Edmund of Abingdon’s Speculum Religiosorum, in Texts and Traditions of Medi­ eval Pastoral Care: Essays in Honour of Bella Millett, ed. by Cate Gunn and Catherine InnesParker (Woodbridge: York Medi­eval Press, 2009), pp. 115–31 (p. 118). 2  This manu­script is the basis for the edition in Edmund of Abingdon, Speculum religiosorum and Speculum ecclesie, ed. by Helen P. Forshaw, Auctores Britannici Medii Aevi, 3 (London: Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press, 1973); see her introduction, pp. 1–2 for a description of the manu­script, and Cate Gunn, ‘Reading Edmund of Abingdon’s Speculum as Pastoral Literature’, in Texts and Traditions of Medi­eval Pastoral Care: Essays in Honour of Bella Millett, ed. by Cate Gunn and Catherine Innes-Parker (Woodbridge: York Medi­eval Press, 2009), pp. 100–14, for a revision of the manu­script evidence. Cate Gunn ([email protected]) is an independent scholar.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 251–272 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS




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into Anglo-Norman for different readers (a group of texts to which I will refer as the Mirour de seinte eglyse although they are variously titled in the manu­ scripts). A lengthy chapter (no. 36) described as ‘a highly articulate exposition of contemplative prayer’ is found only in some manu­scripts.3 Helen Forshaw described the ‘specific aim’ of the chapter on contemplation in the original Latin version as ‘a direct, intimate union with God, experienced as present in the soul’.4 According to Edmund, contemplation consists of three steps: contemplating God in nature, contemplating God in the scriptures — which is where the dogmatic and catechetical material comes in — and contemplating God in his humanity, for which meditations on the life and passion of Christ are provided. Edmund goes on, however, to suggest the possibility of a further step: the contemplation of God in himself. It is this that occupies the long chapter severely curtailed in the revised ‘lay’ versions of the Mirour. A. D. Wilshere uses the presence of this chapter as ‘the key to the classification of the French texts’, since those containing it are a more direct translation of the original Latin, which was intended for a religious readership. Wilshere assumes, therefore, that the French texts containing the chapter in full were also intended for readership by religious.5 By implication the versions containing the shortened version of the chapter were written for a lay readership, suggesting that such a readership would be less sophisticated and without the time or inclination for the higher reaches of contemplative prayer, what has popularly been called mysticism. Increasing literacy and lay participation in lives of devotion, suggested by the flowering of works in English on contemplation in the late fourteenth century, however, argue for texts such as Edmund’s Speculum, translated into French or English, and complete with the chapter on the contemplation of God in himself, being of interest to devout lay people. The assertion that some specific French texts of the Mirour de seinte eglyse were written for nuns because of the presence of this long chapter is based on assumptions about the 3 

Helen Forshaw, ‘New Light on the Speculum ecclesie of St  Edmund of Abingdon’, Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen age, 46 (1971), 7–33 (p. 17). 4  Helen Forshaw, ‘St Edmund’s Speculum: A Classic of Victorine Spirituality’, Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen age, 47 (1972), 7–40 (p. 36). 5  See Edmund of Abingdon, Mirour de seinte eglyse (St. Edmund of Abingdon’s Speculum ecclesiae), ed. by A. D. Wilshere, Anglo-Norman Text Society, 40 (London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 1982), p. xi. Alan Wilshere’s use of this chapter as the basis for his division of texts of the Mirour into ‘A’ and ‘B’ texts (presented in parallel in his edition) read respectively by religious and laity is somewhat reductive since, as he claims, the readership is defined by the length of the chapter. References to this text will be given in the body of the essay by section/ line and page numbers.

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kind of people who would read contemplative works. With the exception of the McClean manu­script (see below), there is no explicit evidence of ownership or readership by nuns, but the internal evidence of intended female readership of these manu­scripts means what they do offer of nuns’ literacy is worth examining. There are four ‘religious’ versions of the French text, that is, ones containing the full contemplative chapter, which also contain female forms of address and female grammatical forms.6 These versions are to be found in Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190, where the text is titled ‘Sermon a dames religioses’; London, British Library, MS  Royal 12 C.xii; London, British Library, MS Royal 20 B.xiv; and Yale Uni­ver­sity, Beinecke Library, MS 492. There are also extracts from the Mirour in Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 123, which has an ex libris placing it at the Nuneaton nunnery a century after it was written. This essay is not an exhaustive study of the French translations of Edmund’s Speculum to examine possible reading by nuns, but rather a testing of the often-repeated assertion that four of the known French manu­scripts were written for nuns. There has for a long time been an assumption of an association between the Mirour and a readership of nuns, in part due to the once-held belief that the text was originally written in Anglo-Norman, considered a language more likely to be read by nuns than monks or canons.7 M. Dominica Legge suggests that ‘St Edmund’s Merure was probably originally written for nuns or canonesses’, and Betty Hill claims that the French text ‘became a classic for nuns on how to live perfectly after the fashion of Hugh of St Victor’.8 Nicholas Watson argues that the work’s translation into Anglo-Norman was ‘probably initially for nuns who were at once “religiosi” and, as vernacular readers, “de simple lettrure” as the Mirour renders Edmund’s “illiteratus”’.9 6 

Introduction to Mirour de Seinte Eglyse, ed. by Wilshere, p. xxxi. Forshaw points out that in the introduction to his 1925 edition H. W. Robbins first ‘suggested that Edmund wrote it originally in Anglo-Norman for a readership not exclusively religious’. See Forshaw, ‘New Light on the Speculum ecclesie of St Edmund of Abingdon’, p. 7; Alan Wilshere, following on the work of Forshaw, challenged this view in ‘The Latin Primacy of St Edmund’s “Mirror of Holy Church”’, Modern Language Review, 71 (1976), 500–12. 8  M. Dominica Legge, ‘The French Language and the English Cloister’, in Medi­eval Studies Presented to Rose Graham, ed. by Veronica Ruffer and A. J. Taylor (Oxford: Oxford Uni­ver­ sity Press, 1950), pp. 146–62 (p. 160), and Betty Hill, ‘A Manu­script from Nuneaton: Cam­ bridge Fitzwilliam Museum MS McLean [sic for McClean] 123’, Transactions of the Cam­bridge Biblio­graphical Society, 12 (2002), 191–205 (p. 196). 9  Watson also raises the possibility that Edmund originally wrote the Speculum with his sisters, ‘who became nuns at Catesby’, in mind: Watson, ‘Versions and Audiences of Edmund of 7 


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However, the evidence provided by palaeo­graphical study, sometimes pointing towards male lay ownership, is often at odds with the internal evidence of the texts. There are also degrees of spiritual literacy to be considered — is it only professional religious who would read the ‘overtly mystical passages’ in the ‘critical chapter’?10 The assumption that these manu­scripts containing texts addressing a sister were read by nuns, instead of telling us anything about the literacy of nuns, obscures the variable relationships and interactions between manu­scripts and their readers, and the compilers and translators of the manu­ scripts. What is revealed by a study of the readership and use of the four manu­ scripts containing the ‘religious’ versions of the Mirour addressed to sisters is a flexibility suggesting that the reading materials of nuns are not set apart from mainstream reading practices; looking at this from the other direction, the sisters are not significantly different from other vernacular readers, lay or secular (that is, neither members of a religious order nor priests). The four complete manu­script versions of the ‘religious’ text (the ‘A’ text in Wilshere’s edition) assumed to have been intended for a readership of nuns are described in the following table, alongside the incomplete text found in the McClean manu­script. My discussion here concentrates on Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190 and London, British Library, MS Royal 12 C.xii, with reference also to Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 123, as these offer the greatest possibility of a connection with a nunnery.11 In none of these manu­scripts is the Mirour the sole text; they are all trilingual collections, with material in English and Latin as well as Anglo-Norman.12 London, British Library, MS Royal 12 C.xii has a particularly wide range of material, with political and medical texts, the Romance of Fulk Fitz-Warin in French prose, and the Chronicle of the Brut in English verse. Yale Uni­ver­sity, Abingdon’s Speculum’, respectively pp. 122 and 118. 10  Forshaw, ‘New Light on the Speculum ecclesie of St Edmund of Abingdon’, p. 17. 11  I have not been able personally to examine the manu­script at Yale. 12  Recent work on the reassessment of the role of Anglo-Norman in literature and religious culture in England includes Nicholas Watson and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, ‘The French of England: The Compileison, Ancrene Wisse, and the Idea of Anglo-Norman’, Journal of Romance Studies, 4 (2004), 35–59. Watson and Wogan-Browne point out that Ancrene Wisse, a text comparable with Edmund’s Speculum, although written originally in English, is, in the Compileison, ‘also an East Anglian French text for use by men and women, lay and religious, in one of the busiest and most diverse urban contexts of the medi­eval English eastern coastlands’ (p. 41). See also Language and Culture in Medi­eval Britain: The French of England, ed. by Jocelyn WoganBrowne and others (Woodbridge: York Medi­eval Press, 2009).

Contains Grosseteste’s Chasteau d’amour, Guillaume le clerc’s Bestiare, an Apocalypse, and Hours of the Virgin Ex libris places it at Nuneaton nunnery

‘le liuere qe seint Edmunde de pountenei fit. E si est apele speculum Amicicie’ Includes recipes, hymns, and prayers, and Lumière as lais

Signatures of Thomas Leedes and John Younge in 16th century

Religious material, including Grosseteste’s Chasteau d’amour and partial Manuel de pechies

Belonged to John Colyford and Lord Walter Hungerford

Includes a wide range of material in English and French, verse and prose

Compiled and largely copied by Harley scribe (associated with Ludlow)

‘ueer ore ma trechere soer’

Religious material, in Latin and French with some English

Associated with Westminster Abbey

‘Veez ore, ma trechere soer’ ‘indignam ancillam’

‘Vees ore ma trecher soer’

‘ma treschere soer’

Extracts from the Mirour

‘The Nuneaton Book’; 14th century religious material

‘vn sermon petit Ki est trete solun le escrit Ke Seinte Cesarie a sa seor fist’

Early 14th century French and English

‘Le liuere ke seint Edmund de Punteneye fist e si est apele Speculum amicicie’

Early 14th century French

‘Sermon a dames religioses’

Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 123

14th century trilingual miscellany; composed of booklets

Yale Uni­ver­sity, Beinecke Library, MS 492

13th–14th century trilingual; composed of booklets

London, British Library, MS Royal 20 B.xiv

London, British Library, MS Royal 12 C.xii

Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190

Table 2. Contents of manu­scripts containing Mirour de seinte eglyse.

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Beinecke Library, MS 492 contains recipes as well as various hymns and prayers in English and French, and an incomplete copy of the thirteenth-century Lumière as lais by Pierre de Peckham.13 The other manu­scripts are devoted to religious material: both London, British Library, MS Royal 20 B.xiv and Cam­ bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 123 contain Robert Grosseteste’s Chasteau d’amour, while Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190 contains a Latin sermon by Grosseteste, De confessione. Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190 also contains an Anglo-Norman sermon by the Franciscan Thomas of Hales, who was writing in the middle of the thirteenth century, a Latin ‘Sermo ad contemplativos’, a work entitled Speculum amicie (not Edmund’s Speculum, which sometimes has a similar title), and other sermons suitable for the liturgical year; some of the sermons in the final booklet are in English. London, British Library, MS Royal 20 B.xiv includes a partial Manuel de pechies, while Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 123 also contains L’Évangile de Nicodème by an author known only as ‘un poète nommé Chrétien’, an early thirteenthcentury Bestiare by an unidentified clerk named Guillaume, an Apocalypse, and Hours of the Virgin.14 Volumes in French can, with certainty, only be attributed to nine nunneries in England.15 Of these, Nuneaton is one, which, as well as owning the manu­ script now Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, McClean 123, also had a volume containing works by Alan of Tewkesbury and Gerald of Wales, and the letter of Hugh of Reading to Pope Celestine II (1124–25/6).16 A manu­script volume containing Lumière as lais (a text found also in Yale Uni­ver­sity, Beinecke Library, MS 492) was at Tarrant Keynston, an abbey of Cistercian nuns.17 13  See M. Dominica Legge, ‘Pierre de Peckham and his Lumiere as Lais’, The Modern Language Review, 24 (1929), 37–47. 14  For a description of Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 123, see Hill, ‘A Manu­script from Nuneaton’, especially pp. 193–95. 15  David N. Bell, ‘What Nuns Read: The State of the Question’, in The Culture of Medi­eval English Monasticism, ed. by James G. Clark, Studies in the History of Religion, 30 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2007), pp. 113–33. Bell does point out that ‘it is essential to note that the actual number of books which, in England, can be traced with certainty or high probability to any particular house tells us virtually nothing about the size of its library’ (p. 117). 16  This is now Douai, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 887, dating from the thirteenth to fourteenth century. David N. Bell, What Nuns Read: Books and Libraries in Medi­eval English Nunneries, Cistercian Studies Series, 158 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian, 1995), pp. 158–59. 17  The Tarrant Keynston volume is now Dublin, Trinity College, MS 209; see Bell, What Nuns Read, pp. 210–11.

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Catalogue information on the Beinecke manu­script indicates that it is a miscellany written in England at the beginning of the fourteenth century containing material in English and French.18 The Mirour is the second item, following Pierre de Peckham’s Lumière as lais; it is attributed to ‘seint Edmunde de pountenei’ and titled ‘speculum Amicicie’ in the explicit; the addresses are to female readers. The Mirour is in the second of the two parts of the manu­ script, fols 86r–99v, with a different scribe and different page layout from the first part containing Lumière as lais. A new scribe continues from fol. 99v (second column) to fol. 110v; crude sixteenth-century drawings occupy the final folio, 111r–v. The remaining material in the second part comprises poems, prayers, hymns, and recipes.19 The text is much the same as in the other manu­ scripts Wilshere edits as his ‘A’ text;20 at the end there is a unique note: ‘Ami pur W. ai fet cest escrit chier le tenez et ne mie en despite’ [‘A friend has made this book for W., hold it dear and not at all in disdain’].21 This suggests that at least the Mirour was intended as a personal gift for a particular reader; this is followed by a prayer beginning ‘Omnipotens sempiterne deus miserere famulo tuo. N’ [‘Almighty and eternal God have mercy on your servant. N’].22 There is unfortunately no indication who ‘W’ and ‘N’ might be; these inscriptions seem to suggest a gift from a donor to a particular person, possibly a woman, but there is no suggestion that she was a nun. The only provenance provided by the manu­script is in the signatures dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which are all male. The first with a date is Robert Lake, 1584; it is not clear whether the sixteenth-century signatures of Thomas Leedes and John 18 

Information on New Haven, Beinecke Library, MS 492 is from Barbara A. Shailor, Catalogue of Medi­eval and Renaissance Manu­scripts in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manu­script Library, Yale Uni­ver­sity, ii: MSS 251–500, Medi­e val and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 48 (Binghamton, NY: Center for Medi­eval and Early Renaissance Studies, 1987), pp. 471–75. 19  Shailor, Catalogue of Medi­eval and Renaissance Manu­scripts in the Beinecke Library, ii, 471–75. 20  See Mirour de Seinte Eglyse, ed. by Wilshere, ‘Introduction’, especially pp. x–xvii, where he discusses the texts found in the manu­scripts but makes little reference to New Haven, Beinecke Library, MS 492 (his A9). 21  Quoted in Shailor, Catalogue of Medi­eval and Renaissance Manu­scripts in the Beinecke Library, ii, 472. 22  Quoted in Shailor, Catalogue of Medi­eval and Renaissance Manu­scripts in the Beinecke Library, ii, 472. This could be a prayer for the donor, who could be ‘N’, and therefore probably a man (unless this just indicates ‘nomen’?). Wilshere does not include this material in his edition, presumably because it is not part of the text of the Mirour, although it is followed by the explicit, ‘E si est apele speculum Amicicie’.


