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Sainted Women of the Dark Ages.

This volume contains translations of eighteen vitae of Merovingian saintly women who lived in the sixth and seventh centuries in Roman Gaul. Their names are not familiar save to those who are experts in early-medieval history and hagiography. In terms of time, these stories range from that of St. Genovefa (St. Genevieve, the patroness of Paris) who died circa 502 to Austreberta who died at the beginning of the eighth century. A wide audience should be grateful for this added resource for the recovery of the role of women in the history of Christianity.

The editors point out that these hagiographies have their own particular slant. The women were almost uniformly aristocratic; their lives did not emphasize poverty and self abnegation, nor were their roles "monastic" in any narrow sense of the term. In fact, one can detect some monastic evolution in these stories. Their lives and activities were integral to the Christianization of the culture; they served as mediators between the secular power of their male family members and as intercessors for the poor and neglected. Beyond that, their saintly charisma held up the model of the imitatio Christi as an apologetic model for the gospel and their rank and saintly prestige aided the growth of the Church. In the seventh century, especially, their monasteries, often endowed with their own funds and housing their own families (e.g. mothers and daughters), formed bonds with local bishops and had widespread influence on the shape of the local churches.

Each vita has a brief introduction. The volume as a whole has a detailed bibliography and an index of names. It is a valuable volume for those interested in hagiography, women's studies, and spirituality.
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Author:Cunningham, Lawrence S.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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