Wemple, Suzanne Fonay. Scholarship in Women’s Communities in Women in Frankish Society: Marriage and the Cloister, 500 to 900

[Scholarship in Women’s Communities, from Suzanne Wemple's Women in Frankish Society .]
A broad treatment -- enlivened with many concrete examples -- of the intellectual pursuits and spiritual influence of Merovingian nuns. Here Wemple also investigates the impact of the Carolingian revival of learning on communities of women.
Monasteries of women, like male religious institutions were centers of civilization and culture in the early Middle Ages.1 A great deal has been written about the development of early monasteries and the daring and dedication of monks, hacking their way through the European forests and bringing cultivation and books wherever they went. The monks’ schools, libraries, and scriptoria have been rightly acclaimed as bulwarks of culture against the forces of ignorance that seemed almost to engulf western Christendom between 500 and 800. In comparison, little attention has been paid to the role that nuns played in the preservation of learning between late antiquity and the Carolingian Renaissance of the ninth century. There are no current histories of the cultural contributions of early medieval nunneries.2 The only study correcting the neglect of the sisters’ share in scholarship is Bernhard Bischoff’s study of the Cologne manuscripts copied by nuns.3

The purpose of this chapter is to integrate Bischoff's findings into a broader treatment of the intellectual pursuits and spiritual influence of Merovingian nuns and to investigate the impact of the Carolingian revival of learning on communities of women.


Although nunneries never rivaled their male counterparts in number or in size in the Merovingian kingdom, they kept pace with them in standards of learning and scholarship, The first rule issued for nuns in Gaul, Caesarius of Arles's Regula sanctarum virginum, included the requirement that the sisters should be old enough to be taught to read and write. Moreover, in a letter to his Sister, Caesarius noted that a certain part of the day should be set aside for the “divina lectio”, the reading and listening to the reading of the Scriptures and devotional works.4 Subsequent rules for women - Aurelian of Arles's Rule, written in the mid-sixth century, Donatus of Besancon's Rule, issued between 630 and 655, and the Regula cuiusdam patris ad virgines, probably composed by Waldabert of Luxeuil (629- 670) for the nuns of Faremoutiers - all upheld similar criteria, thus establishing a way of life in female monasteries that paralleled that of monks.5 Nuns who learned slowly were subject to the rod, the standard punishment for lazy monks.6

Beyond the elementary skills of reading and writing, the education of both sexes was largely limited, at least until the ninth century, to a solid knowledge of the Bible, the works of the fathers of the church, and some acquaintance with canon and civil law. Evidence that nuns conformed to this pattern is plentiful. Caesaria, abbess of Saint Jean of Arles in the sixth century, advised Radegund and the sisters of Holy Cross at Poitiers 7 “to read and hear assiduously the divine lessons . . . to gather from them precious daisies for your ears and make from them rings and bracelets”. Her words must have been well received, for Radegund, according to her biographer, stayed awake at night to read the Scriptures. Fortunatus, moreover, testified that the Greek fathers were read in her convent.8 A century later, Gertrud of Nivelles was renowned for having committed to memory the entire library of divine laws and for being able to lecture on the obscure mysteries of scriptural allegories.9

The accomplishments of the two eighth-century nuns, Herlinda and Renilda of Eyck, might have been exaggerated by their ninth-century biographer. In addition, it is possible that the nunnery at Valenciennes, where they were allegedly educated, did not exist during this period. Whatever the facts about Herlinda and Renilda of Eyck, the most interesting part of their biographer's account is his insistence that the girls were sent to Valenciennes to study:

divine doctrines, human arts, religious studies, and sacred letters. Whatever they were taught through books and lectures, they had memorized .... In the aforesaid monastery, they acquired a thorough knowledge of the diverse forms of divine office and ecclesiastical ceremonies, that is, of the reading and modulation of chants and psalter, and, what is even more admirable in our times, of copying and illuminating .... In the same way, they were instructed in every skill of those arts which are usually produced by the hands of women, that is, in spinning and weaving, making designs and interlacing in gold, and embroidering flowers in silk.10

That the production of fine cloth and needlework, the traditional occupation of women, was regarded by some as a less desirable pursuit than the spiritual and intellectual labor of nuns is evident from Caesarius of Arles's remark that abbesses should encourage praying and reading rather than needlework among their nuns. According to Caesarius, temptations to vanity were inevitable when nuns were allowed to give too much attention to embroidering and other fine arts.”11