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Younge post- or pre-date the Dissolution of the monasteries and so do not help with earlier provenance. Barbara Shailor suggests there is a ‘vital sentence’ in the chapter on contemplation that is ‘lacking in all other manu­scripts except Oxford, Bodl. Lib. Selden Supra 74’.23 MS Selden 74 is one of Wilshere’s ‘A’ texts that does not indicate female readership. There is no suggestion in the catalogue of what this sentence is, and Wilshere does not include it as a variant in his edition. H. W. Robbins, in his 1925 edition, however, included all variants to produce as complete a text as possible; he did not know the manu­script that is now MS Beinecke 492, but in his edition there is one phrase in the chapter on contemplation that he includes from MS Selden 74, which may be the sentence.24 I have indicated the extra phrase by showing it in italics; otherwise this text is from Wilshere’s edition: ‘La troverez vus si grant duçur e si grant priveyté ke nul saunz especiale grace nel poet penser ne en set fors celuy sulk e l’ad espruvé’ [‘There you will find a sweetness so great and such a great secret that no one without special grace can think nor understand it except he alone who has experienced it’];25 this is in keeping with this chapter, confirming the idea that one cannot achieve contemplation of God in himself without his grace, but does not add anything to the discussion of readership. London, British Library, MS Royal 20 B.xiv, although it contains a religious version of the Mirour apparently addressed to sisters, also has clear evidence of male, lay ownership of the manu­script. It also contains other texts found elsewhere in association with the Mirour, namely, the Manuel de pechies and the Chasteau d’amour, but the manu­script, dating from the early fourteenth century, belonged to John Colyford in 1361, and ‘later to the soldier-diplomat Lord Walter Hungerford (1368–1449), Steward of the Household to both Henry V and Henry VI’.26 Earlier, however, the text includes the imperative, ‘Veez ore ma 23 

Shailor, Catalogue of Medi­eval and Renaissance Manu­scripts in the Beinecke Library, ii, 472. New Haven, Beinecke Library, MS 492 was acquired for the Beinecke Library in 1960, having previously been in private hands; see Shailor, Catalogue of Medi­eval and Renaissance Manu­scripts in the Beinecke Library, ii, 475. 25  Mirour de Seinte Eglise, ed. by Wilshere, p. 84; Edmund of Abingdon, Le Merure de Seinte Eglise by Saint Edmund of Pontigny, an Early Example of Rhythmical Prose in the AngloNorman Dialect, from the Manu­scripts of Oxford, Cam­bridge, London, Durham, and Paris, ed. by H. W. Robbins (Lewisburg, PA: Robbins, 1925), p. 75; I have translated the sentence with reference to Helen Forshaw’s translation of the corresponding Latin in ‘New Light on the Speculum ecclesie of St Edmund of Abingdon’, p. 19. 26  Alexandra Barratt, ‘Spiritual Writings and Religious Instruction’, in The Cam­bridge His24 

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trecher soer cum uus avez grant mester de conisance de uus memes’ (fol. 54ra) [‘See now my dear sister how great a need you have of understanding yourself ’]. This could be explained by the belief, as expressed at the beginning of the text, that this was ‘un sermon petit’ [‘a little sermon’] written by ‘seinte Cesarie’ [‘St Césaire’] for his sister, and the reference to his sister is retained in copying, rather than because the text contained in this manu­script was intended to be read by a religious sister.27 Nevertheless, the text follows the quotation common to all versions, ‘Uidete uocacionem uestram’ [‘See your calling’], with the comment, ‘Ceo mos dit le apostre apertement a nus gent de Religiun’ (fol. 53rb–va) [‘These words spoken by the apostle appertain to us people/men of religion’]. It is, of course, possible that the manu­script belonged to a religious house prior to John Colyford’s acquisition of it. There are no similar personal references in the Speculum religiosorum; here the text reads, ‘Considera ergo et recogita quantum indigeas cognicione tui’ [‘Consider, therefore, and ponder how much you are in need of self-examination’]. The later Latin Speculum ecclesie, however, has a text more similar to the French, beginning, ‘Vide modo, frater carissime’ [‘Now see, most dear brother’].28 Of more interest to a discussion of nuns’ literacy is Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190, in which we find the reference to ‘dames religioses’. This manu­script is described by Ralph Hanna as containing preaching materials, tracts, and sermons, dating from the middle of the thirteenth century to the beginning of the fourteenth.29 It is a composite manu­script comprising five originally separate manu­scripts, probably bound together in the fifteenth century when the manu­script was at Westminster Abbey. These manu­script parts are ‘booklets’ in the sense that they were capable of circulation on their own and only bound together later, perhaps when they came to Westminster. The five manu­script parts themselves are composed of smaller booklets, again capable of separate circulation. tory of the Book in Britain, ii: 1100–1400, ed. by Nigel J. Morgan and Rodney M. Thomson (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2008), chap. 14, pp. 340–66 (pp. 352–53). 27  London, British Library, MS Royal 20 B.xiv, fol. 53ra. This is presumably a reference to Césaire d’Arles or Caesarius Arelatensis (d. 542) who wrote a Regula ad virgines for his sister Césarie, who became abbess of the convent that he founded near Arles. For editions and manu­ scripts of the Regula, see [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. 28  Speculum religiosorum, ed. by Forshaw, chap. 3.8, p. 36, l. 10 and chap. 3.8, p. 37, l. 12. 29  Ralph Hanna, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Western Medi­eval Manu­scripts of St John’s College Oxford (Oxford: Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press, 2002), pp. 271–77.


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There are three notes in Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190 as it now exists that provide some information about provenance. In the upper margin of fol. 1r there is a Latin inscription stating that the book was given to Richard Butler, rector of Aston le Walls in Northamptonshire, by Master Alban Butler in December 1607, the post-dissolution dating making it irrelevant for establishing whether it was read by nuns.30 Another inscription on fol. 1r suggests that the manu­script belonged to the church of St Peter at Westminster thanks to William of Hasele, who flourished around 1266; the third on fol. 312r is dated 1396 and mentions Thomas Arundel, archbishop of York, celebrating the feast of Pentecost at Westminster, and so confirms the association of part of the manu­script with Westminster, a house of Benedictine monks, at the end of the fourteenth century.31 Hanna insists that Hasele’s thirteenth-century book ‘can have included no more than the first three mss here’ and suggests that the rest of the manu­ script ‘must represent a Westminster preaching collection’ (for a full overview of the content, see Appendix).32 Edmund of Abingdon’s Mirour and the sermon by Thomas of Hales appear in the fifth manu­script, and, if Hanna is correct in his assessment, form part of a preaching collection for a house of Benedictine monks, although the Mirour is here titled ‘Sermon a dames religioses’. The association with Westminster is provided by the note dated 1396, which occurs at the end of the fifth manu­script part, on a final folio that may not originally have been bound with the texts that precede it. The hand of this section suggests an early fourteenth-century date; so it was originally written and compiled for an earlier (possibly female) readership and later given to Westminster. The material in this part looks like a preaching collection, with notes for sermons and lists of topics as well as fully copied sermons; this suggests use by an active preacher, maybe one who had responsibilities for a nunnery. If it were a personal collection, maybe it passed to Westminster after the death of its original owner.33 With booklets 4 to 9 the manu­script becomes ‘simply a sermon 30  Richard Butler was Rector of Aston le Walls from 1601 to 1612. See the Clergy of the Church of England Database [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. 31  I would like to thank Stewart Tiley, the librarian of St John’s College, who was not only accommodating when I visited to see the manu­script but subsequently was immensely helpful answering questions and sending photo­graphs. 32  Hanna, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Western Medi­eval Manu­scripts of St John’s College Oxford, p. 275. 33  The third booklet of this part, which is in at least three hands, contains French and Latin texts, the previous booklets being entirely in Latin. These are: an Anglo-Norman sermon by

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collection’,34 written in a variety of hands dating from the beginning of the fourteenth century. It is followed by the late fourteenth-century reference to Thomas Arundel on the following folio.35 The evidence of the composite manu­script as a whole is not easy to decipher: the dating not only of the hands and the ex libris notes, but also of the collation and arrangement of material is crucial to understanding the provenance of each section. In the fifth manu­script part (fols 129r–311v), it is only in the third booklet (fols 183r–214v), the one which contains the Mirour and Hales’s sermon, that we find material in French as well as Latin: the earlier booklets of this manu­script part are solely in Latin. Also in the third booklet is a ‘Sermo ad contemplativos’, and it looks as though, while it appears to be a preaching collection, this booklet, at least, was particularly appropriate for a contemplative audience.36 The contemplatives to whom the Latin sermon is addressed are masculine, although the Mirour is here, as we have seen, addressed to ‘dames religioses’. The items are not all written by the same scribe, but they are all in Thomas of Hales; a ‘Sermo ad contemplativos’ beginning ‘Filie ierusalem nunciate dilecto quia amore laugueo’; a ‘summa sermonis’; a series of three theological notes beginning ‘Memoria mercedis promisse’; the ‘Sermon a dames religioses’ from fol. 190rb to fol. 199rb, followed by a blank folio; then a piece ‘de assumpcione beate uirginis’; a ‘sermo de sancta cruce’; a piece beginning ‘Exultabit cor meum in domino cantabo’; finally a series of notes beginning ‘Quis dabit ex sion salutare Israel sion maria’. 34  Hanna, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Western Medi­eval Manu­scripts of St John’s College Oxford, p. 276. 35  Hanna notes that this folio, fol. 312, ‘the remains of a bifolium, its conjoint stub immediately preceding it, is blank’, except for the note referring to Thomas Arundel. See Hanna, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Western Medi­eval Manu­scripts of St John’s College Oxford, p. 271. It is followed by a final folio, fol. 313, which appears to have come from another manu­script and may have been a flyleaf (clarification from Stewart Tiley). 36  The ‘Sermo ad contemplativos’ (fols  185ra–188vb) starts ‘Filie ieurusalem nunciate dilecto quia amore langueo’ and is followed by a ‘summa sermonis’; ‘quia amore langueo’ [‘because I languish for love’] is from the Song of Songs and not an uncommon theme for sermons; see, for example, ‘Sermon S–07, Amore langueo’, in Siegfried Wenzel, Macaronic Sermons: Bilingualism and Preaching in Late-Medi­eval England, (Ann Arbor: Uni­ver­sity of Michigan Press, 1994), pp. 212–67, discussed by Cristina Maria Cervone in Poetics of the Incarnation: Middle English Writing and the Leap of Love (Philadelphia: Uni­ver­sity of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), p. 60. The ‘Sermon a dames religioses’ is at fols 190rb–199rb, the explicit is followed by an erased Latin theological inscription; fols 199v–200r are blank. There then follows a few sermons concluding with what appears to be a series of notes, ‘mainly symbolic referents for the Virgin rather than strictly a sermon’ and becoming increasingly random. See Hanna, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Western Medi­eval Manu­scripts of St John’s College Oxford, pp. 275–76.


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hands from the early fourteenth century. The note referring to Thomas Arundel is at the end of the fifth manu­script part, on fol. 312r; it was introduced later, and the folio on which it was written may have been added during binding. Is it possible that at least some of this manu­script was intended for a female religious readership or audience? Apart from the address to sisters in some versions of the text, there is nothing in the Mirour which is specific to female readers or which suggests feminine preoccupations; the sermons in the fifth manu­script part of Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190 appear to have a concern with the Virgin, but this does not necessarily indicate anything about the readership at a time when devotion to the Virgin was widespread. Hales’s sermon, however, is interesting; Legge published a transcription and observed that it is ‘hardly the work of a pulpit orator’, but rather seems as ‘a meditation on the Life of Christ in ten divisions’.37 It bears some resemblance to the series of meditations on the life of Christ recommended in the Mirour to be undertaken at the liturgical hours; Legge likens it to ‘the Merure of St Edmund’ in its ‘simplicity and sweetness’.38 Meditations on the life, passion, and resurrection of Christ, derived from the gospels, are to be undertaken at the canonical hours, providing a framework for a daily life of contemplation. This programme of meditation seems to be intended for private meditation, and it is possible that Hales’s sermon was also intended to be read and meditated upon privately. Hales’s affective writing and his authorship of the Love-Ron [‘Love Song’], a poem known to have been written for a female reader, makes it tempting to conclude that he habitually wrote with a female readership in mind, and that it was intended for a female audience.39 But this does not prove that Hales’s sermon, much less the ‘Sermon a dames religioses’ with which it appears in the manu­script under discussion, was written for an audience of nuns. Despite evidence from other parts and booklets of Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190, the internal evidence of the ‘Sermon a dames religioses’, however, does suggest female readership. Apart from the title, there are two references to ‘soers’ [‘sisters’] within the text. The first is in Chapter 4, on how one should come to a knowledge of oneself in body and soul: ‘Veez ore, ma trechere soer, come vus avez grant mester de la cunusance de vus meymes’ (4/28–29) [‘See 37 

M. Dominica Legge, ‘The Anglo-Norman Sermon of Thomas of Hales’, The Modern Language Review, 30 (1935), 212–18 (pp. 212–13). 38  Legge, ‘The Anglo-Norman Sermon of Thomas of Hales’, p. 213. 39  Sarah M. Horrall, ‘Thomas of Hales, O. F. M.: His Life and Works’, Traditio, 42 (1986), 287–98 (pp. 295–96).

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now, my dear sister, how you have great need of the knowledge of yourself ’];40 the ‘lay’ version has ‘beau frere’ (4/28–29, p. 9) [‘dear brother’] at this point. A Latin prayer, ‘Gratias tibi ago’, has inserted into it ‘me indignam ancillam’ [‘me the unworthy handmaiden’]; the Speculum religiosorum has ‘me miserum peccatorum’ (5/82–83, p. 14, fol. 191r) [‘me, miserable sinner’], while the later Speculum ecclesie has ‘indignum famulum tuum’ [‘your unworthy servant’], as do some versions of the lay French version.41 In Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190 a manicule, or hand with pointing finger, adorns the margin signalling this prayer: any reader would have her attention drawn to the female appellant.42 The fact that this text addresses a female reader does not, however, necessarily mean that it was written for a woman. Alexandra Barratt has pointed out that of the manu­scripts containing De institutione inclusarum, Aelred’s brief letter to his recluse sister (c. 1160), ‘not one belonged to a woman or a women’s religious house, even though the text is very obviously addressed to a woman’, and she notes Jocelyn Wogan-Browne’s comment about Anglo-Norman texts, that ‘manu­scripts and texts made for women were read by men’.43 Nevertheless, this is a translation that was deliberately converted not only from Latin to French but from addressing a male to addressing a female reader. It is, of course, possible that the text found in Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190 is an exact copy of a text intended for a female reader and here copied without concern for the gender of the reader; but it is also possible that this copy was made for a female reader and only later bound in a book that came to belong to a male house, and was therefore read by men. Nor does the presence of the lengthy chapter on the mystical approach to God himself preclude secular readership; that is, the presence of this chapter does not necessarily indicate that the manu­script must have belonged to a religious house. The possibility of lay readership seems particularly true in the case of London, British Library, MS Royal 12 C.xii. This manu­script is generally considered a trilingual ‘miscellany’,44 that is, ‘without a coherent or planned 40 

Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190, fol. 190v. Speculum religiosorum, ed. by Forshaw, chap. 4, p. 40, l. 21 and p. 41, l. 33. 42  Folio 191rb. There is also a manicule pointing at the other Latin prayer, beginning ‘In manus tuas’ which does not have any gendered references (fol. 191va). 43  Barratt, ‘Spiritual Writings and Religious Instruction’, p. 341. 44  John Scahill has pointed out that the term ‘miscellany’ is used differently by scholars, in ‘Trilingualism in Early Middle English Miscellanies: Languages and Literature’, The Yearbook of English Studies, 33 (2003), 18–32 (p. 18, and quoting Theo Stemmler at n. 2). 41 


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order of contents, or based on discernible principles of selection’.45 The presence of the Office for Thomas of Lancaster immediately preceding Edmund’s Mirour is of some interest: the cult of Thomas of Lancaster developed soon after his execution for rebellion in 1322; he ‘became the saintly focus for those opposed to Edward II and the Despenser regime’. 46 Thomas of Lancaster was often associated, in texts and images, with Thomas of Canterbury.47 St Edmund of Abingdon was also aligned with St Thomas of Canterbury (Thomas Becket) as defender of the Church against interference by the state, an alignment emphasized by Edmund’s burial at Pontigny, where Thomas of Canterbury had spent time in exile. The miscellaneous nature of the manu­script makes the understanding of its compilation from a number of booklets all the more important. London, British Library, MS Royal 12 C.xii was written and compiled over many years, and we must assume that the binding came late in its history to allow for this process of gradual additions. It was compiled, and largely copied, by the scribe known as ‘the Harley scribe’ as part of a personal project over many years; the Harley scribe is famous for London, British Library, MS Harley 2253, which contains a wide-ranging collection of texts in Latin, French, and English, religious and secular, including many secular lyrical poems.48 The unit in MS Royal 12 C.xii containing the Mirour is not, however, in the Harley scribe’s hand and is noticeably different from the other units, with an illuminated initial in blue and gold for the opening letter ‘E’ (fol. 17r), the only illumination in the manu­script, and there are red initials for the beginning of each 45 

Tony Hunt, ‘Vernacular Literature and its Readership 1: The Anglo-Norman Book’, in The Cam­bridge History of the Book in Britain, ii: 1100–1400, ed. by Nigel J. Morgan and Rodney M. Thomson (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, 2008), chap. 15, pp. 367–80 (p. 374). 46  John T. McQuillen, ‘Who was St Thomas of Lancaster? New Manu­script Evidence’, in Fourteenth Century England iv, ed. by J. S. Hamilton (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2006), pp. 1–25 (p. 1). 47  McQuillen, ‘St Thomas of Lancaster’, p. 23. 48  See The Harley Lyrics [ac­cessed 1 April 2017] for the text, manu­script photos, and translation of these lyrics, some of which combine lines in English and French or Latin and French. As Carter Revard has discussed, the Harley scribe was a secular cleric who ‘worked as a “conveyancer” producing legal charters in and near Ludlow in Shropshire from 1314 to at least 1349’ and who probably served as a parish chaplain in the Virgin’s Chapel in the parish church of St Bartholomew. See ‘Scribe and Provenance’, in Studies in the Harley Manu­script: The Scribes, Contents, and Social Contexts of British Library MS Harley 2253, ed. by Susanna Fein (Kalamazoo: Medi­eval Institute Publications, 2000), pp. 21–109 (pp. 21–22).

Anonymous Then, Invisible Now


item in the list of contents of the Mirour.49 The quality of the parchment is also different for this booklet, which consists of the Mirour and a ‘treatise on the mass giving subjects for contemplation during the celebration’, contemplation providing a connection between these items.50 The final para­graph of the treatise is inserted by a later hand, as though the text originally continued onto the next folio, the first of a new quire; this was maybe lost when the two remaining quires were removed from their former binding. This may suggest that these two quires were not intended as a booklet for independent circulation but were removed from a previous manu­script. While it is acknowledged that the unit within which the Mirour occurs was introduced into the manu­script by the compiler and may have had a ‘substantial independent existence’ prior to this compilation, the nature of this prior existence has not been investigated.51 There are footnotes at the bottom of some of the pages of the Mirour, linked by red lines and manicules to passages in the text, which are written in the Anglicana hand of the compiler.52 These manicules become less carefully drawn as the text continues, until there are just lines linking the text and the gloss. Nevertheless, they do continue through the text as guides to the contents, particularly pointing out passages for contemplation and prayer, including the meditations at the canonical hours. That the notes were inserted by the Harley scribe rather than a reader does not detract from the purpose or intention of the manu­script, although it does suggest that this regular meditation is to be undertaken by a lay or at least secular reader, depending on whether the scribe intended these notes for his own use or those of another reader. There is a drawing in red of the profile of a man in the margin of fol. 25v, against lines ascribed to St Augustine, ‘Pur ceo deuint deus home; pur fere home deu en sa nature’ 49 

The manu­script ‘consists of eight originally independent units, each containing from one to four quires’, Fouke Le Fitz Waryn, ed. by E. J. Hathaway and others, Anglo-Norman Texts, 26–28 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1975), p. xliv. 50  London, British Library, MS Royal 12 C.xii on ‘Manu­scripts of the West Midlands’, [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. 51  Jason O’Rourke suggests that London, British Library, MS Royal 12 C.xii was ‘a personal project that was worked upon in the compiler’s spare time’ and that ‘it would seem that the Harley scribe was collecting material both for his own use and for people whose interests he served’. See O’Rourke, ‘British Library MS Royal 12 C.xii and the Problems of Patronage’, pp. 220–21. 52  O’Rourke notes these ‘glosses’; see ‘British Library MS Royal 12 C.xii and the Problems of Patronage’, p. 218. He also comments on the ‘ordinary and businesslike’ Anglicana script of the compiler, p. 221.


