By Margaret E. Klotz
PhD Dissertaton, University of Toronto, 2002
Abstract: This dissertation introduces St. Clare of Montefalco, a medieval mystic of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, to the English-speaking world. The thesis examines aspects of her theology emphasized in her spirituality as well as presenting her life in the context of her culture.
The background material contains the social, cultural, ecclesiastical, religious, and political background of the times in which she lived. Since there are no extant writings of Clare of Montefalco, the chief sources used in the thesis are ‘ Il Processo di Chiara da Montefalco’, which was held in 1318 and the ‘ Vita S Clarae de Cruce’, which was written before 1320.
The sources studied provide information about Clare and her relationship to her family, her culture, and her Church. They also provide information about Clare’s life as a religious and a mystic. The thesis is heavily dependent on non-autobiographical material. Therefore, conscious of the use of hagiography, the dissertation discusses what hagiography is and how Berengario, her initial biographer and the bishop who invoked the apostolic process of canonization, makes use of this particular genre.
The dissertation presents Clare as an alternative theology resource of the Middle Ages different from that provided by the scholastic and monastic teachers of the period. Using the expertise of Bernard McGinn and Jean LeClercq, the thesis presents a comparison among the three types of theology; namely, scholastic, monastic and vernacular.
Clare crosses the boundaries between the categories of vernacular and monastic theologian. Having developed a method for claiming Clare as a theologian, and using the words and deeds of Clare, as seen and heard by the people who lived with her or whom she encountered, the thesis gives a portrait of the relationship of Clare to God and Jesus Christ. Integrating her theology of God and Jesus Christ to how she lived her life in ‘imitatio Christi’ completes the presentation of Clare of Montefalco as theologian, teacher, contemplative, and mystic.