Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: The Confessor's Daughters: Women Religious and the Dominican Order in Medieval Germany
Authors: Kurpiewski, Christopher Michael
Advisors: Jordan, William C
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Dominican Order
Dominican Sisters
Female Spirituality
Letter exchange
Medieval Germany
Sister Books
Subjects: Medieval history
Religious history
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation reconsiders the pastoral dynamic between women religious and the Dominican Order as it evolved in German centers of devotion, south and west of Mainz, during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. By tracing the development of the Dominican <italic>cura monialium</italic> through texts written by or about women who were affiliated with the Friars Preachers, the present study seeks to better understand the choice for both sides of that affiliation, the extent to which women could direct the pastoral care they sought, and what this line of inquiry reveals about the real ambitions of women in pursuit of greater religion. We are left then to question, and perhaps to redefine what collaboration meant at this time for men and women in the religious life. Bishops and priors were anxious about monastic <italic>transitus</italic>, the transfer from one religious order to another, but permission could not be denied to someone who was judged sincere in their pursuit of `greater religion'--however the supplicant defined it. As the thirteenth century progressed, the Dominican Order as a whole turned away from the <italic>cura monialium</italic> for fear its burden would restrict friars from fulfilling their vocations. Nevertheless, in Germany, increasing numbers of women religious sought affiliation or incorporation with the Order as they pursued lives of stricter observance and better spiritual instruction. Only in the 1260s did the Order begin to re-engage with women religious as itinerant confessors to their communities. The view still prevails that the majority of women religious in the Middle Ages were passive recipients of the <italic>cura monialium</italic> offered by the male orders. Through considering what texts written by or about Dominican women reveal of the experiences and expectations of their authors, it becomes possible to glean new insights from this two-sided relationship. Not only is a subjective collaboration found between one confessor and his `spiritual daughter', but we find how the friar drew on this experience to extol its intellectual and salvific benefits to his brethren. In another place, a monastery's election to join the Dominican Order reveals how sometimes the choice and terms of affiliation were bound to contests between burghers and their bishop. The fourteenth-century Sister Books not only captured the rhythm of life from the convents they commemorate, but they worked in those communities to strengthen institutional identity and to cultivate a life of the mind. By turning our attention to the choice and terms of affiliation, we may begin to discern the ambitions that led women religious to seek and to sustain relationships with the Friars Preachers. It is also to challenge interpretations of experiential mysticism as a lived experience, cautioning us to not discount the role of the intellect in medieval women's spirituality.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Kurpiewski_princeton_0181D_11027.pdf1.17 MBAdobe PDFView/Download

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.