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[‘So God became man; in order to make man God in his nature’]; we may have here visible the compiler, and glossator, complete with prominent nose and short beard, but the original readers remain anonymous and invisible.53 If London, British Library, MS Royal 12 C.xii is unable to provide us with evidence of nuns as readers, Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 123 has one great advantage for the present discussion over other manu­scripts discussed here: it is known to have belonged to an English nunnery. Although it only contains extracts of the Mirour, it is therefore worth considering this evidence of reading by nuns. The latter contains the ex libris of both Alicia Scheynton and of Margaret Sylemon, who has been identified with Margaret Seliman, prioress of Nuneaton convent between 1367 and 1386.54 At the time Nuneaton in Warwickshire was a cell of Fontevraud in France, and Hill associates Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 123 with ‘indoctrination in the rigid rule of Fontevraud’.55 There are two extracts from the Mirour in this manu­script, both of which contain the explanation of the Pater noster (Chapter 17 in the edited text; the second extract is item 8 in the manu­script, the last of the French texts). It concludes the discussion of the Pater noster with a description of how to pray and sing: ‘psallite sapienter, cest a dire chantez e verslez sagement’ [‘sing wisely, that is to say sing and chant wisely’] and then continues with part of Chapter 5 of the Mirour, on the kindness of Our Lord and how one should spend one’s time (‘De benefices Nostre Seynur, e coment hom deit despendre le tens’).56 Every day from first rising, ‘quant vus leuez de vostre lit al matyn ou a la mie nut’ (fol. 112ra) [‘when you rise from your bed in the morning or in the middle of the night’] is to be spent remembering God’s goodness and giving him thanks in the words of the prayer found in other 53 

This occurs in chap. 20, ‘De contemplacion de Deu meimes en sa humanité’, ll. 6–7 in Mirour de Seinte Eglyse, ed. by Wilshere, p. 56. Wilshere notes that ‘the ambiguity of the French springs from an awkward translation of the Augustinian original: ‘Ideo Deus factus est Homo, ut totum hominem [= “all mankind”] faceret ad suan naturam’ (p. 101). My thanks to Jocelyn Wogan-Browne for her help in translating this sentence, and her encouragement and support throughout the writing of this essay. 54  ‘Iste constat Alicia sscheynton et post eam conventu’ [‘This belongs to Alicia Scheynton and after her to the convent’] (on the first folio in a fifteenth-century hand); ‘Iste liber constat domine margarete Sylemon et discipulas suas. Et post mortem suam. conuentu de Nuneaton’ [‘This book belongs to lady Margaret Seliman and her pupils. And after her death to the convent of Nuneaton’]. 55  Hill, ‘A Manu­script from Nuneaton’, p. 200. 56  This is the title provided in the edition by Wilshere for this chapter (p. 10); it is not found in Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 123.

Anonymous Then, Invisible Now


complete copies of the Mirour: ‘Gratias tibi ago domine iesu christe qui me indignam ancillam tuam in hoc nocte custodisti’ (fol. 112va) [‘I give thanks to you, Lord Jesus Christ, who have watched over me your unworthy handmaiden through this night’]. Neither extract includes the meditative passages. It is perhaps interesting that, although the lengthy contemplative chapter is thought to indicate a religious readership, this chapter is not present in the one version known to have belonged to a nunnery, suggesting that the equation of female address plus contemplative chapter equals readership of nuns is overly simplistic. Nevertheless, the lives of the nuns of Nuneaton were dominated by a daily round of prayer. Although the manu­script evidence suggests that the Mirour was used by lay and secular readers, it retained its usefulness for vowed religious that was its original purpose. This manu­script, known as ‘The Nuneaton Book’, is of particular interest because of its illustrations of the Apocalypse and Bestiary; unfortunately many of those for the Apocalypse have been cut out, leaving only those that were still unfinished as ink sketches. David Bell comments on the importance of the mise en page, including images, for understanding the use of manu­scripts: devices are incorporated to attract the eye and lead the reader on from one section to another.57 The fact, however, that the illustrations in Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 123 were incomplete (there are sketches in the Bestiary and spaces left for illuminated initials) suggests that the text was more important than the illustrations for the readers of this book. We are drawn, however, to consider the relationship between the reader and the book as object, an object of devotion as well as the carrier of significant meaning. None of the copies of the Mirour I am examining was illustrated, but the use of illustrations in other manu­scripts designed for devout female readers does throw some light (some illumination one might say) onto the reading of the Mirour. In a recent paper, Alexa Sand argues that the meditations at the hours provided in the Mirour influenced the illustrations of the early-fourteenth century Ellesmere Psalter-Hours, which was prepared for an aristocratic female lay reader, and which pairs scenes from the passion with ones from the infancy and resurrection of Christ.58 This results, according to Sand, in ‘dramatic swings


Bell, ‘What Nuns Read: The State of the Question’, p. 130. A psalter combined with a later, incomplete Hours of the Passion and the Virgin. San Marino, Huntington Library, MS EL 9 H17 dates from between 1310 and 1325. See Alexa Sand, ‘Cele houre memes: An Eccentric English Psalter-Hours in the Huntington Library’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 75 (2012), 171–211 (p. 171). 58 


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between pathos and exultation’.59 Similar dramatic swings occur in the reading of the chapters of the Mirour to be meditated upon at the hours and which pair scenes from Jesus’s life with ones from his passion; in Chapter 21, to be read at matins, for example, the reader is to contemplate both the birth of Jesus and his arrest, brought about by his disciple Judas, both occurring in the depths of the night: this contrast heightens the emotional response of the reader to the incarnation of Christ, moving her towards the contemplation ‘en Deu meymes’ (20/3, p. 56) [‘of God himself ’], and the final step towards the vision of God, since ‘Contemplacion n’est autre chose mes vuhe de Deu’ (6/5–6, p. 16) [‘Contemplation is nothing but the sight of God’]. The contents of Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 123 are, as Hill states, ‘entirely of a moralising or meditative nature, and deal with individual spiritual welfare’.60 The book could also be an example of the kind of solitary penitential reading in the ‘feminized francophone literary culture of the twelfth to thirteenth centuries’ Jocelyn Wogan-Browne writes about in her discussion of the importance of understanding the relationship between the reader and text.61 She offers the Lambeth Apocalypse and ‘La Reule’, the French translation of Ancrene Wisse (a guidance text written originally in English probably in the 1220s for sisters who chose a reclusive life of penance and prayer), possibly made for Annora de Broase (c. 1190–after 1241), as examples of this kind of reading; Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 123 includes, in the Mirour, a translated guide not dissimilar to ‘La Reule’ and an Apocalypse, both requiring the kind of interaction with the book in reading and rereading, and in responding to the imagery, textual and painted, that Wogan-Browne discusses.62 59 

Sand, ‘Cele houre memes’, p. 194. Sand shows that the Queen Mary Psalter, now London, British Library, MS Royal 2 B.viii (see the entry at the British Library’s online catalogue ), also seems to have been influenced by the pairing of scenes found in the Mirour. Dating from 1310–20, the Queen Mary Psalter originally belonged to Isabelle de France (1295–1358), the wife of Edward II. It is fully illustrated, including eighty-seven half- or fullpage miniatures in colours and gold of the life of Christ; the illustrator of this psalter was also responsible for Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Fr. 13342, which contains a copy of the Mirour. 60  Hill, ‘A Manu­script from Nuneaton’, p. 195. 61  Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, ‘“Cest livre liseez … chescun jour”: Women and Reading’, in Language and Culture in Medi­eval Britain: The French of England, ed. by Jocelyn WoganBrowne and others (Woodbridge: York Medi­eval Press, 2009), pp. 239–53 (p. 239). 62  Wogan-Browne, ‘“Cest livre liseez … chescun jour”’, p. 249. My thanks to Catherine Innes-Parker for information on Annora de Braose.

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What I believe can be said is that the Mirour was considered worthy of study and regular reading. It was used by nuns at Nuneaton but the footnotes to the text in London, British Library, MS Royal 12 C.xii suggest it was being used by at least one later reader, possibly a lay man as the basis for daily meditations, regardless of whether the text appears to address a female religious reader or not. Edmund was indebted to the writings of Hugues de Saint-Victor (c. 1096–1141) but the longer chapter on mystical approach to God was not considered inappropriate for female readers.63 The translation into Anglo-Norman is not intended solely for a female readership incapable of reading Latin, since male readers used Anglo-Norman as well. Instead, the use of Anglo-Norman may be simply a product of its time or it may suggest class differences, but it offers nothing about gender or intended use of the text by religious or laity.64 A more general conclusion to be reached from this study of manu­scripts of the Mirour de seinte eglyse is that it is not sufficient to assume from a palaeo­ graphical study that all parts of a manu­script belonging to a male religious house were originally intended for that readership, or to conclude from a consideration of the text itself that a manu­script referring to sisters was read by sisters. This exploration of manu­scripts supposed to have been intended for a readership of nuns also suggests different ways of engaging with the text: as a physical object in a book that can be an aid to contemplation and penitence, the reader focusing on imagined scenes from the life and passion of Jesus, and as an aural experience if the audience heard it read aloud as a sermon. Edmund was aware that not everyone who might benefit from his Speculum would be able to read, and in the chapter on knowing the will of God in the scriptures, the French translation says, ‘quantk’est escrit poit ester dit’ [‘whatever is written can be said’].65 63 

Helen Forshaw describes it as ‘a skilful and devotional summa of Hugonian teaching on the life of meditation and contemplation’; see Forshaw, ‘St Edmund’s Speculum: A Classic of Victorine Spirituality’, p. 11. 64  ‘French, not English, is the vernacular medium in which religious works travel from one part of England to another’, see Nicholas Watson, ‘Lollardy: The Anglo-Norman Heresy’, in Language and Culture in Medi­eval Britain: The French of England, ed. by Jocelyn WoganBrowne and others (Woodbridge: York Medi­eval Press, 2009), pp. 334–46 (p. 336), and Legge, ‘The French Language and the English Cloister’, pp. 149–50. Watson and Wogan-Browne question assumptions of social superiority and cultural bastardization in Watson and WoganBrowne, ‘The French of England’. 65  Mirour de Seinte Eglyse, ed. by Wilshere, p. 22.


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None of the four complete extant French texts of the Mirour that address sisters have clear evidence of readership by religious sisters, or ownership by a nunnery, which leaves the question: at what stage of the translation history was the reference to ‘soer’ introduced, and who was the original intended reader? The nuns for whom this original translation of Edmund’s Speculum was made, and the nuns who may have read the copies extant in the manu­scripts discussed, may have been anonymous; as scholars we should not compound their nearinvisibility by ignoring the evidence of them as devotional and penitential readers. We need to take into account the full history of a given manu­script, and we need to consider readers not just as patrons or owners of manu­scripts but in their full engagement with books as ‘material carriers’ of the texts,66 as users hold them in their hands, read them, or hear them read out loud, gaze at the illustrations, and meditate on their contents.


The phrase is from Karin Littau, ‘First Steps towards a Media History of Translation’, Translation Studies, 4 (2011), 261–81.

Appendix: Contents of Oxford, St John’s College, MS 190:67 fols 129–150:

Booklet 1 (entirely in Latin)

fols 129ra–130vb: Sermo de dominica proxima ante aduentum fols 131ra–146rb: Robert Grosseteste, Sermon 32, De confessione (the remainder of the quire, to which subsequent texts were added, was originally blank)68 fols 151–182:

Booklet 2 (entirely in Latin)

fols 151ra–154va: Sermo de commemoracione animarum et generaliter ad penitentes fols 154va–155vb: Sermo in die cene fols 155vb–157rb: Sermo in assum(m)pcione Marie uirginis fols 157rb–164va: Sermo de omnibus sanctis et generaliter de pace69 fols 164va–168rb: Tractatus de decem preceptis decalogi 67  This description is based on Hanna, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Western Medi­eval Manu­scripts of St John’s College Oxford, pp. 273–76, and mostly follows his transcriptional method. 68  See Hanna, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Western Medi­eval Manu­scripts of St John’s College Oxford, p. 274, lists these two texts and notes that they are in contemporary hands. 69  Hanna, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Western Medi­eval Manu­scripts of St John’s College, p. 274, comments that this is more of a tract than a sermon.

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fols 168va–176ra: Incipit speculum amicie70 fols 177ra–180vb: Sermo de beatis apostolis Symone et Iuda fols 180vb–182rb: Sermo de beato Martino episcopo et confessore fols 183–214:

Booklet 3 (this booklet, in at least three hands, contains French and Latin texts)

fols 183ra–184vb: Thomas of Hales’s Sermon in Anglo-Norman fols 185ra–188vb: Sermo ad contemplatiuos, with a ‘summa sermonis’ (a diagram of the argument) on fols 188vb–189ra fols 189ra–189vb: A series of three theological notes in Latin fols 190rb–199rb: Sermon a dames religioses fols 199v–200r: Blank fols 200va–202ra: De assumpcione beate uirginis fols 202ra–207rb: I dominica post octab’ pasche fols 207rb–209ra: Sermo de sancta cruce fols 209ra–210vb: Dominica infra octab’ pasche fol. 211r:

‘Extultabit cor meum in domino cantabo […]’

fols 211v–213v:

‘Quis dabit ex sion salutare Israel […]’

fol. 214rv: Blank fols 215–311:


Booklets 4–971

This is not Edmund’s Mirour, although it does have this title elsewhere. Hanna, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Western Medi­eval Manu­scripts of St John’s College, concludes here that ‘at this point, the MS becomes simply a sermon collection written in a variety of textura and anglicana hands, s. xiv in […]. The sermons appear to form a set, those of Booklet 6 uniquely include English’ (p. 276). 71 

Translation and Reform: Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist and the Nuns of Montmartre Catherine Innes-Parker


he works of St  Bonaventura (1217–74) were unquestionably among the most influential spiritual writings of the late Middle Ages, both in their original Latin and in multiple vernacular versions. Nevertheless, his meditation upon the life of Christ, the Lignum vitae [Tree of Life], has been largely neglected by the scholarly world. Yet, the Lignum vitae circulated throughout Europe in Latin, surviving in over 185 manu­scripts.1 It was illustrated in manu­scripts and on frescoes, and was translated into all the major European vernaculars, including Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish, and probably Italian.2 The original Latin work was addressed to an audience of 1 

Patrick F. O’Connell, ‘The Lignum vitae of Saint Bonaventure and the Medi­eval Devotional Tradition’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Fordham Uni­ver­sity, 1985), p. iii n. 1. O’Connell’s dissertation discusses the circulation and influence of the Latin text and its context within late medi­eval devotional writing. 2  For a summary of the vernacular translations, see Catherine Innes-Parker, ‘Bonaventure’s Lignum vitae: The Evolution of a Text’, in The Pseudo-Bonaventuran Lives of Christ: Exploring the Middle English Tradition, ed. by Ian Johnson and Allan Westphall, Medi­e val Church Studies, 24 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 425–56. For the Dutch, see Eefje Bosmans, ‘De Middelnederlandse vertalingen van Bonaventura’s Lignum vitae’, Ons Geestelijk Erf, 80 (2009), 21–47, and Eefje Bosmans ‘Petrus Naghel (†1395): receptie en invloed van zijn vertalingen’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Universiteit Leuven, 2010). For the Middle English, all edited by Catherine Innes-Parker, see ‘Þe passioun of our lord: A Middle English Adaptation of Bonaventure’s Lignum vitae in St. John’s College, Cam­bridge, MS G.20’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 43 (2007), 199–206; ‘Þe passioun of our lord [Parts v–viii]: Edited from St. John’s College, Cam­bridge, MS G.20’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 43 (2007), 207–22; ‘Þe passioun of our lord [Parts ix–xii]: Edited from St. John’s College, Cam­bridge, MS G.20’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 44 (2008), 1–11; ‘Þe passioun of our lord: Prologue and Branches i–iv, Sections 1–16: Edited from St. John’s College, Cam­bridge, MS G.20’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 44 (2008), 276–94. For the French, see Ephrem Longpré, ‘Le Catherine Innes-Parker ([email protected]) is a Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Prince Edward Island.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 273–296 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS




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Franciscan friars, whom Bonaventura expected to be familiar with not only the gospel story but also the complex theology behind the sophisticated terminology of the text.3 The vernacular versions, however, were addressed to various audiences, both lay and religious. Of particular interest to the study of nuns’ literacies is the fifteenth-century prose translation into French, Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist [The Book of the Tree of the Cross of Jesus Christ], albeit probably the work of a male translator as most translations from Latin to French are by men, and there is no evidence to the contrary here. The text survives in two manu­scripts: the earliest is Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Additional B.6 (hereafter MS Additional B.6), copied in France in the mid-fifteenth century. A second version, Le Livre de larbre de la croys Jhesu crist, composé par sainct Bonaventure [The Book of the Tree of the Cross of Jesus Christ, composed by St Bonaventure], is found in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Fr. 19548 (hereafter MS 19548); this can be traced to Paris in the early sixteenth century. The two versions are different enough to suggest that they were not copied from the same exemplar. Internal evidence implies that both were copied for a community of nuns or monks. While there is no indication of the provenance of MS Additional B.6, evidence from MS 19548 shows that this copy, at least, was owned by nuns.4 The last flyleaf contains the names of several nuns in different hands (presumably indicating ownership), all dating to the sixteenth century; none can be reliably identified, with the notable exception of one, Antoinette Auger, abbess of the Fontevraudian monastery of Montmartre 1519–26 and again 1532–39.5 “Lignum vitae de S. Bonaventure”: sa plus ancienne traduction français’, Archivum Franciscanum Historicum, 26 (1922), 552–56. For the German versions, see Kurt Ruh, Bonaventura Deutsch: ein Beitrag zur Deutschen Franziskaner-Mystik und -Scholastik (Bern: Francke, 1956), pp. 159–72. For the Spanish, see Obras de San Buenaventura: Edicion Bilingüe, ed. by Leon Amoros, Bernardo Aperribay, and Miguel Oromi, 2 vols (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1945), ii, 69, especially the Introduction, ii, 280–353. 3  For the Latin text, see S. Bonaventurae: Opera omnia, ed. by Collegium a S. Bona­ventura, 10 vols (Quaracchi: Ad Claras Aquas, 1882–1902), viii (1898), from which all the quotations here derive; for a modern English translation, see Bonaventura, The Soul’s Journey into God, The Tree of Life, The Life of St. Francis, trans. by Ewert Cousins, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978), which is used here. 4  It is clear that both manu­scripts are translated for a communal audience, and it is likely that both were directed at nuns, but the internal evidence of the Paris text reinforces the external evidence of nuns’ ownership, and for this reason I shall concentrate on MS 19548 in this essay. 5  Antoinette’s name is spelt alternatively Auger or Augier. For consistency’s sake I will use Auger throughout.

