Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia: A Study of Manuscript Transmission and Monastic Culture

By Felice Lifshitz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
“;THE SENSUAL MAN DOES NOT PERCEIVE
THOSE THINGS THAT ARE OF THE SPIRIT
OF GOD”; (1 CORINTHIANS 2:14): HISTORY
AND THEOLOGY IN THE STORIES
OF THE SAINTS

PASSIONS OF THE SAINTS IN THE ANGLO-SAXON CULTURAL
PROVINCE IN FRANCIA

This chapter uses the “;whole book”; approach to analyze, holistically, the contents of the Karlburg apostle passionary (Wü;rzburg, UB M.p.th.f. 78) and the Kitzingen libellus that I have named “;Deus per angelum”; for its opening words (Wü;rzburg, UB M.p.th.q. 28b Codex 1).1 Both books functioned historiographically, recounting (through a combination of texts) a par tic u lar stage in the spread of Christianity.2 Furthermore, both constructed female figures as central to the conversion pro cess, whether as main protagonists (as in the Kitzingen libellus) or as crucial supporters (as in the Karlburg passion­; ary). The Karlburg passionary focused on a very early phase of Christianization, primarily in eastern lands, and the efforts of various apostles; the “;Deus per angelum”; libellus focused on a slightly later stage on the Italian peninsula and the efforts of various female martyrs (Cecilia, Juliana, Agnes, and Agatha).

Such stories were understood to describe real historical events, whose literal truth could often be “;verified”; by a visit to the grave of the saint in question. The city of Rome alone boasted dozens of such tombs, and one did not have to make the journey in person to know about the shrines, which were noted on the many pilgrim itineraries in circulation north of the Alps.3 Closer to home, the histo­; ricity of Christian struggles with pagan Rome was demonstrated at the Mainz arena, where a chapel was used for Christian rites from the fourth to the eighth centuries. The arena was less than eighteen kilometers from Leoba’;s community at Schornsheim, which may have been the home base of the nursemaid of Christ (“;ancella Christi”;) Rotsvintda named on the disk-shaped cover of a walrus ivory pyx inscribed with the beginning of the “;Our Father”; prayer, one of many ivory carvings found in the arena.4

Beyond the historicity of their surfaces, the narratives also possessed theo­; logical import for, like scripture itself, accounts of subsequent chapters of

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