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Equal in Monastic Profession

Religious Women in Medieval France

In this study of the manner in which medieval nuns lived, Penelope Johnson challenges facile stereotypes of nuns living passively under monastic rule, finding instead that collectively they were empowered by their communal privileges and status to think and act without many of the subordinate attitudes of secular women. In the words of one abbess comparing nuns with monks, they were "different as to their sex but equal in their monastic profession."

Johnson researched more than two dozen nunneries in northern France from the eleventh century through the thirteenth century, balancing a qualitative reading of medieval monastic documents with a quantitative analysis of a lengthy thirteenth-century visitation record which allows an important comparison of nuns and monks. A fascinating look at the world of medieval spirituality, this work enriches our understanding of women’s role in premodern Europe and in church history.

310 pages | 6 halftones, 5 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1991

Women in Culture and Society

History: European History

Medieval Studies

Religion: Christianity

Women's Studies

Table of Contents

Series Editor’s Foreword
List of Abbreviations
1. Introduction
Part I. Connecting Links
2. The Secular Community
The Nun and Her Family
The Surrounding Lay Society
3. The Ecclesiastical Community
Relation to the Church Hierarchy
Relations with Other Clerics
Part II. Organizing Structures
4. The Search for Perfection
Spiritual Life
5. The Structure
6. The Finances
Economic Activities
Part III. Assessments
7. Religious Person Rather Than Woman
Positive Images
Two Miraculous Events
8. Closing the Doors
The Family Model

Appendix A. The Twenty-six Female Monasteries Studied
Appendix B. List of Monasteries from the Register of Eudes Rigaud
Selected Bibliography

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