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MS 19548 contains three translations of Latin texts into French: Règle de S. Benoît, traduction français faite par l’ordre d’Estienne Poncher, évêque de Paris, avec les ‘Ordonnances des Frères’ [Rule of St Benedict, French Translation Made by the Order of Étienne Poncher, Bishop of Paris, with the ‘Regulations of the Brothers’] (1505);6 Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist (fifteenth century); and La Discipline claustrale (a translation of the De disciplina claustralis) by Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471).7 Both the provenance and the contents of MS 19548 connect it to the Fontevraudian Reform of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. In what follows I will discuss the context of the manu­ script in the Fontevraudian Reform; then I will move on to what we know of the life of Antoinette Auger and her role in the Reform of Montmartre. I will then address the ways in which the contents of MS 19548 are suitable for readers such as Antoinette Auger and the nuns of Montmartre, in particular focusing on the ways in which the translation of Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist has subtly altered the Latin text in order to make it suitable for an audience of enclosed nuns. Finally, I will address the question of what the study of this manu­script and text suggests about the literacies and reading practices of the nuns of Montmartre in the early sixteenth century. The inclusion of the translation of the Rule of St Benedict attributed to Étienne Poncher (1446/47–1524/25) in MS 19548, sets the provenance of the manu­script firmly within the context of the Fontevraudian Reform. While Poncher has received almost universal credit for the translation of this version of the Benedictine Rule, Jean de Viguerie has identified it as ‘la règle de Marie de Bretagne’ or ‘les statuts de Marie de Bretagne’, that is, the Rule of Marie de Bretagne, which is the Rule of St Benedict revised with reference to the Rules of Robert d’Arbrissel and St Augustine for the nuns of Fontevraud (near Chinon, Anjou)8 in 1474 in order to institute Reform.9 Marie de Bretagne 6  Although this Rule is dated to 1505 in the catalogue, it seems to have been underway as early as 1503. See below. 7  H. Omont and others, Bibliothèque nationale de France: catalogue général des manuscrits français, 8 vols (Paris: Leroux, 1868–1902), iii (1900): Nos 18677–20064 de fonds français, p. 348. 8  See also Bruce L. Venarde, ‘Making History at Fontevraud: Abbess Petronilla de Chemillé and Practical Literacy’, in Nuns’ Literacies in Medi­eval Europe: The Hull Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, Medi­eval Women: Texts and Contexts, 26 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 19–31. 9  Jean de Viguerie, ‘La Réforme de Fontevraud, de la fin du xve siècle à la fin des guerres de religion’, Revue d’histoire de l’Église de France, 65 (1979), 107–17 (p. 116).


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(1424–77), the sister of François II, duke of Bretagne, and cousin to King Louis XII (1462–1515), was abbess of Fontevraud from 1457–77, and there instituted the Fontevraudian Reform that spread through the Order from the late fifteenth to the early sixteenth centuries.10 Power suggests that Poncher revised the Rule of Marie de Bretagne and incorporated some revisions by Jean Simon de Champigny (d. 1502), Poncher’s predecessor as bishop of Paris,11 and then passed his revised Rule on to other Fontevraudian convents. The story of the Fontevraudian Reform is, in fact, more complex. It was carried out through the actions of the royal abbesses of Fontevraud, including Anne d’Orléans (1477–91) and Renée de Bourbon (1491–1534). Each convent was reformed by a different process, some at the instigation of the nuns, others apparently unwillingly.12 The most important, for our purposes, is the convent of Chelles (Seine-et-Marne). After much dissent and corruption, ‘in 1499, it shifted from election of a life abbess to triennial elections. In 1504, the sisters vowed claustration and accepted a new set of statutes from the bishop while appealing to Renée de Bourbon for nuns from Fontevraud to put the Reform into operation’.13 The 1499 Reforms were enacted under Bishop Jean Simon de Champigny, and the new statutes must have been a version of Poncher’s revised Rule; at this point Chelles seems to have come under the aegis of the Order of Fontevraud, although it maintained its connection with the Benedictines. Poncher’s Rule was circulated widely, because, as noted by Jo Ann McNamara, ‘Chelles sent nuns to reform Montmartre (Paris), Jouarre (Seine-et-Marne), Gif (Val-de-Gif ), Malnouë (Emairanville, Seine-et-Marne), and Vale de Grâce (Paris)’, all of which fell under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Paris, and others.14 Poncher was involved in reformist ideals from an early age. He served in various diplomatic functions under Louis XII and François I (1494–1547), who employed him in a number of important negotiations.15 He was an early 10 

Fontevraud was a royal abbey, whose abbesses were generally drawn from members of the French royal family. 11  Eileen Power, Medi­eval English Nunneries, c. 1275–1535 (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ ver­sity Press, 1922; repr. 2010), p. 345. 12  See Jo Ann Kay McNamara, Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns through Two Millenia (Boston: Harvard Uni­ver­sity Press, 1996), pp. 414–15. 13  McNamara, Sisters in Arms, p. 416. 14  McNamara, Sisters in Arms, p. 416. 15  See Bio­graphie universelle ancienne et moderne: histoire par ordre alphabétique de la vie publique et privée de tous les hommes avec la collaboration de plus de 300 savants et littérateurs français ou étrangers, ed. by Louis-Gabriel Michaud, 2nd edn (Paris: Madame C. Desplaces,

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disciple of Lefèvre d’Étaples (c. 1455–1536), an early reformist and precursor of the Protestant movement in France, as were Guillaume Farel (1489–1565), Gérard Roussel (1500–50), Guillaume Cop (d.  1532), Josse van Clichtov (d. 1543), and Michel d’Arande (d. 1539). This group of intellectuals were supported by Marguerite d’Angoulême, queen of Navarre (1492–1549), sister of François I, against the Sorbonne.16 Nevertheless, while Poncher was an advocate of Reform among the Fontevraudian double communities, amongst others, he was also a steadfast opponent of Lutheranism, dedicated to reform from within the Church.17 After eighteen years at court, Poncher became bishop of Paris in 1503, although this office did not keep him away from his active diplomatic career.18 He seems to have begun his work of Reform almost immediately; as noted above, in 1504 he prepared statutes for the Reform of Montmartre, Chelles, and Malnouë; these are the statutes of the Rule found in MS 19548.19 Under 1843–65). Poncher’s membership in this intellectual circle shows his commitment to reform from within the Church. Poncher’s career, as well as his commitment to reform, was in a large part influenced by and reliant upon such royal patronage. 16  Antoine Dégert, ‘Huguenots’, in The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church, ed. by Charles G. Herbermann and others, 15 vols (New York: Appleton, 1907–12), vii (1910), 31; available online at the Catholic Encyclopedia Online [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. 17  See Desiderius Erasmus, Collected Works of Erasmus, lxxii: Controversies, ed. by Jane E. Phillips, trans. by Erika Rumme (Toronto: Uni­ver­sity of Toronto Press, 2005), p. 9. For a detailed description of Poncher’s career, see Monique-Cecile Garand, ‘La carrière religieuse et politique d’Etienne Poncher, évêque de Paris (1513–1519)’, Huitième centenaire de NotreDame de Paris (congrès des 30 mai–3 juin 1964): recueil de travaux sur l’histoire de la cathédrale et de l’église de Paris (Paris: Vrin, 1967), pp. 291–343; Jean de Pins, Letter and Letter Fragments, ed. by Jan Pendergrass, Travaux d’humanisme et renaissance, 433 (Genève: Droz, 2007), p. 73 n. 1 ; Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, ed. by John McClintock and James Strong, 12 vols (New York: Harper, 1880–87; repr. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2001), viii, (2001), 392. 18  Frederic J. Baumgartner, Louis XII (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1994), p. 89. See also Bernard Plongeron, and others (eds), La Diocèse de Paris, i: Des origines à la Révolution, Histoire des diocèses de France, 20 (Paris: Beauchesne, 1987), p. 264. In 1512 Louis XII appointed Poncher as chancellor of France. Following his term as bishop of Paris, Poncher was bishop of Sens from 1519 until his death in 1524/25. Throughout his episcopal career he continued to travel for his monarch(s) in various ambassadorial roles, including, famously, a trip to the English court of Henry VIII in 1518. 19  L.-A. Bertrand, Les Dames de Montmartre: ordre chronologique des abbesses de la communauté des Dames de Montmartre (Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Philo­


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its twenty-sixth abbess, Marguerite Langlois (1481–1503), Montmartre was in a state of material and moral decay. There is a long list of abuses: nuns refusing claustration, inequality of wealth and possessions, and so forth; the convents reformed in this period all shared a sense of moral and spiritual turpitude along with financial struggle, in the wake of the Hundred Years War. In 1492 Jean Simon de Champigny, Poncher’s predecessor, had intervened to re-establish discipline and begin the Reform of the convent, which was left to Poncher to complete. Dumolin notes: Les statuts dressés par [Poncher] en 1503 et approuvés, en février 1504, par Georges d’Amboise, archevêque de Rouen et légat du Saint-Siège, rappelèrent les moniales à l’observation stricte des règles anciennes et y ajoutèrent deux innovations importantes: l’élection triennale des abbesses et la création d’un visiteur.20 [The statutes drawn up by [Poncher] in 1503 and approved, in February 1504, by Georges d’Amboise, archbishop of Rouen and Legate of Saint-Siège, recalled the nuns to the strict observation of the old rules and added to them two important innovations: the triennial election of abbesses and the creation of a ‘visitor’.]

A ‘visitor’ was assigned by the bishop to visit the convent and assess its adherence to the rules and statutes governing the nuns; visitors were often abbesses of convents whose members had adhered to the requirements of the Reform. The institution of ‘visitors’ appears to have been adhered to, although the triennial election of abbesses seems to have been rarely followed. In 1503, upon the death of Marguerite Langlois, Poncher used the power of commenda to overturn the election of the abbess of Montmartre and appointed Marie Cornu (d. 1519), originally from Fontevraud, to assume the office.21 With sophie, histoire, sciences de l’homme, 8–LK7–31242), an extract from Le vieux Montmartre: société d’histoire et d’archéologie du xviiie arrondissement (a journal dated 1895–96), online at [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. 20  Maurice Dumolin, ‘Notes sur l’abbaye de Montmartre, Chapitre i: histoire générale de l’abbaye’, Bulletin de la société de l’histoire de Paris et de l’Ile de France, 58 (1931), 145–238 (p. 178). 21  Commenda was traditionally a royal prerogative used by the French royal family in order to place abbots and abbesses of their choice in monasteries and convents, and seems to have been assumed by Poncher under royal patronage. It was a controversial practice, overturned (at least in theory) by the institution of the triennial election of abbesses. Ironically, Poncher (and the royal family) ignored this detail of his reformed statutes, using commenda to expel abbesses of corrupt institutions and impose reform. For example, Anne d’Orléans, sister of the future Louis XII, who succeeded Marie de Bretagne, ‘used the royal power of commenda to become abbess of Sainte-Croix with the intention of imposing Marie’s reform there’, while

Translation and Reform


Marie were other nuns from Fontevraud sent to institute Reform at Montmartre, as had been done in other convents of the Fontevraudian Order in France. Marie’s reforms seem to have met with some success. In 1510 she returned to Chelles to continue the Reform there; from Chelles she went to Faremoutiersen-Brie (Ile de France, Seine-et-Marne), where she died as abbess.22 Marie Cornu was succeeded by Martine du Moulin (d. 1535), also from Chelles, who was abbess from 1510 until 1515.23 In the abbey records it is noted that during Martine’s abbacy there was also a community of men, ‘les religieux de Montmartre’, made up of priests and ‘freres converses’, indicating that, like Fontevraud and Chelles, the priors of Montmartre were subject to the abbesses.24 Martine du Moulin was succeeded in 1515 by Claude Mahielle, who died in 1518, and once again Poncher intervened to appoint Antoinette Auger as abbess.25 Antoinette remained until 1526, when she was succeeded simultaneously abbess of Fontevraud. McNamara points out that ‘this act of gross pluralism and its attendant chronic absenteeism hopelessly mixed the twin streams of reform and corruption’ (McNamara, Sisters in Arms, p. 414). Anne’s appointment was not uncontested, but she stubbornly maintained her position. However, following Anne’s death, the Fontevraudian Reform burgeoned under Renée de Bourbon. It was under Renée’s tenure that the Reform discussed below took place. See McNamara, Sisters in Arms, pp. 415–17. 22  Dumolin, ‘Notes sur l’abbaye de Montmartre’, p. 179. It is unclear when the Reform of Chelles began, or what the relationship between the Reforms at Chelles and Montmartre was. McNamara suggests that Reform began at Chelles in 1504, and that it sent nuns to reform Montmartre, Gif, and other convents (Sisters in Arms, p. 416). Bertrand, Les Dames de Montmartre, suggests that Marie Cornu was abbess at Chelles before she went to Montmartre, yet she is not on the list of abbesses at Chelles before 1510; see Claude-Hyacinthe Berthault, L’Abbaye de Chelles (Paris: Lechavalier, 1889), p. x. Yet Charmarie Blaisdell dates the Reform of Chelles and Gif to 1513 (although this may be an error for 1503). Blaisdell discusses the Reform of Yerres, introduced by Poncher under pressure from Queen Claude and Marguerite d’Angoulême, in some detail; see Charmarie Blaisdell, ‘Religion, Gender, and Class: Nuns and Authority in Early Modern France’, in Changing Identities in Early Modern France, ed. by Michael Wolfe (Durham, NC: Duke Uni­ver­sity Press, 1996), pp. 147–68 (pp. 152 and following). 23  Dumolin, ‘Notes sur l’abbaye de Montmartre’, p. 179. 24  Bertrand, Les Dames de Montmartre, pp. 157–58. In 1534 Antoinette Auger gave ‘frère’ Florentin Marchand, ‘religieux de Montmartre’, permission to go to Notre Dame in Paris to receive ordination as a priest, showing that the abbess of Montmartre ruled over both the male and female members of the community. Bertrand also notes that by 1598, when Marie de Beauvilliers became abbess, there was only one male religious left. 25  Although Bertrand suggests that she was elected by the community in 1519, the fact that Antoinette Auger was simultaneously abbess of Gif and Montmartre from 1518 to 1526 suggests that Poncher’s appointment influenced the election. The use of simultaneous appointments was among the practices that, along with commenda, were protested by reformers — it is


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by Catherine de Charran. However, Antoinette Auger was re-elected abbess in 1532 and remained in that post until her death in 1539.26 Antoinette Auger is a fascinating character, and one about whom we know more than most non-royal French abbesses of the time. She was professed at Chelles in 1502. When Reform was introduced, she appears to have taken it to heart, and in 1517 she was appointed abbess of Gif and charged with its Reform. The Reformation of Gif was mandated in 1513–14, under a royal court order to be carried out by Poncher. Blaisdell notes that ‘following this, the community elected a series of capable abbesses who improved the fiscal management of convent property, reestablished cloister, encouraged the renewal of vows, and permitted the bishop’s annual visitation’.27 Antoinette Auger was likely the first of these. According to the history of Gif, Antoinette transformed the convent within several months. She introduced Etienne Poncher’s revised Benedictine Rule, and following her Reform the profession of nuns at Gif included the promise to follow this version of the Rule.28 She seems to have been abbess simultaneously of Gif and Montmartre 1518–26, when she returned to Gif where she continued as abbess until 1527. In 1532 she returned to Montmartre and remained there as abbess until her death in 1539 or 1540.29 As noted above, Antoinette Auger was one of the owners of MS 19548, perhaps the first owner (and possibly its commissioner) as the inscription of her name is more formal than the others in the manu­script — it is centred on ironic that much of the Fontevraudian Reform was effected under the aegis of these abuses (for example, Anne d’Orléans used commenda to become abbess simultaneously of Fontevraud and Sainte-Croix; see note 21 above). It is, however, consistent with other aspects of the Reform, including the fact that lifetime appointments of abbesses were, in theory, replaced by three-year terms, yet the dates of many abbesses under the Fontevraudian Reform suggest that the threeyear term was not normative. 26  See also Bertrand, Les Dames de Montmartre, p. 158. Bertrand notes that she was visited by Iñigo López de Loyola (Ignacio de Loyola) on 15 August 1534; in fact, this was more than a ‘visit’, as Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and his early followers took their first vows in the crypt at the monastery of Montmartre. 27  Blaisdell, ‘Religion, Gender, and Class’, p. 153. 28  J. M. Alliot, Histoire de l’abbaye et des religieuses bénédictines de Notre-Dame du Val de Gif (au diocèse actuel de Versailles) (Paris: Picard, 1892). For a summary of changes to the Rule, see p. 98 and following. For Auger’s reforms, see p. 102 and following. 29  D.-J.-F. Chéronnet, Histoire de Montmartre (Paris: Breteau & Pichery, 1843), pp. 109–10; Alliot, Histoire de l’abbaye et des religieuses bénédictines, chap. 10, pp. 96–106. See Dumolin, ‘Notes sur l’abbaye de Montmartre’, pp. 179–80, for a list of Montmartre’s assets during Auger’s second term as abbess.

