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  • Medieval Holy Women in the Christian Tradition, c. 1100–c. 1500 by Alastair Minnis and Rosalynn Voaden, eds
  • Claire McIlroy
Minnis, Alastair and Rosalynn Voaden, eds, Medieval Holy Women in the Christian Tradition, c. 1100–c. 1500 (Brepols Collected Essays in European Culture, 1), Turnhout, Brepols, 2010; hardback; pp. 759; 3 b/w illustrations, 7 b/w line art; R.R.P. €125.00; ISBN 9782503531809.

A truly epic work on the historiography of medieval mulieres sanctae, this long-anticipated volume has certainly been worth the wait. The editors of the volume, Alastair Minnis and Rosalynn Voaden, both of whom are notable authorities on medieval writing, skilfully bring together an impressive array of prominent researchers whose work will already be well known to many who have an interest in female spirituality and religious literature in Western Europe 1100–1500. The essays in the volume are arranged to cover details about the larger context of the political, social, economic, and religious culture of a geographical region as well as the individual holy women themselves. As such, five thematic introductory essays begin the volume, followed by twenty-two essays arranged geographically into seven ‘Parts’: the British Isles, France, the German Territories, the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, the Low Countries, and Scandinavia. Each geographic area is covered by a survey that is then followed by essays on individual women.

Dylan Elliot provides the first of the introductory essays on the female body and spirituality, followed by Alastair Minnis on the varying religious roles permitted to women in Western Europe during the medieval period. John Coakley then adds a discussion of women’s voices and the pervasiveness of male clerical authors, John van Engen follows with an essay on the known extant sister books, and Peter Biller concludes the introductory section with a detailed exposition of women’s involvement with heretical groups across Europe such as the Lollards, Cathars, and Waldensians. The surveys, each followed by essays on individual holy women, that comprise the remaining chapters of the volume offer valuable insights into the geopolitical position of holy women across a range of regional contexts.

The volume will most certainly become a staple for undergraduate teaching in the area as well being a useful resource for scholars, especially in regard to the detailed information provided about primary source material and the extensive bibliographies that follow each chapter. Although there has been some criticism of the long gestation of this volume, the quality of the individual essays and the artful way in which the volume is organized far outweigh the fact that some of the research is a year or two older than it could have been. [End Page 310]

Claire McIlroy
Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies
The University of Western Australia


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