Convent Chronicles: Women Writing About Women and Reform in by Anne Winston-Allen

By Anne Winston-Allen

The overdue heart a long time was once a time of excessive non secular ferment in Europe marked by means of numerous demands reform of the Church. inside monastic orders, the Observant move used to be one such attempt to reform non secular homes, sparked through the common worry that those homes had strayed too faraway from their unique calling.

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Extra info for Convent Chronicles: Women Writing About Women and Reform in the Late Middle Ages

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From the point of view of gender identity, however, the women’s own words are also important. These surviving accounts from the Middle Ages have been neglected for so long that these female voices are heard here in many cases for the first time. It is exactly because they are so unfamiliar that they have been allowed to speak as much as possible, for themselves and anecdotally in their own words. No longer can it be said, as one scholar has observed: ‘‘Apart from a few exceptions—accounts about women in the Middle Ages were written only by men: at first almost exclusively by clerics, then more and more often lay persons, but again only men.

14 The Emmerich Book of Sisters tells how Mechtelt van Diedem (d. ), the second woman to lead the young community, joined when she heard that she was to be shown to a man that her parents wanted her to marry. Mechtelt seems to have been traumatized by the prospect and was reluctant to be introduced. Her relatives’ attempt to trick her into it precipitated a decision to seek the safe haven and the alternative of a religious life among the sisters. Although stressing the honorableness of the match, the story focuses on Mechtelt’s mental state and her secret pondering of her decision.

11 Magdalena Kremer writes, for example, in her ‘‘Chronicle of Kirchheim’’ (c. ) of Subprioress Elisabeth Herwert, one of the reformers from Alsace, who had lived in a convent from childhood but transferred to join an Observant community. This sister had been from childhood at the cloister of St. Katharina in Augsburg, also of the Dominican order. And when she became an adult, God began to work in her conscience so that she conceived the desire to go to the cloister of Scho¨ nensteinbach, which was the first and oldest cloister of the Observance in the German provinces.

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