Translation and Reform


the page in a formal book hand, whereas the others are merely written in cursive script (which is difficult to decipher) on blank folios. On the final folio, fol.  246r (originally blank), several hands (numbered here in the order in which they appear in the manu­script) are inscribed as follows: ‘a seur geneuiefe Roullanct’ [‘to Sister Genevieve Roullanct’] (Hand 1); ‘Se p’resant liure est a vous ma seur gautier pries dieu pour moy & pour selles [set le’r] qui vous la donne’ [‘This book is for you my sister Gauthier. Pray God for me and for the one who gives it to you’] (Hand 2); ‘Carite ne faust iamais & bon Coeur aymera iamais aymes ester inconue innutle estimes des ho[m]me nester point veue et de dieu seres ayme anthoinette gaultier’ [‘Love never fails, and a loving heart will never be unknown to love. The unnecessary esteem of men is not at all strong [timely, appropriate] and Antoinette Gauthier will be loved by God’] (Hand 3, possibly the same as Hand 2).30 Folio 249r is inscribed ‘S[e] present liure es a moy seur Maude de grasset es luy a donne sa bonne mos [resse?] maniere iaqueline lemartine ie prie a dieu quj luy donne bonne vie & longue’ [‘This book belongs to me, sister Maude de Grassett and to her is given its good words [?] Jaqueline Lemartine. I pray to God that he will give her a good and long life’] (Hand 4). On the end pastedown in a very tiny script, which is possibly that of Antoinette Auger, is written: ‘Pour sieur magdalanna auger on par sa bonne mura est [?] faict nostra tres reuerante mura abbassa on mon martir [&?] sieur anthonnesta auger’ [‘To Sister Magdalanna Auger upon her good enclosure, by our very reverently enclosed abbess of Montmartre, Sister Antoinette Auger’] (Hand 5).31 On the same end pastedown, as well as the inscription by Antoinette Auger, is written: ‘I sa seur annaleco? [lacroix?]’ (Hand 6); ‘Jehus …’ [the rest is not legible] (Hand 7). Antoinette’s inscription suggests that she made a gift of the manu­script to a relative who was professed at Montmartre during her tenure as abbess there. The manu­script may have been prepared specifically for this occasion, or it may have belonged to Antoinette Auger during her abbacy at Gif. Given its content and dates, this manu­script has much to tell us of the Counter-Reformation in France and, particularly, the Fontevraudian Reform under Poncher. The revised Règle de S. Benoît and Les Ordonnances des frères (here presented as a single text) is an obvious choice for an abbess 30 

Folios 246v–248v are blank. The meaning of ‘faict’ here is ambiguous: it could mean ‘accomplished’ or ‘done’, referring to Magdalanna’s enclosure as implied in the translation above; it could mean ‘made’, implying that Antoinette Auger had the manu­script copied specifically for this occasion; or it could mean ‘given’, implying that Antoinette had owned the manu­script before and gifted it to Magdalanna upon this occasion. 31 


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whose mandate includes the Reform of a Fontevraudian double monastery. La Discipline claustrale, intended for beginners in the monastic life, would also be useful for an abbess guiding her nuns, or for a nun reading the manu­script for herself. Both these texts instruct the reader in the ways of the enclosed life. However, Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist, found at the centre of the manu­script, between these two introductory texts, is a much more sophisticated text. Translated from Bonaventura’s Lignum vitae, this text provides a window into the devotional life of its readers. Furthermore, a careful examination of the translator’s practice reveals his assumptions about his readers and their world. In describing the duties and qualifications of the abbesses of Chelles, where Antoinette Auger was professed, Berthault describes Étienne Poncher’s opinion as follows: ‘En matière spirituelle, elle est tenue, dit Etienne Poncher, pour lieutenante et vicaire de Jésus-Christ, elle exerce les fonctions d’un évêque, elle en a presque toutes les attributions et même l’attribut qui est la crosse’ [‘In spiritual matters, she is enlisted, says Etienne Poncher, as lieutenant and vicar of Jesus Christ; she exercises the functions of a bishop; she has nearly all his attributes, and even the attribute that is the cross’].32 For an abbess whose most important trait is defined as the attribute of the cross, the value of Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist cannot be overstated, as its opening lines propose: Le vray et bon disciple de ihesucrist quj desire a soy perfectement conformer et transfiguerer au saulueur de tous quj pour racheter lhumain lignage a recue mort et passion en la croys doit principallement metre paigne et soy efforcer de porter continuellement tant en corps comme en penssee le croys de ihesucrist, affins quil puisse vrayement dire avecquesz lapostre, Je suis en la croys fiche avec | quez ­ihesucrist. Certez nul ne peult experimenter le sens de ses parollez et la vertu sinon celuy quj a tousiours remembrence de la passion de ihesucrist et qui considere soingneuse­ment et en grant ferueur de cherite la paigne quil a souffert pour luy et lamoure dont il a ayme. (fol. 136r–v)33 [The good and true disciple of Jesus Christ who desires to conform perfectly and transfigure himself to the saviour of all who, in order to redeem humankind 32 

Berthault, L’Abbaye de Chelles, p. viii. All quotations from the text are taken from Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Fr. 19548. I have silently expanded contractions. Unless otherwise noted, all translations in this essay are my own. The manu­script has very little punctuation; I have updated it in the translation but have tried to stay as close as possible to the manu­script in the transcription; I have also used the capitalization that is in the manu­script as closely as possible. 33 

Translation and Reform


endured death and passion on the cross, ought first to take care and endeavour to carry continually, both in body and in mind, the cross of Jesus Christ, so that he can truly say with the apostle, ‘I am hung on the cross with | Jesus Christ’. Certainly, no one can understand the meaning and virtue of these words except one who always has mindfulness of the passion of Jesus Christ, and who carefully and with great fervour of charity reflects upon the pain which Christ suffered for him, and the love with which Christ loved him.]

Yet, the contents would have been equally suitable for a newly professed nun, vowed to follow Poncher’s Rule, and needing guidance both in the discipline of her enclosed life and the meditation that would characterize her devotions. The inclusion of Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist, then, seems most appropriate to both the functions of the abbess, and the more mystical side of the nuns’ devotions. While originally translated in the fifteenth century, the inclusion of the French prose translation of Bonaventura’s Lignum vitae in MS 19548 reinforces the internal evidence that the translation was originally made for a conventual audience, and its relevance to such an audience is confirmed by a close reading of the text. Blaisdell notes that few French nuns knew Latin, giving the fact of translation some urgency.34 The frequency of translations of devotional literature from Latin to French in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries suggests a wide audience for such texts. Translators such as David Aubert (working at the Burgundian court in the fifteenth century) and Jean Gerson (active in Paris during the fifteenth century) were commissioned by both lay and religious patrons, showing that in France, like England, religious women and the laity of both sexes shared a common interest in vernacular devotional texts. Gerson and Aubert, in particular, addressed many of their translations to royalty and the nobility. However, with the emergence of the Counter-Reformation in general and, for the purposes of this essay, the Fontevraudian Reform in particular, the need for carefully regulated texts to assist in the reform of the Church from within became acute, particularly for nuns such as those in Fontevraudian convents who were generally drawn from royal or noble families and who did not have a Latin education. Marie de Bretagne’s Rule was written and promulgated in French, and both of the manu­scripts in which Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist survives contain translations of other devotional texts.35 34 

Blaisdell, ‘Religion, Gender, and Class’, p. 156. MS 19548, as noted above, also contains La Discipline claustrale; MS Additional B.6 contains French translations of meditations based on Augustine’s Soliloquia. 35 


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The translator of Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist takes the opportunity to adapt the text for a specific audience. While he generally stays very close to the Latin, following Bonaventura in both structure and content, the subtle changes made to the French text, as outlined below, make clear that the author is acutely aware of the difference between his audience of devotionally literate nuns and the sophisticated Franciscan friars who were Bonaventura’s original audience.36 He does not expect the same degree of theological sophistication as Bonaventura does, nor does he expect his readers to have a Latinate education; yet he does expect devotional literacy, especially in the affective ways of the Devotio moderna, which characterized devotional literature and practice in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. In particular, the translator introduces small changes to make the text more affective, often adding descriptors such as ‘beloved’ or ‘precious’ to Bonaventura’s simple references to Christ. The French translator is also aware that not all in his audience will read the text in private or with the kind of withdrawal into the chamber of the heart that characterizes mystical experience. He addresses the text to those who ‘liront ou orront’ (fol. 137r) [‘will either read or hear it’]. This does not necessarily suggest that some members of the audience are illiterate; it may, indeed, simply reflect the conventual practice of reading aloud at meals or in Chapter. Yet, both manu­scripts in which the French translation survives are small, fitting easily into the palm of the hand, and seemingly intended for individual devotion (as, too, their contents suggest). It thus seems that the text reached an audience with differing levels of literacy, some of whom would hear the text read aloud (in public or in private) and others who had time and space, as well as skills, to read, pray, and meditate in private. A number of the adaptations in the translation seem to point specifically to a communal audience of nuns or monks, emphasizing the ideals of the communal life. For example, in Chapter 1, where readers are urged by Bonaventura to read ‘simpliciter’ (p. 71) [‘simply’ (p. 126)], the French expands to ‘simplement et chastement’ (fol. 140v) [‘simply and chastely’].37 More explicitly, in the section on Christ’s temptation in the wilderness (Chapter 10), the author adds 36 

For a comparison between the methods and aims of the French and Middle English translators, see Catherine Innes-Parker, ‘Translation, Authorship and Authority: The Middle English Lignum vitae’, in In principio fuit interpres, ed. by Alessandra Petrina, The Medi­e val Translator/Traduire au Moyen Age, 15 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 225–35; and InnesParker, ‘Bonaventure’s Lignum vitae’. 37  Here and elsewhere, I have indicated the French translator’s adaptations and insertions in italics. Unless otherwise stated, the changes I have noted occur in both manu­scripts.

Translation and Reform


the affliction of the body with fasting and vigils to the hardships of Christ’s solitude, practices familiar to a conventual audience and particularly appropriate to the movement of Fontevraudian Reform and its emphasis on strict claustration and discipline. Similarly, where Bonaventura’s original reader is to strive individually, the French translator also urges his audience to be unwavering in their shared commitment to the life of perfection. While in solitude Bonaventura’s readers are to become imitators and sharers of the hidden silence of prayer, the French translator suggests that the readers’ search into the secrets of Christ’s solitude enables them to be more attentive to silence, devout prayer, fasting, and the affliction of the flesh. Such adaptations move the reader from the solitude of the individual friar to the communal experience of the enclosed convent (fol. 151r–v). That the community is more likely to be composed of nuns than monks is suggested not only by the provenance of MS 19548 but also by the treatment of women in the text. The role of the Virgin Mary is intensified, particularly in the opening chapters concerning the incarnation and infancy of Christ. She is specifically held up as an example for the devout soul, who is addressed directly in each chapter. For example, in Chapter 3 on the incarnation, the French translator focuses on the embodied heart and thoughts of the Virgin as well as the sanctifying of her chaste and virginal flesh, for it is through the embodiment of Christ in the Virgin’s womb that salvation will come, and the reader can pray to be enflamed with love for Christ in her heart and thoughts using the Virgin as a model. The purity of the Virgin’s flesh is reflected in the nun’s vows of chastity, and the unembodied soul is replaced by the embodied heart and the mind, which are much more accessible as a focus for the reader’s meditation. Interestingly, although the French translator assumes that his audience will have some familiarity with the biblical passages to which he refers (unlike the Middle English editor who assumes no such familiarity and retells biblical stories in detail),38 here the text in MS 19548 expands on the angel Gabriel’s appearance to the Virgin (where the text in MS Additional B.6 does not), suggesting that it has been edited for a specifically female audience. Bonaventura states simply ‘misso archangelo Gabriele ad Virginem, et Virgine praebente illi assensum, supervenit in eam Spiritus sanctus’ (p. 71) [‘the Archangel Gabriel


The Middle English text is found in Cam­bridge, St John’s College, MS G.20 and New York, Columbia Uni­ver­sity, MS Plimpton 256. For the edition of this from the St John’s manu­ script, see the various articles by Catherine Innes-Parker in n. 2.


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was sent to the Virgin [and] when she gave her consent to him, the Holy Spirit came upon her’ (p. 127)]. The text in MS 19548 expands: fut en voye du ciel gabriel larchange a La tresdigne vierge pour luy dire et anuncer quil le concepuoir en son precieulx ventre le fruit de vie et ycelle vierge croyans Sans doubte et donnant consentement a ce que luy estoit annunce par larchange | tantost vaint sur elle Le benoist sainct esperit. (fol. 142r–v) [the archangel Gabriel was sent from heaven to the most worthy virgin to say to her and announce that she would conceive the fruit of life in her precious womb and this virgin believed without doubt and gave consent to that which had been announced to her by the archangel | and then the blessed Holy Spirit came upon her.]

The emphasis upon the bodily conception of the fruit of the Tree of Life (Christ) in the Virgin’s chaste womb is followed by the direct address to the soul, in which the soul is urged to imitate the Virgin and feel her joy at the incarnation. The Virgin’s response to this bodily conception is also expanded in MS 19548, which describes in some detail the heat and cold of the Spirit’s descent upon her, her incomprehensible ardour, and the simultaneous creation of the body and soul of Christ, joined in his humanity to the divinity of God. MS Additional B.6 is much briefer, staying close to the Latin text. The response of the reader is outlined, as is the pattern of the text, in a direct address to the soul following the allusion to the biblical events upon which he or she is to meditate. Some of the changes seem intended merely to intensify, a characteristic found throughout the text. Other changes, however, are more significant. For example, the reader is reminded of the grievous end to which the incarnation leads by the reminder that Mary is the ‘tant piteuse mere’ [‘so piteous mother’] whose grief is occasioned by ‘noz inniquitez’ [‘our iniquities’] — a grief that we, who have caused it, are to bear with her, even as we share her joy: se tu pouez ouir la vierge chantant et jubilant en souueraine melodie desperit se auecquez la tant venerable dame et tant piteuse mere en saincte du petit ihesus et portant en son sacre ventre celuy quil viel porte le grief faictz de noz inniquitez auec elle […] (fol. 143r)39 [if you could hear the virgin singing and rejoicing with incomparable melody of the spirit and with the lady who is so honoured, the mother who is so pitiable, pregnant


The Latin reads simply ‘si Virginem cantentem cum iubile posses audier’ (p. 71) [‘if you could hear the Virgin singing with joy’ (p. 127)]. Again, the additions to the text here are not found in MS Additional B.6.

Translation and Reform


with the tiny Jesus and carrying within her sacred womb the one who bitterly bears the grief of our iniquities with her […].]

The focus on the Virgin as a model for the reader continues in the translator’s version of the visitation. The Latin reads, simply, ‘si cum Domina tua in montana conscendere, si sterilis et Virginis suavem intueri complexum’ (p. 71) [‘if you could go with your Lady into the mountainous region; if you could see the sweet embrace of the Virgin and the woman who had been sterile’ (p. 127)]. The translator adapts: Dy je tu sauoys diligemment en buller | par lez montainez et luy fere conpaignee en allant visiter saincte Elizabeth affin de experimenter et sauourer quelque chose de la diuine liesse dont ses deulx damez estoient rempliez quent ellez se entre saluerent en profunde humilite et parfaicte sainctete. (fol. 143r–v)40 [I tell you, imagine yourself diligently rising up | into the mountains, and bear her company as she goes to visit Saint Elizabeth in order to experience and savour something of the divine jubilation with which these two women were filled when they greeted each other in great humility and perfect holiness.]

The reader’s imitation of the Virgin is firmly located in the imaginative reconstruction of the events narrated as the reader places herself within the biblical story.41 The omission of the reference to ‘the woman who had been sterile’ and its replacement with the name, Elizabeth, personalizes the meeting of the two pregnant women, another characteristic found throughout the text. The reader is to contemplate ascending, almost effervescently, into the mountains (rather than simply going) — the contemplation that the text is to trigger is intended to lift up the heart and mind of the reader. More important, the reader’s participation in the experience of the Virgin Mary and her beloved relation is stressed far more than in the Latin original. The circumstances of Christ’s birth in poverty both extend the themes of the previous chapters and introduce the theme of Christ’s humility, a subject 40  The text in MS  Additional B.6 contains some of this addition, but not the parts which focus on the reader’s sharing of the experience of the two women, again suggesting that MS 19548 has been adapted specifically for a female audience. 41  This kind of imaginative reconstruction and participation is typical of the contemplative practice of the Devotio moderna. While this kind of imaginative participation in the life of Christ, in particular, was associated with Bonaventura’s writings, the adaptations of Bonaventura’s writing, such as Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist and pseudo-Bonaventuran writings, such as the Meditationes vitae Christi and its translations into the European vernaculars, tended to increase the affectivity of the original Franciscan practice.


