Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and for the next week it will be running parallel with the new series which is all about Family and Friends and if you would like to participate here are the details: Posts from Your Archives April 2020 Family and Friends
This is the second post by author Patricia Furstenberg who shares her research into the religious life that became an option for women in the middle ages, as the founding of convents offered an alternative to marriage.
Convents: the Religious Life of Medieval Women
I am researching again, a task both exhilarating and overwhelming as I have to sieve such fascinating information and only retain the story bits that I need. I want to learn about Medieval women, especially, in the belief that women can write about war as well as take part in it. Mark Twain said: “The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” Hmm. So, here’s a bit of my research: Convents, the religious life of Medieval Women.
While most of us live in an era where women have freedom of speech, the right to education, to own a property, to a fair and equal wage and a life free from slavery and discrimination, let us remember that this wasn’t always the case.
After centuries-old prejudice against education for women the beliefs that women were not capable of learning or likely to use an education, medieval women had few choices and little support with regards to their own lives. When the average life expectancy was only 31 years, girls as young as 14 years were considered ripe for marriage, having no say no matter their intellectual or religious aspirations. Still, a few women resisted.
Convent of Christ in Tomar
Convents were the first institutions to rise in the Early Middle Ages, mimicking closely the rise of monasticism in the West of Europe, from a desire to enhance celebrations of God and to expand Christianity. They came at the right time to meet the women’s need for education or for furthering their religious aspirations.
Saint Scholastica, the sister of Saint Benedict, dedicated herself to God from an early age. She spent her life in the company of other religious women and is considered the founder of the first convent during the 5th century, the women’s branch of Benedictine Monasticism.
Scholastica came from a wealthy family, having the means to support herself while pursuing her religious dreams without the shadow of a forced marriage looming over her youth.
Benedict and Scholastica, Klosterkirche Elchingen. Wikipedia
Two centuries later the Canon laws, a set of ordinances made by the Church leadership, supported furthering the education for girls and women, directing the abbesses and the abbots to cultivate a love of reading in their communities and all members of its religious societies, male and female, to be literate in Latin.
Why join a convent?
During the Middle Ages, girls of seven years of age were sent by their families to a nunnery to gain an education until the age of 14 when they were expected to get married. Few girls dedicated their life to God to pursue a calling, like Christina of Markyate, a 12th century religious Englishwoman with visionary powers who, having made a vow of virginity in her youth and determined to resist marriage, fled to the protection of local hermits. A community of virgins grew around her, while through her spiritual and managing abilities she became the prioress of a flourishing Benedictine convent.
Some women saw in convent life the only way of pursuing their learning interests. There were also those who joined a convent to escape the dreary prospect of death through childbirth backed by marriage, often denigrated in favour of virginity. A virgin was respected more like a man than a married woman was.
And convents didn’t disappoint.
Scholarly nuns who rose to the rank of an abbess were treated as equals by men and their social class. Their voice, once silenced in their whisper, was suddenly heard through writings of treaties on logic or rhetoric, through music, even as advisors to popes, kings, and emperors, such as Hildegard of Bingen.
©Patricia Furstenberg 2019
My thanks to Pat for this fascinating look at religion for women and a look behind the doors to the convents of the time.
A small selection of other books (some in Afrikaans) by Patricia Furstenberg
One of the recent reviews for Silent Heroes
Silent Heroes is a thought-provoking story of a Marine K-9 unit serving in Afghanistan. The storyline is graphic and intense, yet, filled with the underlying beauty of the country.
I can not imagine the hours of research Ms, Furstenberg invested in writing such an in-depth book. She crafted every word to evoke the struggles the characters endure. The pacing is excellent. Just when you lose your breath due to the intensity, you are offered a respite through interactions with the elderly, women, and children.
The K-9 members of the unit are equally as important as the humans. Their job is dangerous, deadly, and essential to the survival of all. Each dog’s personality shines through the author’s words.
I learned quite a bit about the history of Afghanistan, and it’s people through the author’s well-crafted story.
This book should be required reading for everyone. I highly recommend this book to fans of fiction, drama, war stories, and history.
Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US
And: Amazon UK
Read more reviews and follow Patricia: Goodreads
Patricia Furstenberg is a multi-genre author, poetess and mother. With a medical degree behind her, Patricia is passionate about history, art, dogs and the human mind. “Silent Heroes” is her 13th book and her first contemporary fiction novel. So far Patricia wrote historical fiction, poetry and children’s books. All her books have one common denominator, dogs.
What fuels her is her fascination with words and coffee. She is the author of the bestseller Joyful Trouble and a prolific writer working on her next novel already, a historical fiction. Will it feature a dog as well? Only tme will tell. Patricia lives happily with her husband, children and dogs in sunny South Africa.
Connect to Patricia.
My thanks again to Pat for allowing me to share her post, and I hope you will head over to browse through her archives.. thanks Sally.