- Sacred Communities, Shared Devotions: Gender, Material Culture, and Monasticism in Late Medieval Germany by June L. Meacham
The past few years have seen an explosion of work on north German convents on the eve of the Lutheran Reformation—research fundamental to shaping a new understanding of female monasticism, of the economic underpinnings of convent life, and of the continuities between medieval and early modern pieties. In this work, the young American scholar June L. Meacham, who died of virulent breast cancer in 2009, was a pioneer. Her book on the six female monasteries of the Lüneberg Heath, which provide researchers with an unprecedented wealth of visual and archival material and still survive as houses of Protestant sisters, has been lovingly and carefully completed by three eminent historians of women, Alison Beach, Constance Berman, and Lisa Bitel, with the help of Wolfgang Brandis, archivist of the Lüneberg Convent Archives. Especially strong on the economic conditions of these noble and patrician houses, Meacham’s book counters often-heard clichés about the opposition of wealth and devotion, the decline of monasticism shortly before the Protestant reform, and the divide between women in the cloister and women in the world. The care and speed with which her sister historians have given us this important book provide a moving example of the “community” and “devotion” to which Meacham’s title refers. Even if she did not live to see the book between hard covers, she knew the strength of scholarly friendship and died in certainty that her work would live on and have a major impact. [End Page 511]
Caroline Walker Bynum is professor emerita of medieval European history at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and University Professor emerita at Columbia University. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, former president of the American Historical Association, and a former MacArthur Fellow, she is the author of Wonderful Blood; Christian Materiality: An Essay on Late Medieval Religion; The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christendom, 200 – 1336; Holy Feast and Holy Fast; Fragmentation and Redemption; Jesus as Mother; and Metamorphosis and Identity.