Catherine Innes-Parker

that will dominate the text (and which is particularly emphasized in the French translation, perhaps because it is also an important focus in the Reform of royal foundations like Fontevraud and its daughter houses, where the retention of wealth, luxury, and privilege, as well as the neglect of strict claustration, were among the abuses flaunted by the royal and noble women who may often have joined the convents against their will). Christ’s heavenly (and royal) circumstances are contrasted with his birthplace in a stable and his cradle in a stall. The French translator again adds emphasis: not only is he born in a stable, but he is also ‘enuelope de petis drapeaulx, et alaicte du laict de vgne vierge tres humble et poure’ (fol. 145r) [‘wrapped in little swaddling clothes and nurtured with the milk of a very humble and poor virgin’] reminding the reader of his helpless needs for clothing and nourishment, and Mary’s very human mothering, after her miraculous conception and birth. Moreover, Christ’s humble clothing is specifically contrasted with the Virgin’s womb, with which he has been clothed for nine months, in MS 19548 (but not in MS Additional B.6). In both manu­ scripts the soul is urged to embrace the lowly manger, to throw herself on her knees and kiss the feet of the beloved child therein, in imitation of his mother’s love: ‘Mon ame enbrasse mai[n]tena[n]t ceste cresche et mangonere diui[n]e ou le doulx enfant ih[es]us fut recline et te iecte a sez piez et le baise deuostement’ (fol. 145v) [‘My soul, embrace now this divine cradle and manger where the sweet infant Jesus lies, and throw yourself at his feet and kiss him devotedly’]. The soul, gendered feminine, is addressed here in the first person as it is in the Latin, joining the narrator and reader; however, the additions in the French emphasize the imitation of the Virgin in her love for the infant in the cradle and her devoted kisses. The Virgin is humanized, the inimitable Virgin mother translated into a simple woman whose love for her child can be easily and devoutly emulated by a female reader even more effectively than by the male author. The feminization of the soul’s participation in the biblical story of Christ’s life is continued in the meditations upon the passion. The Virgin’s pain at observing the suffering of her son is heart-rending in the Latin but even further emphasized and expanded in the translation. The Latin address to the Virgin begins simply: ‘Quae lingua dicere vel quis intellectus capere sufficit desolationum tuarum pondus, Virgo beata?’ (p. 78) [‘What tongue can tell, what intellect grasp the heavy weight of your desolation, blessed Virgin?’ (p. 152)]. The French expands: ‘O benoiste vierge glorieuse mere, quj est lentendement quj pouroit raconter la paine et la douleur de la desollacion que tu euz en touts lez painez et afflictions premisez de ton cher enfant ihesus’ (fol. 171v) [‘O blessed and glorious virgin mother, what intellect can tell the suffering and sorrow of your desolation in all the sufferings and afflictions foretold for your dear child

Translation and Reform


Jesus’]. Not only is Mary’s grief and suffering stressed, but in MS 19548 her motherhood is emphasized, both in her designation as ‘glorious mother’ and in the identification of Jesus as her ‘dear child’ (MS Additional B.6 reads ‘fils’ [‘son’]) for whom great suffering was foretold. MS 19548 adds the detail that Christ’s sufferings were foretold, implying that the Virgin sorrowed not only in seeing (and participating) in those sufferings but also throughout her life, knowing that Christ’s torment was to come. Contrasting Mary’s virginal conception and birth with her human motherhood, the French translator goes on, still in a direct address to the Virgin, to remind the reader of Christ’s conception ‘par la virtue du sainct esperit sans quelque lesion de ta pure et saincte virginite’ (fol. 171v) [‘by the virtue of the holy spirit without any impairment of your pure and holy virginity’], yet that Mary has nursed him, held him on her lap, and kissed him (as in the Latin). Finally, the text adds that Mary ‘acollee et de tez yeulz contemplee et regardee’ (fol. 171v) [‘embraced [you] and looked into and meditated upon your eyes’]. Her motherly love thus becomes a model not only for a reader’s love but also for a reader’s worship and contemplation of Christ with the eyes of the soul. At the end of this chapter, the Virgin’s response to Christ’s words ‘Woman, behold your son’ is the prompt for a final addition which tugs at the heart: O vierge glorieuse que deuint ton cueur a ceste parole sertez il fut tresparce dangoisse et de douleur tellement que ce fut meruillez quil ne fendit helas. Et sil te eus appelle sa mere laquelle chose point ne fut ains te nomma par le non commung et general de touts femmez certez je cuy de que tu ne leuse peu porter pour lamour incomparable que tu avois aluy. (fol. 173r) [Oh glorious virgin, what happened to your heart at these words? Surely it was pierced with anguish and sorrow, so much that it was astounding that it did not burst in two, alas! And if he had called you his mother (which he did not do, but called you by the common and usual name of all women), truly I believe that you could not have borne it because of the incomparable love that you had for him.]

The Virgin’s agony at hearing Christ’s words is so great that the translator asserts that it is a wonder that her heart did not burst. The very word ‘mother’ gives occasion to contemplate the vast difference between ordinary motherhood and the incomparable love of the Virgin for her son, even as that love is held up for the soul as an example to follow. The feminization of the text continues as St  Mary Magdalene’s role is also expanded, in particular with reference to the affective devotion which is highlighted throughout the translation by the addition of adjectives such as


Catherine Innes-Parker

‘amoureusement’ [‘lovingly’], or depictions of Christ as the soul’s beloved. She is the ultimate model of the soul’s contrition and compassion for Christ. Unlike the Latin text, the French translation identifies Mary Magdalene with the woman caught in adultery, and expands her patterning of devotion. Typically, the translator heightens the affective tone, while grounding the readers’ contemplation firmly within the bounds of the Church: Laue sez piez de lermez de conpunction et lez torche des cheueulx de bonne penseez et puis lez baise en grant deuocion comme fut la benoiste magdelene. Affin que tu puissez ouyr la sentence de son absolucion auec la femme pecherresse a la quelle il dit nul ne ta condemnpne et elle respondit non Sire. Ey moy aussi ne te condempne point va et te garde en auant de piche. (fol. 154v) [Wash his feet with the tears of compunction and dry them with the hair of good thoughts and then kiss them with great devotion as did the blessed Magdalene, so that you will be able to hear the verdict of your absolution with the sinful woman, to whom he said ‘does no one condemn you?’ and she replied, ‘No, Lord.’ ‘And neither do I condemn you in any way. Go, and guard yourself from sin hereafter.’]42

The reader’s imitation of Mary Magdalene is placed firmly within an ecclesiastical cycle of sin, repentance, and absolution. Her tears, hair, and kisses become metaphors for compunction, good thoughts, and great devotion, which earn her Christ’s absolution (there is no question of ‘deserving’ absolution, as in the Latin — absolution is absolute). Moreover, Christ’s words to her are modified: the reader is not told ‘Vade et amplius non peccare’ (p. 74) [‘go and sin no more’ (p. 137)] but ‘go, and guard yourself against sin’. It is assumed that the very human reader will inevitably sin again, since perfection is impossible in this world. Interestingly, St Mary Magdalene’s tears of compunction are echoed by St Peter’s tears after the Denial (Chapter 21). The French is, once again, more castigating of the sinful soul, and at the same time, more affective in its response: ys hors auecquez sainct pierre et pleure amerement ta fault et ton piche | Affin que le doulx ihesus te veuille piteusement regarder comme il fut sainct pierre abreuue toy de 42 

Compare the Latin: ‘more peccatricis unguente perunge pedasque ipsius ablue lacrymis, terge capillis et osculis mulce, ut tandem cum illa muliere iudicio ipsius exposita sententiam absolutionis merearis audire: Nemo te condemnavit? Nec ego te condemnabo. Vade et amplius non peccare’ (p. 74) [‘like the sinful woman anoint him with ointment and wash his feet with your tears, wipe them with your hair and caress them with your kisses, so that finally, with the woman presented to him for judgement, you may deserve to hear the sentence of forgiveness: Has no one condemned you? Neither will I condemn you. Go, and sin no more’ (p. 137)].

Translation and Reform


la benediction de double amertume. Cest assauoir de conpunction pour toy et pour tez pichez et de compassion pour lamour de ihesucrist. Affin que tu soyez absoubz de tez pichez auec sainct pierre et rempli de lesperit de sainctete. (fols 163v–164r) [Go out with St Peter, and bitterly weep for your fault and your sin. | So that the gentle Jesus will want to look upon you with pity, as he did St Peter, water yourself with the blessing of double bitterness. That is to say, of compunction for you and for your sins and of compassion for the love of Jesus Christ. So that you will be absolved of your sins with St Peter and filled with the spirit of holiness.]43

The cause of the soul’s weeping is clarified: it is ‘ta fault et ton piche’ [‘your fault and your sin’], and yet ‘le doulx ihesus’ [‘the gentle Jesus’] looks upon the soul with pity. The double bitterness is not wormwood, as in the Latin, but a benediction, and it is described more fully as ‘compunction for your and for your sins and of compassion for the love of Jesus Christ’. Finally, rather than atoning with Peter, the soul is absolved of its sins, for which it has wept tears of compunction. As with Mary Magdalene, tears of compunction earn absolution with no further penance. Oddly, however, the sinfulness of the soul is here more evident than in the passage regarding Mary Magdalene — the female exemplar of compunction is more gently treated than the male. Mary Magdalene’s most important modelling comes, however, at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection. In Chapter 32 ( Jesus laid in the Tomb) there is a passage that is worth quoting at length. After his burial, Mary Magdalene comes with the other holy women to anoint Christ’s body: entre lesquellez estoit marie magdelene Si fort enflame de lamour de ihesucrist et tellement estraincte dez liens | de charite de doulceur et de pitie que pour quelque craincte ne pour les tenebrez de la nuyst elle layssa point quelle ne vaint visiter le sepulchre mez pour lardeur damour quelle auoit a ihesuchrist elle oublia son sexe et son enfermete et la vaint pleurer tendrement et dillec ne se partit iusquez a ce quelle eus son desire acconpli. Cest assavoir que nostre seigneur ihesucrist se apparut a elle par quoy apert la constence delle et lamour et le saincte desire dont elle auoit le cueur naure quant elle demoura et perseuera et lez disciplez se departirent. O benoiste 43 

Compare the Latin: ‘foras cum Petro egredere, ut te ipsum amarissime defleas, si quando te respiciat qui petrum lacrymantem respexit, geminae quoque amaricationis, compunctionis scilicet pro te et compassionis ad Christum, inebrieris absinthio, ut, expiatus cum Petro a reatu sceleris, replearis cum Petro spritiu sanctitatis’ (p. 76) [‘go out with Peter to weep most bitterly over yourself. When the one who looked upon the weeping Peter looks upon you, you will be inebriated with the wormwood of a twofold bitterness; remorse for yourself and compassion for Christ, so that having atoned with Peter for the guilt of your crime, with Peter you will be filled with the spirit of holiness’ (pp. 144–45)].


Catherine Innes-Parker

marie magdelene Cert[e]s tout ton soullas estoit apleurer en tant que tu pouez dire auecquis dauid mez larmez et mes ge/misement moult este jour et nuyst viendez et nourissement et seront juscques ace que je auray trouue celuy que Jayme et que je quiers. (fols 179vr–180r) [among them was Mary Magdalene, so strongly inflamed with the love of Jesus Christ and so constrained with the bonds of | charity, of gentleness, and of pity that she did not stop for any fear or for the darkness of the night until she went to visit the sepulchre, but for the ardour of love that she had for Jesus Christ, she forgot her sex and her infirmity and went there to weep tenderly and did not leave until she had accomplished her desire. That is to say that our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to her, by which is shown her faithfulness and love and the holy desire with which she wounded her heart when she stayed and persevered when the disciples had departed. O blessed Mary Magdalene, surely all your solace was to weep so that you could say with David ‘my tears and my great moaning are day and night food and nourishment and will be until I have found the one whom I love and desire’.]44

The opening lines are fairly close to the Latin, with the exception of the addition of the ardour of Mary’s love. Her determination to remain until Christ appeared to her is an addition, but much of the rest of the passage is simply paraphrased until Mary is addressed directly. The simple quotation of the words of the psalms is both curtailed and expanded as the Latin’s ‘fuerunt mihi lacrymae meae panes die ac nocte, dum dicitur mihi quotidie: Ubi est Deus tuus?’ (p. 80) [‘My tears are my food day and night as they say to me day after day “where is your God?”’ (p. 158)] becomes ‘mez larmez et mes gemisement moult este jour et nuyst viendez et nourissement’ [‘my tears and my great moaning are 44 

The Latin reads: ‘Inter quae Maria Magdalena tante cordis ferebatur incendio, tantae pietatis afficiebatur dulcedine, tam validis trahebatur vinculis caritatis, ut, femineae infirmitatis oblita, nec tenebrarum caligine nec persecutorum immanitate retraheretur a visitatione sepulcri, quiu potius, foris stans et rigans lacrymis monumentum, recedentibus discipulis, non recedebat, pro eo quod divinae dilectionis igne succensa, et tam invalescente urebatur desederio et tam impatiente vulnerabatur amore, ut nihil et saperat nisi flere posseique propheticum illud eructare veraciter: fuerunt mihi lacrymae meae panes die ac nocte, dum dicitur mihi quotidie: Ubi est Deus tuus?’ (p. 80) [‘Among them Mary Magdalene was borne along by such a burning in her heart, moved by such sweetness of piety and drawn by such strong bonds of love that, forgetting her feminine weakness, she was held back from visiting the tomb by neither the darkness of night nor the cruelty of the persecutors. Rather, she stood outside and bathed the tomb with her tears. Although the disciples had fled, she did not go away. Ablaze with the fire of divine love, she burned with such a powerful desire and was wounded with such an impatient love that nothing had any taste for her except to be able to weep and to utter in truth those words of the Prophet: ‘My tears were my food day and night, as they say to me day after day: “Where is your God”’ (pp. 157–58)].

Translation and Reform


day and night food and nourishment’]. Further, however, the French adds that the nourishment of Mary’s tears will last until she has found the one whom she loves and desires, Jesus himself.45 As seen in the emphasis on absolution in the passages regarding the tears of Mary Magdalene and Peter, the French translator adapts the Latin text to emphasize the role of Church and sacrament in the salvation of humankind. The treatment of the sacraments, in particular, reveals an expanded emphasis on the context of salvation within the Church, consistent with the aims of the Fontevraudian Reform to both recall the nuns to the strict practices of claustration and the Counter Reformation’s insistence upon orthodoxy and, in particular, the sacraments. For example, in the treatment of Christ’s baptism the translator adds: ‘Par la touchement de sa cher pure et nect il donnast force et vertu aulx eauez de nous regenere et nectoyet et mectre en lastat de innocence’ (fol. 150v) [‘by the touch of his pure and clean flesh he gave strength and virtue to the waters to regenerate and cleanse us and return us to the state of innocence’]. This treatment of salvation through the parallel between Christ’s humanity and the fall of humanity in Eden is a theme that runs throughout the text, as will be seen below. The description of the first Eucharist is also altered by the translator to remind the reader of the place of priests in the Church and their role in the administration of the sacraments. There is to be no mistake: the sacrament and the power to confer it is given only to priests, not the Church as a whole. Moreover, it is not merely Christ’s flesh and blood that is given to the apostles, but the power to consecrate that body and blood, and to administer it to all good and loyal Christians. The emphasis on the role of priests is again consistent with the aims of the Counter-Reformation. The setting of the story of salvation within the context of Holy Church is also present in the story of the piercing of Christ’s side, both in the formation of the Church from the side of Christ (expanded by the translator to parallel the creation of Eve from the side of Adam), but also in the blood and water that prefigure the sacraments. The French translator alters the text subtly, speaking of the spear lancing Christ’s side: affin que le pris de nostre redemption cest assauoir sang et eaue en issit lequel dessendit du parfond de | Cueur et quj donnast force et vertus aulx sacremens de lesglise et aussi quil fut bruuage de vie a ceulx qui croyent vraiement en ihesucrist et qui viuent selon sa doctrine et sez commandemens. (fol. 175r–v) 45 

The role of St Mary Magdalene on the Sunday of the resurrection is similarly expanded, but only because in the Latin she does not appear at all.


Catherine Innes-Parker

[so that the price of our redemption, that is to say blood and water, issued from it, flowing down from the depth of his | heart and that gave strength and virtue to the sacraments of the Church and also became the drink of life to those who truly believe in Jesus Christ and who live according to his teaching and his commandments.]

The flow of blood and water descends from the depth of Christ’s heart, not ‘a fonte scilice cordis arcano’ (p. 79) [‘the secret fountain of the heart’ (p. 155)] as in the Latin; just as he has elsewhere, the translator removes reference to the secrecy of Christ’s love, teachings, and revelations, opening up the text to a broader readership than the mystical readers of Bonaventura’s text. Yet, he retains the profundity of the moment, emphasizing the depth of Christ’s love. Since the power of the sacraments is conferred upon those who have been baptized into the Church, the Latin states that they are active ‘iam in Christo viventibus’ (p. 79) [‘for those already living in Christ’] (p. 155), who are contrasted with ‘populi […] Iudaici reprobati’ (p. 79) [‘the reprobate […] Jewish people’ (p. 155)]. The French translator adapts: the sacraments give the draught of life ‘a ceulx qui croyent vraiement en ihesucrist et qui viuent selon sa doctrine et sez commandemens’ [‘to those who truly believe in Jesus Christ and who live according to his teaching and his commandments’], an addition that is most appropriate for the atmosphere of reform in late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century France with its emphasis on true belief and Christ’s teaching and commandments (that is, orthodoxy). Again, the parallel between fall and redemption is subtly stressed: Adam and Eve fell through breaking God’s sole commandment; believers are redeemed through the mechanism of the sacraments and obedience to Christ’s commandments. Finally, the representation of Christ as the ruler of the Church is altered in important ways, especially considering the context of the CounterReformation. In Chapter 31 the blood that stains the body of Christ is specifically connected to the pontificate: ‘Nostre seigneur ihesucrist euzt en sa passion le vestement pontifical en maniere de poulpre car il fut arose de son preciux et rare sang’ (fol. 176v) [‘Our Lord Jesus Christ had, in his passion, the pontifical vestment in the style of purple, because he was washed with his precious and unique blood’].46 This is an addition; it does not occur in the Latin at all. Christ’s blood 46 

Compare the Latin: ‘Cruentatus eium Christus Dominus sanguine proprio’ (p. 80) [‘Christ the Lord was stained with his own blood’ (p. 156)]. Subsequently the Latin states ‘et apud deum esset copiosa redemptiom vestam pontificalem habuet rubricatum’ (p. 80) [‘So that with God there might be plenteous redemption, he wore a priestly robe of red’ (p. 156)]. The French expands and rearranges this entire passage, moving the reference to the pontifical vestment to the opening of the section.

