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Title: The Matter of Sanctity: Material Devotion of Beguines and Beguin Heretics in Southern France, 1200-1330
Authors: Kannenberg, Corinne
Advisors: Jordan, William C.
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Heresy
Material culture
Sacred matter
Subjects: Medieval history
Religious history
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The Matter of Sanctity explores the role of material devotion in the construction and veneration of non-canonical saints in later medieval southern France. In particular, it examines the ways in which two lay religious movements—the beguines and the Beguins—utilized sacred matter in articulations and authentications of sainthood. Although both the beguines and the Beguins have been the subject of sustained scholarly inquiry, neither have been studied at length in the context of material devotion, and the connective threads between the two movements have largely remained uninvestigated. This dissertation is separated into two parts. The first focuses on the beguines, beginning with a detailed consideration of the origins and contemporary perceptions of the movement. Part one then explores the saint-making projects for two beguines with influence in southern France: Marie d’Oignies (d. 1213) and Douceline de Digne (d. 1274). The saintly identities of Marie and Douceline were constructed and affirmed in large part through material devotion: their own devotional relationships to sacred matter as described in hagiography, their embodied and somatic piety, and the profound importance of their relic and reliquary “material afterlives.” Part two examines the devotional beliefs and practices of the Beguins of Languedoc. The Beguins emerged in the context of the controversy over Franciscan poverty as lay members of the Franciscan Third Order who were heavily influenced by the teachings of Pierre de Jean Olivi (d.1298). In 1318, after ecclesiastical authorities ostensibly exhumed and destroyed Olivi’s body and Spiritual Franciscans were burned at the stake, the Beguins also became the target of inquisition. Deposition records describe the Beguin veneration of those who had been condemned as heretics and burned at the stake as martyr saints through the collection and enshrinement of their relics. The materiality of the resulting “makeshift reliquaries” that held these relic remains—which included homes, silks, boxes, and even a pomegranate husk—reveals both the limitations of Beguin devotion as well as evocations of orthodox tradition.
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

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