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Nuns, Tertiaries, and Quasi-Religious: The Religious Identities of Late Medieval Holy Women

Nuns, Tertiaries, and Quasi-Religious: The Religious Identities of Late Medieval Holy Women

By Catherine M. Mooney

Medieval Feminist Forum, Vol.42 (2006)

Introduction: In her landmark essay, ‘Creating and Recreating Communities of Women: The Case of Corpus Domini, Ferrara, 1406-1452,’ Mary Martin McLaughlin recounts the creation and early histrory of a community of pious laywomen, and its eventual – and contested – reorganization into two enclosed monastic communities. Each accepted an approved religious rule which associated it with a major religious order, the Augustinians in one case, and the Order of Saint Clare in the other. The community of Corpus Domini proved a singularly useful case for historical analysis because a rich cache of documents allowed McLaughlin to trace its fortunes with a degree of detail often impossible for other women’s communities. Although published in 1989, McLaughlin’s essay still stands as the most exciting piece of scholarship I can think of chronicling the transformation of a group of pious laywoman, who possessed a relative degree of freedom, into regularized nuns subject to formal ecclesiastical supervision.

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