Translation and Reform


is his pontifical vestment, ‘en maniere de poulpre’, evidence of his divine rule. His blood is both precious and rare, setting him apart from all humankind with the exception of his representative on earth, the pope. Here, one of the most divisive protests of the early Reformation is gently but firmly refuted. Not only is the pope the head of the Church, but Christ himself (not St Peter) is the first pope — his vestments woven from his body and blood. The story told by MS 19548 opens a window on the devotional life of one abbess involved in the Fontevraudian Reform during the time of the CounterReformation in France. What little we can glean from Antoinette Auger’s life reveals a woman of great talents: a strong administrator, a fervent reformer, yet a woman who was open to new ideas in the developing world of the CounterReformation.47 The contents of the manu­script show that she owned (and gave to her relative, Magdalanna Auger, upon her profession) a copy of the revised Rule which she and her nuns followed, and which she had even inserted into the vows of profession at Gif. The inclusion of the French translation of Thomas a Kempis’s De disciplina claustralis, a text intended for beginners in the monastic life, shows a recognition of the value of pastoral works for daily life in the convent. Yet, these two texts on discipline and rule bracket a more mystical text, intended not for beginners but for adepts in the religious life who aspired towards mystical experience, suggesting that Antoinette’s spirituality was as developed as her reforming zeal and administrative prowess. None of these works is revolutionary; they are tried and true texts upon which to build the foundation of a religious life. Yet, they are not merely conventional: they have been translated and, in at least two cases, adapted for a particular audience in a particular time. What does MS 19548 tell us about nuns’ literacy in early sixteenth-century France? The texts included in the manu­script suggest that the nuns who owned it were literate, if not in Latin, devout, and educated in basic biblical exegesis. The inclusion of basic texts concerning the devout life and the Rule upon which it was founded does not imply that these nuns were unsophisticated beginners. Rather, the placement of Le Livre de larbre de la croix Jhesucrist at the centre of the manu­script suggests that contemplative spirituality was also at the centre of the nuns’ devout life. The brief reading of the Le Livre de larbre de la croix 47  I have not discussed Antoinette Auger’s relationship with Iñigo López de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Yet, it was under her abbacy that Loyola gathered his early followers in the crypt at Montmartre, where they took their first vows (see note 26 above). This suggests that Antoinette Auger was at the cutting edge, not only of reform but also of renewal in the Church of her day.


Catherine Innes-Parker

Jhesucrist above shows that the text has been adapted for those leading a communal life; the revised emphasis on female models of devotion and the expansion of the role of the Virgin Mary suggest that the text was intended for an audience of nuns. The emphasis on claustration in the Fontevraudian Reform makes the emphasis on the Virgin’s pure and chaste flesh particularly appropriate. The fact that a number of sisters inscribed their names in the manu­script itself suggests that it was read and appreciated by exactly such an audience.48


Those who have sought indications of manu­script ownership and readership will attest to the rarity of such markings, particularly in such abundance.

Image, Text, and Mind: Franciscan Tertiaries Rewriting Stephan Fridolin’s Schatzbehalter in the Pütrichkloster in Munich Almut Breitenbach and Stefan Matter


he prologue of the voluminous late fifteenth-century printed devotional book, the Schatzbehalter [The Treasure Trove], points out which epistemological preconditions have to be fulfilled for gaining wisdom. Drawing upon the authority of Hugues de Saint-Victor (d. 1141), the author explains that man was granted two kinds of images which enable him to perceive the Divine. The first is the image of nature, which can point to God but is incapable of enlightening man. The other is the image of grace, which is Christ, being the human incarnation of God’s word. He is able to enlighten the eyes, which means that through Christ true insight and knowledge can be gained.1 1 

‘Dann dem menschen waren furgehalten zwayerlaij pildnus. durch die er die vnsichpern ding mocht sehen. Nemlich ein pildnus der natur. vnd ein pildnus der gnad. Nun die pildnus der natur was die gestalt diser werlt. Aber die pildnus der genaden was die menschait des worts. Vnd in disen baijden pildnussen ward got gezaigt. aber nit in yn baiden verstanden. Dann wie wol die natur durch ire gestalt iren werckmaister zaiget. so mocht sie doch des schauers augen nit erlechten. Aber die menschait des hailmachers ist gewesen ein ertzneij. durch die. die plinden das liecht enpfiengen. vnd dar zu ein lere. das die. die gesahen. die warhait erkennenten. also hat sie vor erleuchtet. vnd darnach gezaiget’ [‘Man was shown two images by which he was able to see invisible things, an image of nature and an image of grace. The image of nature was the appearance of this world. But the image of grace was the humanity of the Word. And these two images pointed to God, but did not both reveal him: while nature points to its maker by its appearance, it cannot enlighten the eyes of the viewer. The humanity of the Saviour, however, was a remedy by which the blind were given the light as well as a lesson to make the ones who see understand the truth. Thus it has first enlightened and then revealed’]; Stephan Fridolin, Schatzbehalter (Nürnberg: Anton Koberger, 1491); (Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, ed. Almut Breitenbach ([email protected]) is subject librarian for German Studies at the Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen. Stefan Matter ([email protected]) is a postdoctoral research fellow in Germanistische Mediävistik at the Universität Freiburg.

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Antwerp Dialogue, ed. by Virginia Blanton, Veronica pp. 297–316 O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop, MWTC 28 (Turn­hout: Brepols, 2017) BREPOLS




Almut Breitenbach and Stefan Matter

This is the aim of the Schatzbehalter, a text that teaches in word and image how to meditate on Christ in order to illumine the eyes of the heart. It is already evident in the prologue to this late medi­eval devotional work that the interplay between image, word, intellect, and heart is assigned a central role in the process of gaining knowledge. This interaction is of fundamental importance for the conception of the Schatzbehalter, as well as for much of the religious literature and imagery of the Middle Ages. Whilst for many such illustrated works of literature the relation between text and picture can be easily described, it is much more difficult to find sources which point to the interaction of medi­eval contemporaries with this kind of literature, thus telling us something about its reception and effect. The small amount of evidence which does allow us to see just that, therefore, is even more significant. The group of texts which is presented here can be counted among this rare kind of source. Its core is the aforementioned Schatzbehalter, written by the Franciscan Stephan Fridolin (d. 1498). Its printed edition of 1491,2 along with three different manu­script redactions from the early sixteenth century,3 can be found in the late medi­eval library of the Pütrichkloster of Franciscan tertiary sisters in Munich.4 The three redactions were prepared by the sisters and show that the women read this text intensively and reworked it to suit different purposes. In this essay we will investigate the ways in which the sisters modified the original, while the dense historical and literary background of the Pütrich by Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin — Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 9 (Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1989), no. 10329, fol. a2ra (available online at [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. In all the transcriptions in this essay the spelling and punctuation of the source are preserved, and abbreviations expanded. All translations are by Almut Breitenbach. 2  München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Rar. 293a (BSB-Ink F-263, second copy). 3  München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 4474, Cgm 4475, and Cgm 853, fols 135r–245r, 246r–276r. For a long time after the invention of printing, both manu­script and print influenced each other, and it was quite usual for printed books to be copied out by hand. As one example of scholarship on this topic, see Die Gleichzeitigkeit von Handschrift und Buchdruck, ed. by Gerd Dicke and Klaus Grubmüller, Wolfenbütteler Mittelalter-Studien, 16 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2003). 4  The convent is named after the family of Pütrich in Munich which founded it (see below); for the Pütrich family, see Helmuth Stahleder, ‘Beiträge zur Geschichte Münchner Bürger­ geschlechter im Mittelalter: die Wilbrecht, Rosenbusch und Pütrich’, Oberbayerisches Archiv, 114 (1990), 227–81 (pp. 252–81). During the DFG-Verbundprojekt ‘Schriftlichkeit in süddeutschen Frauenklöstern’ (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München, and Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv München) the library of the Pütrich­kloster was reconstructed. It can be ac­cessed online at [ac­cessed 1 April 2017].

Image, Text, and Mind


convent and its library allows us to view the redactions of the Schatzbehalter within their immediate milieu. Before turning to the Pütrich convent, we will first introduce the context of the Schatzbehalter’s transmission: the southern German monastic landscape in the fifteenth century, which was strongly influenced by different reform movements.5 The convents of the Dominican sisters and the Poor Clares in Nürnberg, St. Katharina and St. Klara, for example, were important centres from which experienced sisters were sent to other houses to introduce the Observant Reforms. This meant the return to a lifestyle strictly following the order’s rules. Particularly important were the re-introduction of strict enclosure, the abandonment of private possessions, and the focus on the women’s duties: prayer and intercession. Both convents possessed large libraries, whose significance for the dissemination of religious literature in the German south can hardly be overstated. Literature was an important medium for the intensification of spiritual life in the convents, and this was one reason for the lively exchange of texts and books between reformed houses of different orders in the German south. In the area which today is Bavaria this exchange was often initiated by the convents of St. Katharina and St. Klara (in Nürnberg). Following the evidence in manu­scripts and other sources, it becomes obvious that many sisters in the southern German area knew about the literature available in other houses, so that texts or books could be exchanged systematically. There is evidence that convents lent each other books for copying and informed each other about desired texts. They also donated duplicates and copied texts for each other.6 5 

For monastic reform movements in the fifteenth century, see generally Reformbemühungen und Observanzbestrebungen im spätmittelalterlichen Ordenswesen, ed. by Kaspar Elm, Berliner historische Studien, 14; Ordensstudien, 6 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1989); Dieter Mertens, ‘Monastische Reformbewegungen des 15. Jahrhunderts: Ideen – Ziele – Resultate’, in Reform von Kirche und Reich zur Zeit der Konzilien von Konstanz (1414–1418) und Basel (1431–1449): Konstanz-Prager historisches Kolloquium (11.–17. Oktober 1993), ed. by Ivan Hlavácek and Alexander Patschovsky (Konstanz: Universitätsverlag Konstanz, 1995), pp. 157–81. A source concerning the Dominican Reforms specifically is Johannes Meyer, Buch der Reformacio Predigerordens, ed. by Benedikt Maria Reichert, Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte des Dominikanerordens in Deutschland, 2–3, 2 vols (Leipzig: Harrassowitz, 1908–09). On reform and religious women, see Heike Uffmann, Wie in einem Rosengarten: monastische Reformen des späten Mittelalters in den Vorstellungen von Klosterfrauen (Bielefeld: Verlag für Regionalgeschichte, 2008). 6  To document the evidence for literary exchange between Southern German women’s convents in detail would surpass the scope of this essay. Generally, evidence is found in medi­


Almut Breitenbach and Stefan Matter

The Pütrich convent’s beginnings were most likely a community of semireligious women. The first record of a connection between the community and the Pütrich family is dated 1365, when this burgher family of Munich granted them a large sum for a building project.7 The Pütrich sisters took care of the sick and dying, prayed and meditated together,8 heard Mass, and received religious instruction in the nearby church of the Franciscans where their confessions were also heard.9 According to a later convent chronicle from Pütrichkloster printed in 1721, the women consoled the sick and the dying through their devout prayers and spiritual instruction and ensured them of God’s mercy. In this way, like many other tertiary sisters at the time, they were female ministers and teachers of the faith.10

eval library catalogues and inventories, in volumes belonging to the convent libraries or in private books of religious women, in account books and other administrative sources of mixed content, as well as in letters and chronicles. An excellent source for the exchange of literature in the context discussed here is the late medi­e val library catalogue of the Dominican sisters in Nürnberg, in Mittelalterliche Bibliothekskataloge Deutschlands und der Schweiz, ed. by Paul Lehmann and Paul Ruf, 4 vols (München: Beck, 1918–2009), iii.3: Bistum Bamberg (1939), pp. 596–638. In this catalogue the sisters recorded for a large number of books who wrote, sent, or gave them and which volumes they handed out to other convents. Adding evidence from other sources, participation in literary exchange can be found, for example, for the following houses: the Dominican sisters of Altenhohenau, Bamberg, Engelthal, Nürnberg, Regensburg (all in Bayern), Schönensteinbach (Elsass; Alsace is French nowadays), St. Gallen (Switzerland), Tulln (Austria); the Poor Clares of Brixen (Südtirol), Eger (today Cheb in the Czech Republic), the Angerkloster (München), Nürnberg (Bayern), Pfullingen and Söflingen (Schwaben); the Franciscan tertiaries of Munich (Pütrichkloster) and Ingolstadt (Bayern); the Augustinian canonesses of Pillenreuth (Bayern), and Inzigkofen (Schwaben). 7  Max Joseph Hufnagel, ‘Franziskanerinnenkloster der Pütrichschwestern zum heiligen Christophorus in München’, in Bavaria Franciscana Antiqua (ehemalige Franziskanerklöster im heutigen Bayern): kurze historische Beschreibungen mit Bildern, ed. by Bayerische Franziskanerprovinz, 5 vols (München: Stahl, 1955–61), iii (1957), 273–308 (pp. 276–78). 8  Bittrich Voll Deß Himmlischen Manna, Und Süssen Morgen-Thau. Das ist: Historischer Discurs, Von Dem Ursprung, Fundation, Auffnamb, glücklichen Fortgang, Tugend-Wandel, und andern denckwürdigen Sachen Deß Löbl. Frauen-Closters, Ordens der dritten Regul deß Heil. Francisci, Bey Sanct Christophen im Bittrich genannt, In der Chur-Fürstlichen Residentz-Stadt München (München: Straub, 1721), p. 5. 9  Bittrich Voll Deß Himmlischen Manna, pp. 12–13. 10  Sigmund Benker, ‘Freising : Terziarinnen’, in Bavaria Franciscana Antiqua (ehemalige Franziskanerklöster im heutigen Bayern): kurze historische Beschreibungen mit Bildern, ed. by Bayerische Franziskanerprovinz, 5 vols (München: Stahl, 1955–61), v (1961), pp. 605–23 (p. 611).

Image, Text, and Mind


Generally in the late Middle Ages a strong tendency towards monasticism in the Franciscan Third Order can be observed — in 1480 Pope Sixtus IV even introduced solemn vows for the tertiaries.11 Female Franciscan tertiary communities, however, did not follow a uniform way of life: some lived a rather contemplative life in enclosure; others fulfilled a variety of social tasks, as the Pütrich sisters did. But in the year 1484 the Bavarian duke Albrecht IV (d. 1508) initiated the Reform of the Pütrichkloster, which meant acceptance of three solemn vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience with all their consequences for the women’s form of life and mission. The Pütrich sisters, however, refused to embrace Observance and left their habitation with all their belongings, obviously including the library, and moved to Freising in Bavaria, where their ministry was eagerly awaited by the townsfolk.12 For the Pütrich house in Munich, new sisters had to be recruited who were found among the wealthy burgher families.13 In addition to their memorial and spiritual duties, the newly instituted Pütrich sisters led a contemplative life but also produced textiles for their living.14 The convent chronicle stresses the break which was brought about by the Reform. The house, it says, was ‘zu einem Cloe sterlein erhebt’ [‘elevated to a monastery’] and ‘ein gantz neue Lebens-Art und Disciplin’ [‘a very different mode of life and discipline’] was introduced.15 The introduction of Observance meant not only a profound alteration in the life of the Pütrich sisters, but also a break in the history of the convent’s library. The dates of the manu­scripts suggest that the collection was built up almost from scratch after the new community began its contemplative life. This explains one of the first impressions gained when dealing with the Pütrich house library holdings: that the sisters wrote a great deal in a relatively short period. Many hands can be found in several manu­scripts which were written nearly at the same time. Some texts, such as the Schatzbehalter, were copied or reworked several times either at short intervals or nearly simultaneously.16 For 11 

Lázaro Iriarte, Der Franziskusorden: Handbuch der franziskanischen Ordensgeschichte (Alt­ötting: Verlag der Bayerischen Kapuziner, 1984), p. 358. 12  Hufnagel, ‘Franziskanerinnenkloster der Pütrichschwestern zum heiligen Christophorus in München’, pp. 280–81; Benker, ‘Freising: Terziarinnen’, pp. 606–08. 13  Bittrich Voll Deß Himmlischen Manna, p. 17. 14  Hufnagel, ‘Franziskanerinnenkloster der Pütrichschwestern zum heiligen Christophorus in München’, pp. 281–82. 15  Bittrich Voll Deß Himmlischen Manna, pp. 14 and 20 respectively. 16  Another example would be the St. Trudperter Hohelied which can be found three times in the library. See München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 4477 , Cgm 4478 , and Cgm 4479 [all ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. 17  Bittrich Voll Deß Himmlischen Manna, pp. 18–19. 18  Rule of Pope Urban IV, 18 October 1263, chap. viii: ‘Sorores vero et servitiales horis et locis institutis, prout ordinatum fuerit, utilibus et honestis laboribus occupentur sub illa providentia, quod excluso otio Animae inimico, sanctae orationis et devotionis spiritum non extinguant, cui debent caetera temporalia deservire’ [‘The sisters and lay sisters shall at appointed hours and places, depending on how it is ordered, occupy themselves with useful and honest work in order to exclude idleness, the enemy of the soul, and not to extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion, which temporal things have to serve’]; see Bullarium Franciscanum Romanorum Pontificum, ed. by Giovanni Giacinto Sbaraglia, 4 vols (Roma: Typis Sacrae Congregationis De Propaganda Fide, 1759–68), i, 513. The chronicle of the Pütrich sisters comments on the role of work: ‘Es stellten aber die Schwesteren erstgemelt ihre Hand-Arbeit / vnd Verrichtungen dergestalten an / daß der Geist und Dienst Gottes mitnichten verabsaumet / sonder nur der hoe chst-schädliche Missiggang / als ein gefae hrlicher Feind der Seelen / ihrer

