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Dark Age NunneriesThe Ambiguous Identity of Female Monasticism, 800-1050$
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Steven Vanderputten

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781501715945

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501715945.001.0001

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Reforms, Semi-Reforms, and the Silencing of Women Religious in the Tenth Century

Reforms, Semi-Reforms, and the Silencing of Women Religious in the Tenth Century

(p.88) Chapter 4 Reforms, Semi-Reforms, and the Silencing of Women Religious in the Tenth Century
Dark Age Nunneries

Steven Vanderputten

Cornell University Press

This chapter reviews the evidence for institutional and spiritual reform in women's communities, and makes three key observations. First, that bishops in particular relied on reform as a way of expressing specific claims to religious and political authority, and of rearranging the lordship and patronage of female monasticism to their own benefit and that of their associates. Second, that the installation of, or the ‘return’ to a Benedictine regime by no means heralded a greater degree of freedom from the interventions of clerical and lay rulers. And finally, that these interventions have rendered obscure a ‘pre-reform’ culture of reflection over the purpose and organization of female communal life, and also a great deal of experimentation. Instead of reversing a situation of terminal decline, the reforms marked the beginning of clerical intolerance towards the ‘ambiguous’ observance of women religious, and the end of a state of relative intellectual and spiritual autonomy.

Keywords:   Reform, Feminist revival, Episcopal authority, Pre-reformist agency, Intellectual culture, Aristocratic factioning, 'Spontaneous' communities, Reformist government, 'Semi-reforms', Estate management

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