The Writings of Agnes of Harcourt: The Life of Isabelle and the Letter on Louis IX and Longchamp

By Worcester, Thomas | Medium Aevum, January 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Writings of Agnes of Harcourt: The Life of Isabelle and the Letter on Louis IX and Longchamp


Worcester, Thomas, Medium Aevum


The Writings of Agnes of Harcourt: The Life of Isabelle and the Letter on Louis IX and Longchamp, ed., trans., and introd. Sean Field, Notre Dame Texts in Medieval Culture (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003). x + 106 pp. ISBN 0-268-04403-1, $38.00 (hard covers); ISBN 0-268-04404-X, $19.00 (p/b). This book is well worth the attention of students and scholars interested in thirteenth-century France, in medieval French texts, in the history of hagiographical discourse, in women's history, and in gender studies. Sean Field succeeds in introducing and placing in historical context Agnes of Harcourt (d. 1291), abbess of the Franciscan abbey at Longchamp, a community founded in the 1250s by Isabelle of France, the sister of Louis IX. Agnes belonged to a prominent noble Norman family; her writings, translated for the first time into English in this bilingual edition, show her promoting the sainthood of both Isabelle and Louis IX.

In 1282, Agnes of Harcourt wrote an open letter - it has no addressee - in which she recounted Louis IX's involvement with the abbey. Agnes shows how the king played a major role in the early years of the abbey. He was present when the first women took the veil; he preached a sermon to them for that occasion. In the following years he often came to the abbey, where he humbly and devoutly visited the sick, sometimes curing them of their illnesses. He also gave gifts to Longchamp, including a piece of the true cross, as well as money and firewood. …

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