This fascinating and comprehensive collection surveys the life of an extraordinary medieval woman. Christina of Markyate made a vow of chastity at an early age, against the wishes of her parents who intended her to marry. When forced into wedlock, she fled in disguise and went into hiding, receiving refuge in a network of hermitages. Christina became a religious recluse and eventually founded a priory of nuns attached to St. Albans.
Samuel Fanous and Henrietta Leyser present a vivid inter-disciplinary study devoted to the life, work, and extant "vita "of Christina of Markyate, which draws on research from a wide range of disciplines. Key topics have been selected in a balanced and comprehensive approach; they cover timeless themes, such as monasticism and eremiticisim, as well as topical matters in medieval research, such as gender issues.
The book begins by introducing readers to Christina's person and life, setting her in a cultural, social and religious context, and presenting the literary background of "The Life of Christina of Markyate." Further chapters examine themes such as the two traditions of martyrdom, virgin and ascetic, and Christina's alignment with both, the presentation of sanctity and sexual temptation in the twelfth century, and a survey of the phenomena of hermits and anchorites. The book also includes a close reading of the vita, revealing its markedly hagiographical qualities, and a discussion of the drama of the initials on the St. Alban's Psalter and what this reveals about the relationship between Christina and Abbot Geoffrey.
Beautifully illustrated, this book provides students who regularly encounter Christina with a research compendium from which to begin their studies, and introduces Christina to a wider audience.
'The Life of Christina of Markyate is perhaps the fullest and most vivid account of a woman coming down to us from the twelth century.' - The Tablet
'Attractively produced and well-illustrated collection of essays offering a comprehensive interdisciplinary contextualisation of Christina of Markayate.' - Journal of Ecclesiastical History
'The overall scholarly quality of the anthology is high, with the combination of breadth and depth it will make an indispensable resource for scholars and students interested in Christina.' - Bella Millett, University of Southampton
'This solid volume clarifies how medieval women could achieve spiritual empowerment through the ancient strategy of ascetic feminism.' - Revue D'Histoire Ecclesiastique