Academic journal article Magistra

Women's Monasticism and Medieval Society: Nunneries in France and England, 890-1215

Academic journal article Magistra

Women's Monasticism and Medieval Society: Nunneries in France and England, 890-1215

Article excerpt

Venarde, Bruce.

(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996) 243 pages, cloth $42.50, ISBN 0-8014-3203-0.

Too often the tenth to the twelfth centuries are characterized as periods of retrenchment for women's' monasticism. Any scholar can easily justify and perpetuate this concept by simply choosing the appropriate lens with which to view this period. In focusing his study on the process of founding women's monastic communities, Venarde challenges the perception that the monastic movement was stagnant. He further challenges the tendency to perceive that women's monasticism is best viewed within the context of male "reform" movements.

Venarde begins with a discussion of his approach to this study, including a chronology, the geographical boundaries of his statistical study and the rationale for it, as well as his statistical framework. He examines early royal initiatives that contributed to the rapid growth of women's monastic communities. He also looks at the contributions of hermits, aristocrats and bishops to this movement. Venarde critically examines the contexts that fostered growth, economic expansion and decentralization of power.

Venarde notes that more women wanted to join monasteries than space allowed. He found, however, that communities were able to accept surprisingly large numbers of new members given the challenges that women faced. Venarde includes an examination of the importance of families to the flourishing of this movement. …

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