To educate nuns, books and teachers were needed. When Gertrud became abbess of Nivelles, a monastery founded by her mother, Itta, around 640, she sent to Rome for books and to Ireland for monks “to teach her and the sisters divine laws in the form of poetry.”12 The Irish monasteries, with the ancient tradition of oral learning, were at that time the most distinguished centers of scholarship.13 Soon, however, some of the Frankish double monasteries were equally famous as centers of devotion and learning. The biographer of Saint Bertila, the first abbess of Chelles (ca. 658/59-705), writing around the middle or late eighth century, remarked that “kings from across the seas from various parts of Saxony beseeched her to send her disciples as teachers and to establish similar monasteries for men and women.” Bertila obliged them by dispatching several chosen women and devout men with many volumes of books.14

In the eighth century, when the Anglo-Saxons emerged as the leading educators in the Latin West, their missionaries kept in close touch with the nuns of their native land. The English sisters supplied them not only with money and altar cloths but also with books. For example, to impress the heathen Germans, Saint Boniface asked Eadburga, the abbess of Thanet, to transcribe for him in golden letters Saint Peter's Epistle.15 A more modest manuscript, Apponius's commentary on the Song of Songs, copied in the eighth century by an English nun Bertila and addressed to an “incletus iuvenis,” is preserved in the Municipal Library of Boulogne-sur-Mer.16

Nor was the influence of Anglo-Saxon nuns on continental education limited to the help they gave missionaries. Some Anglo-Saxon nuns actually became missionaries themselves, heeding Saint Boniface's call for a mission of nuns “to teach the clerks and the children of the nobility the message of celestial sermons.” Among the learned women who joined him, Tecla and Lioba established at Kitzingen and Bischofsheim the first nunneries in German lands.l7

The cultural contributions of the more closely cloistered Frankish sisters, although equally impressive, were perhaps not as dramatic and certainly not as widely publicized. In communities under the stringent Rule of Caesarius, nuns functioned as teachers as a matter of course; the presence of men in the convent was tolerated only for the celebration of mass and the administration of the sacraments.18 Even in the double monasteries, where the sexes were not as strictly segregated, the teachers were usually women. When Queen Balthild founded Chelles between 657 and 659, she turned for educational guidance to the abbess of Jouarre, not to Irish monks, as Gertrud had. Responding to this request, Theudechild sent some of her nuns under the leadership of Bertila.19

Other double monasteries also served as coeducational schools. We know of two Merovingian princes who were raised at Chelles.20 The warm gratitude that Paschasius Radbertus, abbot of Corbie (844-851). expressed to the nuns who had educated him at Soissons attests to the quality of instruction in female communities.21 When the Carolingian reformers decided to cloister women more strictly, and with this end in mind barred boys from nunneries, coeducation in nunneries was apparently so widespread that the order for its abolition was incorporated in an imperial capitulary.22

In monasteries women acted also for the first time in history as librarians. Caesarius of Arles in his rule enumerated among monastic officers the custodian of books.23 This was an important office, entrusted only to responsible members of the community. Books were scarce and were carefully guarded as valuable property. Their theft was not uncommon, as the threats of God's wrath or even anathema invoked against thieves at the beginning or end of volumes indicate.24

Some of the books in monastic libraries were legacies or gifts. For example, Eckhard, count of Autun and Macon, in his will of January 876 bequeathed five manuscripts to three members of Faremoutiers. He left a copy of the Gospels and a Life of Saint Antony to the abbess Bertrada, a psalter and a volume of prayers to his sister Adana, and a book on gynecology to his sister-in-law, Tetrada.25 At the death of these women, the manuscripts probably became part of the convent's collection. Other books were specifically ordered for the monastic library by the abbess, probably in consultation with the librarian.

