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The Customary of the Royal Convent of Las Huelgas of Burgos: Female Liturgy, Female Scribes

The Customary of the Royal Convent of Las Huelgas of Burgos: Female Liturgy, Female Scribes

By David Catalunya

Medievalia, Volume 20, Number 1, 2017

Medieval Cistercian Nuns

Medieval Cistercian Nuns

Abstract: This article explores the medieval customary of the royal convent of Las Huelgas of Burgos, a hitherto unpublished document of critical importance for the knowledge of one of the most emblematic institutions of medieval Castile.

The manuscript, compiled by female scribes at some time between 1390 and 1406, represents the first concrete evidence of the Las Huelgas nuns’ ability to write and compile codices. The article discusses aspects of monastic topography, the distribution of liturgical duties between nuns and clerics, and the anniversary celebrations of members of the royalty. An extensive appendix provides an edition of the most representative chapters of the customary.

Introduction: Founded in the 1180s by King Alfonso VIII of Castile and his queen Leonor of Plantagenet, the royal abbey of Las Huelgas occupies a prominent place in the history of the female branch of the Cistercian Order. Although the convent of Las Huelgas, like many other female communities, began to adopt Cistercian practices independently of any men’s house, its symbolic designation as a special daughter of Cîteaux in 1199 deeply influenced the Order’s relationship with women’s religious communities.


In the decades and centuries to come, however, relations between Las Huelgas and the Cistercian Order went through especially conflictive periods.

Click here to read this article from Medievalia

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