Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Robert of Arbrissel: Sex, Sin, and Salvation in the Middle Ages

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Robert of Arbrissel: Sex, Sin, and Salvation in the Middle Ages

Article excerpt

Jacques Dalarun, Robert of Arbrissel: Sex, Sin, and Salvation in the Middle Ages, trans. Bruce L. Venarde (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006). xxx +188 pp. ISBN 978-0-8132-1439-9. £16.95. Jacques Dalarun's discovery of a Middle French version of The second Life of Robert of Arbrissel revolutionized contemporary scholarship on this medieval religious icon. Whereas previous study had been ideologically focused on Robert's proto-socialist or anti-misogynist leanings, Dalarun objectively compares hagiographical accounts, fragmentary sources, and admonitory letters addressed to Robert by Geoffrey of Vendôme and Marbode of Rennes, in order to elucidate our knowledge of his extraordinary life. The study traces Robert's development from a sinner and a simoniac to an exonerated holy man, through his years as a controversial itinerant preacher criticized for his mingling of male and female followers. These women would eventually become the nuns of Robert's monastery at Fontevraud, who were permitted to hold authority over the monks there: a development which Dalarun sets against the social impact of the Gregorian reform on contemporary ideas of sex, marriage, and femininity. …

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