Presenter Information

Amanda Archibald

Mentor

Susan Wade

Location

David F. Putnam Science Center - 154

Abstract

During the early Middle Ages, women of high status could gain authority and secure their property by founding a monastery for women. Women with large inheritances were vulnerable to kidnap and forced marriage, and endowment of a monastery was one way to secure the fortunes of widows and heiresses. Additionally, by founding a monastery and appointing herself abbess a woman could maintain the management of her property and, in double monasteries, control both monks and nuns. This is true for Queens Radegund and Balthild, who founded the monasteries of Poitiers and Chelles. For both Radegund and Balthild the use of their wealth to found a monastery was central to the development of their saintly cults. Through a comparison to the vitae of contemporary male saints of similar economic status, this paper argues that female sanctity was often based on a woman’s ability to provide substantial wealth to monastic establishments.

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Apr 11th, 11:30 AM Apr 11th, 12:30 PM

Female Sanctity, Wealth, And The Foundation Of Monasteries In The Early Middle Ages

David F. Putnam Science Center - 154

During the early Middle Ages, women of high status could gain authority and secure their property by founding a monastery for women. Women with large inheritances were vulnerable to kidnap and forced marriage, and endowment of a monastery was one way to secure the fortunes of widows and heiresses. Additionally, by founding a monastery and appointing herself abbess a woman could maintain the management of her property and, in double monasteries, control both monks and nuns. This is true for Queens Radegund and Balthild, who founded the monasteries of Poitiers and Chelles. For both Radegund and Balthild the use of their wealth to found a monastery was central to the development of their saintly cults. Through a comparison to the vitae of contemporary male saints of similar economic status, this paper argues that female sanctity was often based on a woman’s ability to provide substantial wealth to monastic establishments.