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Title:The Sweetness of Suffering: Community, Conflict, and the Cult of Saint Radegund in Medieval Poitiers
Author(s):Edwards, Jennifer C.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McLaughlin, M. Megan,
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, Church
Women's Studies
History, Medieval
Abstract:Abbesses in Medieval Europe demanded not just the obedience of their own nuns, but of any dependent communities, male or female. The authority of these women rested on the history of their communities, the strength of their advocates, and their own ability to pursue their rights. In Poitiers, the abbesses of Sainte-Croix built the strength of their office on the memory of their founder, Saint Radegund, who was a model for female authority and a symbol of the community. The abbesses drew on the charisma of the saint and on the network of supporters Radegund had established to protect the abbey. When abbatial authority was contested, these ecclesiastical and secular officials became reliable defenders of the abbess's position. The most enduring threats to the abbess of Sainte-Croix came from her own nuns and the chapter of Sainte-Radegonde, also founded by Radegund. Nuns from Sainte-Croix repeatedly questioned the merit of their abbesses, including two occasions that led to outbreaks of physical violence. The canons of Sainte-Radegonde also challenged the abbess's claims and flouted her authority. While the abbess insisted that Sainte-Radegonde was a dependent community obliged to serve Sainte-Croix, the canons sought to increase the independence of their chapter. The abbess interpreted the canons' efforts as unacceptable threats against her traditional privileges.
The "Sweetness of Suffering" examines the period between Radegund's death in 587 and the abbey's reform in 1520. Over these nine centuries the authority and influence of Sainte-Croix's abbess remained well supported even in the face of serious challenges. In practice, however, it was difficult for the abbess to impose her authority over her supposed subordinates. While abbesses of Sainte-Croix succeeded in securing support for their claims to authority into the fifteenth century, well past the supposed twilight of female monastic power in Europe, they still had difficulty enforcing the privileges they claimed. Challenges to female authority, for Sainte-Croix, came not from a reforming hierarchy with fears about female influence in the church but, instead, from close members of the abbess's own religious family.
Issue Date:2008
Description:243 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI3314762
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-17
Date Deposited:2008

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