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the Poor Clares spent much of their devotional time saying the Divine Office, the Franciscan tertiaries’ communal devotion was organized differently. As the Third Order was joined by people from a great variety of social groups, all kinds of literacies were involved. For this reason, the Rule prescribed different prayers to be said at the canonical hours, depending on the different kinds of literacy. While those who knew Latin or had knowledge of the psalter had to say the Office according to the local diocese’s custom, the others had to say twelve Pater nosters at matins and seven at the other hours, with the Gloria patri.19 In the Pütrich convent only vernacular literature can be found, and there are no Latin liturgical books at all.20 Therefore, it is likely that most of the sisters did not know Latin well enough to say the Office and said the prescribed alternative prayers instead. Moreover, they were supposed to hear Mass every day and to receive religious instruction regularly from a learned man.21 It seems, however, that the Pütrich sisters pursued additional devotions every day as well as the prayers prescribed by the Rule, as their chronicle reports: Sie unterliessen dahero von dem Gotts-Dienst nicht das mindeste / sonder verrichteten ihr gewohnlich-schuldiges Gebett vnnd tae gliche Andachten / zu bestimmten Zeiten / sehr lang vnd eyfrig / vnd vereinigten / auff solche Weiß / mit einer ordentlichen Abwechslung / das Geistlich- mit dem arbeitsamb-würckenden Leben.22

Regul vnd Satzungen gemae ß / gae ntzlich außgetilgt/ hingegen die ue brig-kostbare Zeit / mit einer guten Intention, voderist GOTT zu Ehren / dann ihnen / vnd ihrem Neben-Menschen / zum Besten angelegt wurde’ [‘The aforementioned sisters organized their manual labour and duties in such a way that the spirit and ministry of God were not neglected, but that only the highly harmful idleness as a dangerous enemy of the souls was fully eliminated, according to their rule and statutes. The remaining precious time however they invested with good intentions mainly in the honour of God as well as in their and their fellow men’s best interests’]; Bittrich Voll Deß Himmlischen Manna, pp. 18–19. 19  See the Rule of the Franciscan Third Order kept in the Pütrichkloster, in München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 4487, fols 19r–21v, as well as Brigitte Degler, ‘Drei Fassungen der Terziarenregel aus der Oberdeutschen Franziskanerprovinz’, Archivum franciscanum historicum, 62 (1969), 501–17 (p. 513). 20  The only still extant Latin works which belonged to the library holdings are three block books: The Biblia pauperum (München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Xyl. 20), Franciscus de Retza: Defensorium inviolatae virginitatis Mariae (München, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, 10773 c), and the Canticum canticorum (München, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, 10773 b). 21  See München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 4487, fols 25r–27r, and Degler, ‘Drei Fassungen der Terziarenregel aus der Oberdeutschen Franziskanerprovinz’, pp. 514–15. 22  Bittrich Voll Deß Himmlischen Manna, p. 19


Almut Breitenbach and Stefan Matter

[Therefore, they neglected their Divine Service not in the least, but held their usual customary prayers and daily devotions at the prescribed hours quite extensively and fervently and thus united, by means of alternation, the contemplative with the active life.]

In other words, they switched in an orderly manner between the two ways of life: some hours they contemplated; some hours they worked. The large library of the Pütrich sisters, richly stocked with devotional literature in the vernacular, may have aimed at precisely these daily hours of devotion, which were, according to the passage in the chronicle just cited, very long. Their closeness to the Second Order is underscored by the design and provenance of several texts in the Pütrich house library. Not only did the sisters exchange literature with the Poor Clares in Munich,23 but they also read works which were written either for the Poor Clare sisters in Nürnberg themselves or in their immediate context. One example is a sermon collection explicitly addressing enclosed nuns, written by Heinrich Vigilis von Weißenburg (d. 1499), who was a preacher and, from 1487 to 1495, confessor to the Poor Clares in Nürnberg.24 23  This exchange is suggested by the ABC zum Lob Christi [Divine Alphabet] which was not a very common text in the late Middle Ages but is found in the libraries of both convents, which were, moreover, in the same city and belonged to branches of the same Order. Manu­ scripts with the ABC zum Lob Christi are as follows: Jena, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, MS G.B. fol. 3, which was written by Felicitas Lieberin, a Dominican nun in the convent of Medlingen (see Klaus Graf, ‘Thomas Finck: Arzt, Benediktiner in Blaubeuren und Kartäuser in Güterstein’, in Tübingen in Lehre und Forschung um 1500, ed. by Sönke Lorenz, Dieter Bauer, and Oliver Auge, Tübinger Bausteine zur Landesgeschichte, 9 (Ostfildern: Thorbecke, 2008), p. 172 n. 63, and [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]); London, British Library, MS Additional 16277 (complete text); München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 212 (Angerkloster München, sections A–M); München, Bayerische Staats­ bibliothek, Cgm 465 (Pütrichkloster, sections A–J); München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 854 (Pütrichkloster, excerpt from section H); München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 1147 (Pütrichkloster, sections P–R); München, Universitätsbibliothek, 8° Cod. 278 (Franciscan tertiary sisters Landshut, Bavaria?, excerpt from section H). 24  The collection can be found in München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 853, fols 1r–74r, 80r–129v; parallel transmission in München, Universitätsbibliothek, 4° Cod. 490, from Landshut. For Heinrich Vigilis, see Johannes Kist, Das Klarissenkloster in Nürnberg bis zum Beginn des 16. Jahrhunderts (Nürnberg: Sebaldus, 1929), pp. 116 and 137. The Nürnberg Poor Clares kept a collection of his sermons which had been delivered to them: Bamberg, Bibliothek des Metropolitankapitels, MS 29 (which was written in 1494). Whether this is the same collection as in München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 853 from the Pütrich convent remains to be investigated.

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An author who was also closely connected with this house in the city of Nürnberg and had quite a prominent position in the Pütrich convent’s library is the aforementioned Stephan Fridolin.25 This Observant Franciscan friar was, from 1460 onwards, one of the most important preachers in Bamberg26 and later novice master and lector to the Friars Minor in Mainz.27 From 1482 to 1498,28 a total of sixteen years, he was preacher at the Poor Clares in Nürnberg, interrupted only by two years of spiritual ministry to their sisters in Basel.29 Stephan Fridolin was an experienced teacher whose life had been dedicated to the passing on of spiritual knowledge and practice to lay people, novices, and nuns. His works characterize him as a sensitive pedagogue who was very familiar with the educational backgrounds and with the needs and the problems of his audiences.30 Next to his Geistlicher Mai (A Spiritual Month of May), which addresses explicitly enclosed persons,31 the Schatzbehalter must have been of particular interest for the Pütrich sisters: they owned a copy of the 1491 printed edition, published by Anton Koberger in Nürnberg, and extracted and reworked it, as initially pointed out, no fewer than three times.

25  For the very few facts which are known about Fridolin’s life, see Ulrich Schmidt, P. Stephan Fridolin: ein Franziskanerprediger des ausgehenden Mittelalters, Veröffentlichungen aus dem Kirchenhistorischen Seminar München, 3rd ser., 11 (München: Lentner, 1911), pp. 6–18. 26  Petra Seegets, Passionsfrömmigkeit im ausgehenden Mittelalter: der Nürnberger Franziskaner Stephan Fridolin (gest. 1498) zwischen Kloster und Stadt, Spätmittelalter und Reformation, Neue Reihe, 10 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998), pp. 24–53. 27  Tabulae capitulares (vicariae 1454–1516, deinde provinciae 1517–1574) observantium Argentinensium, ed. by Michael Bihl, Analecta Franciscana, 8 (1946), 667–894 (p. 691); Seegets, Passionsfrömmigkeit im ausgehenden Mittelalter, pp. 29–36. 28  Kist, Das Klarissenkloster in Nürnberg bis zum Beginn des 16. Jahrhunderts, p. 116. 29  Evidence in Seegets, Passionsfrömmigkeit im ausgehenden Mittelalter, p. 36 following. 30  See, for example, his detailed reading instructions for recipients with different literacies and learning capacities in the Schatzbehalter’s prologue as well as his explanations of the mnemonic hands and his suggestions for their use; see also his Lehre für angefochtene und kleinmütige Menschen [Lesson for Afflicted and Discouraged People] in München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 4439, fols 50v–54r [ac­cessed 1 April 2017], where Fridolin thoughtfully addresses different spiritual problems and leads his readers to look at their afflicted state of mind from different perspectives to help them out of their troubles. 31  München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 4473, [ac­cessed 1 April 2017].


Almut Breitenbach and Stefan Matter

The Schatzbehalter is a seven-hundred-page didactic work giving instruction for devotion and prayer, written originally for an urban lay audience.32 It is divided into three books.33 Book i introduces the Schatzbehalter’s general aim: by meditation on the life and passion of Christ, the aforementioned ‘image of grace’, the readers’ hearts will be enlightened and liberated from sin, enabling them to gain divine insight. Book i also carefully explains the structure and use of this work. Book ii displays Christ’s suffering in a hundred socalled ‘Gegenwürfen’. These ‘Gegenwürfe’ are pairs of polar opposites, in each of which one aspect of the redeemer’s glory is confronted with one aspect of his humiliation. (As the early modern German term ‘Gegenwürfe’ has become a terminus technicus in the secondary literature about the Schatzbehalter, we will use it in the following as the original expression for the hundred pairs of polar opposites.) These hundred thematic units for meditation are subdivided into groups of five, to make them suitable for memorization with the help of the hand. Thus, the ‘Gegenwürfe’ can be mentally attached to certain loci on the five fingers of each hand. How they are to be arranged in particular is explained at the end of Book i, accompanied by schematic pictures of the right and the left hand. A third and last book, approximately of the same length as the second, extends the subject with additional ‘Gegenwürfe’ and meditations on single aspects of the passion. Fridolin also adds didactic dialogues about theological themes and finally an instruction for correct and effective prayer. The Schatzbehalter has gained attention so far mostly from scholars of art history.34 The reason for this are the ninety-six full-page woodcuts from the 32  All relevant passages in which Fridolin refers to the reading public of his Schatzbehalter are assembled in Seegets, Passionsfrömmigkeit im ausgehenden Mittelalter, pp. 193–213. 33  The most in-depth study of the Schatzbehalter is offered in Seegets, Passionsfrömmigkeit im ausgehenden Mittelalter, pp. 169–285; a detailed summary of its contents can be found on pp. 292–312. The epistemological principles on which Fridolin develops his devotional treatise are discussed in Ulrike Heinrichs-Schreiber, ‘Sehen als Anwendung von Wissen: Aussage und Wirkung der Bilder in Stephan Fridolins Schatzbehalter und bei Albrecht Dürer’, in Die Gleichzeitigkeit von Handschrift und Buchdruck, ed. by Gerd Dicke and Klaus Grubmüller, Wolfenbütteler Mittelalter-Studien, 16 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 2003), pp. 49–104; a similar version of this study is published in Ulrike Heinrichs, Martin Schongauer, Maler und Kupferstecher: Kunst und Wissenschaft unter dem Primat des Sehens (München: Deutscher Kunst­ verlag, 2007), pp. 23–49. 34  Of particular interest in the context discussed here are: V. von Loga, ‘Beiträge zum Holzschnittwerk Michel Wolgemuts’, Jahrbuch der königlich-preussischen Kunstsammlungen, 16 (1895), 224–40; Franz J. Stadler, Michael Wolgemut und der Nürnberger Holzschnitt im letzten Drittel des xv. Jahrhunderts, Studien zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte, 16 (Strassburg: Heitz, 1913); Gerhard Betz, ‘Der Nürnberger Maler Michael Wolgemut (1434–1519) und

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workshop of Michael Wolgemut (d. 1519), Albrecht Dürer’s (d. 1528) teacher, and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff (d. 1494), which embellish the ‘Gegenwürfe’ of Book ii.35 The contents of the second book were, according to Fridolin, at first designed as a series of images on a panel, and only after this was the text written: Nach dem dise materi zum ersten nit in buchs weyse, sunder yn einer tafeln mit verkue rtzung entworffen worden ist, so sind die gegenwue rff gar vngleich, etlich vast verkue rtzet, etlich allain genennet, doch bey den die etwas auß gelegt sind mag man die andern auch mercken. (fol. a2vb)36 [As this subject matter was at first not designed as a book, but was projected in abbreviated form as a panel, the opposite pairs are disparate; some are quite short, some are just labelled, but with the help of the ones which are interpreted it is possible to understand the other ones.]

The fact that a complex subject matter is at first encoded visually and at a second stage transformed into a text is quite unusual. It was Wolfgang Stammler seine Werkstatt: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der spätgotischen Malerei in Franken’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Albert-Ludwigs Universität Freiburg im Breisgau, 1955); Wolgemuts Skizzenbuch im Berliner Kupferstichkabinett: ein Beitrag zur Erforschung des ­graphischen Werkes von Michael Wolgemut und Wilhelm Pleydenwurff, ed. by Richard Bellm, Studien zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte, 322 (Straßburg: Heitz, 1959); Stephan Fridolin, P. Stephan Fridolin, Der Schatzbehalter (oder Schrein der waren Reichtuemer des Heils unnd ewyger Seligkeit): ein Andachts- und Erbauungsbuch aus dem Jahre 1491 mit 91 Holzschnitten und 2 Textseiten in Faksimile, ed. by Richard Bellm, 2 vols (Wiesbaden: Pressler, 1962); Der Bußprediger Cape­ strano auf dem Domplatz in Bamberg: eine Bamberger Tafel um 1470/75, ed. by Lothar Hennig, Schriften des Historischen Museums Bamberg, 12 (Bamberg: Fruhauf, 1989); Cynthia Anne Hall, ‘Treasury Book of the Passion: Word and Image in the Schatzbehalter’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge, 2002). Dominik Bartl discusses the theme intensively in ‘Der Schatzbehalter: Optionen der Bildrezeption’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, 2010) [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]; a summary of his study is offered in Dominik Bartl and Miriam Gepp-Labusiak, Der Mainzer Schatzbehalter: ein koloriertes Andachtsbuch von 1491 (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2012). 35  A complete tabular survey of the images and the collocated ‘Gegenwürfe’ can be found in Seegets, Passionsfrömmigkeit im ausgehenden Mittelalter, pp. 306–12. 36  This quotation and the following are taken from the facsimile: Stephan Fridolin, Schatzbehalter, The Printed Sources of Western Art, 28 (Portland: Collegium Graphicum, 1972). A digitized exemplar from the Universitätsbibliothek in Darmstadt (Inc IV 440), albeit missing some leaves, is available online: [ac­cessed 1 April 2017]. The quoted passage is missing in München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 853 and Cgm 4475, discussed below.


Almut Breitenbach and Stefan Matter

who discovered that the panel mentioned by Stephan Fridolin is in all probability the reverse side of the so-called Capestrano-Panel, dated 1470–75, which is kept today in the Historisches Museum in Bamberg.37 All fifteen scenes of this panel can also be found in the Schatzbehalter and are so similar to its woodcuts that we have to assume that the Schatzbehalter is dependent on the panel.38 Yet another important source for the reconstruction of the Schatzbehalter’s genesis has to be considered: the so-called Skizzenbuch des Michael Wolgemut [Sketchbook of Michael Wolgemut]. This quarto booklet is kept today in the Berliner Kupferstichkabinett and contains about a hundred sketches by four different hands on seventy-six leaves of paper, accompanied by only a few pages of text. Scholars assume that the sketchbook represents an interim stage in the making of the Schatzbehalter, as it copies, albeit in a rather simplified way, several image patterns of the Bamberg panel and does not seem to rely on the woodcuts of the Schatzbehalter incunable.39 This background is essential for understanding the most striking feature of the three adaptations of the work which were written in the Pütrich convent in the early sixteenth century. Whilst in the conception of the Schatzbehalter visuality and imagery were absolutely essential, none of the illustrations which accompany the ‘Gegenwürfe’ in the printed Book ii appears in the manu­scripts. Thus, precisely the element is missing that was constitutive for the text’s structure and function, or rather, which seems to have brought the work into existence at all: the imagery.

37  Wolfgang Stammler, ‘Allegorische Studien’, Deutsche Vierteljahresschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte, 17 (1939), 1–25. 38  The dating follows Robert Suckale, ‘Die kunstgeschichtliche Stellung der CapestranoTafel’, in Der Bußprediger Capestrano auf dem Domplatz in Bamberg: eine Bamberger Tafel um 1470/75, ed. by Lothar Hennig, Schriften des Historischen Museums Bamberg, 12 (Bamberg: Fruhauf, 1989), pp. 87–94. He suggests c. 1475 as the panel’s date: Robert Suckale, Die Erneuerung der Malkunst vor Dürer, Schriftenreihe des historischen Vereins Bamberg, 44 (Petersberg: Imhof, 2009), p. 443. Next to criteria of style, the date is also based on architectural aspects; see Michael Imhof, ‘Die topo­graphischen Ansichten des Domberges um 1470–1480’, in Der Bußprediger Capestrano auf dem Domplatz in Bamberg: eine Bamberger Tafel um 1470/75, ed. by Lothar Hennig, Schriften des Historischen Museums Bamberg, 12 (Bamberg: Fruhauf, 1989), pp. 69–86 (p. 83). 39  For a suggested new interpretation of these relationships, see Stefan Matter, ‘Die Vermittlung theologischen Wissens im Umfeld von Stephan Fridolins Schatzbehalter: zugleich ein Beitrag zur Rezeption des Traktats Ars et modus contemplativae vitae’, in Diagramm und Text: diagrammatische Strukturen und die Dynamisierung von Wissen und Erfahrung, ed. by Eckart Conrad Lutz, Vera Jerjen, and Christine Putzo (Berlin: Reichert, 2014), pp. 205–40.

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Two redactions of the Schatzbehalter, München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 4474 and 4475, were prepared by several sisters together (based on the understanding that, if in an enclosed convent several hands occur together in different manu­scripts over a long period of time, together with other hands some of which are sisters, it is more likely that such hands are by sisters rather than brothers). Three hands can be distinguished: A, B, and X, which contributed to both manu­scripts, fulfilling different scribal roles. When tracing the three scribes through the Pütrich convent library holdings, the quality and quantity of their work show that they must have been quite experienced. Although un