Thanks to the painstaking scrutiny of Bernhard Bischoff and other scholars, a few eighth and ninth century manuscripts commissioned by nuns have been identified. For example, Jerome's Commentary on Jeremiah was copied in 805 for an abbess Hlottildis, who might be Theotildis of Remiremont, according to Bischoff.26 Notations in manuscripts about their destination and location are usually too cryptic to be useful. The scribe of a ninth-century collection of penitentials merely remarked that he had compiled the volume for a congregation of nuns “ad lapidum fluminis,” a river that Bischoff, on the basis of the script, has proposed to be the Main.27 In the Autun Gospels copied with commentaries in 754, the scribe identified himself as Gundoinus and explained that he was induced to produce the book by a certain “domina Fausta” in honor of Saint John and Saint Mary. Because the paleographical evidence points to a scriptorium at Autun, and there was in the city a convent dedicated to Saint John and Saint Mary, Lowe has concluded that Fausta was the abbess of that institution.28 A further example of a volume copied for nuns is in the rich manuscript collection of the Laon Municipal Library. Codex 113, a ninth-century collection of sermons and documents bearing on theological controversy and religious persecution of orthodox Christians under the Vandals, includes an anonymous treatise, Liber de quatuor virtutibus, hoc est caritatis, continentiae, patientiae et penitentiae, which was dedicated to “dominae meae dilectae” and was written for the edification of her community. The sermon on the birth of Saint John in the collection suggests that perhaps it was destined for the same community as the Autun Gospels.29

The Laon manuscript gives us an insight into the range of readings of an average Frankish nun. The sermons include Saint Augustine's Oration in his Soliloquiorum, two discourses on the birth of Christ and one on his resurrection, and an interesting exposition in rhythmic prose on the parable of the bleeding woman. There are two poems, Sedulius Coelius' verse on the birth of Christ and, in a later hand, the first four lines of a hymn by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, as well as several dogmatic writings on the Monothelite controversy and a short tract on clerical life, commonly attributed in the Middle Ages to Saint Jerome.30 If we add to this list the titles of the books that were bequeathed to or copied for nuns, it becomes evident that the libraries of Frankish convents were not limited to the volumes of the Bible, psalters, and missals. The nuns also had access to commentaries on the scriptures, saints' lives, religious poetry, sermons, patristic writings, penitentials, and books of medicine.

The correspondence of Alcuin with Gisla and Rotrud, Charlemagne's sister and daughter, who had both retired to Chelles, confirms the breadth of the Frankish nuns' interest in books. It was to them that the eminent scholar and teacher turned for criticism of his unfinished commentary on the Gospel of Saint John. They urged him to complete it, asking him in the meantime to explain for them certain difficult passages in Saint Augustine and to supply them with Saint Jerome's letter to “the Roman women”. Reciprocating their interest, Alcuin not only encouraged them to read biographies of the fathers, saints' lives, and Pope Gregory's Dialogues, but also sent them Bede's works.31

Some of the manuscripts in the libraries of the Frankish female communities were copied by nuns. Until quite recently, the accomplishments of Frankish nuns as scribes were unknown. The feminine names that appear in some eighth and ninth century manuscripts had traditionally been dismissed by scholars as attempts on the part of women readers to immortalize themselves, or as garbled versions of masculine names.32 But the paleographical evidence assembled by Bernhard Bischoff leaves no doubt that the nine nuns who had identified themselves in the Cologne manuscripts were professional scribes. In addition to the Cologne manuscripts they copied for Hildebald of Cologne (783-819), Bischoff has located in various libraries seventeen codices that were written by the same group.33 Although he proposed Chelles as the scriptorium where the nine nuns were active, he has provided evidence that books were copied in other convents as well.

The existence, possibly at Laon, of a scriptorium where women worked as scribes is indicated by an eighth-century collection of Isidore of Seville's works, entitled in the codex Liber rotarum, now housed in the Municipal Library of Laon. The codex concludes with the declaration written in cursive: “ego Dulcia scripsi et susscripsi istum librum rotarum.” On the basis of its distinctive “az” type of script, Lowe has related the codex to other manuscripts, including Cambridge CCC MS 334, which was copied by a male scribe, Fortunatus. We can presume, therefore, that in Dulcia's scriptorium men and women collaborated in the production of books.34 The possibility that this scriptorium was at Notre-Dame-de-la-Profonde, the convent at Laon founded by Saint Salaberga, is suggested by the similarity of Dulcia's script with that used at Luxeuil. Salaberga's mentor was Waldebert of Luxeuil. Furthermore, in a fragment of a manuscript with the same “az” type of script, there are marginal notations by Martin Hiberniensis, a scholar who was teaching at the Laon cathedral school in the ninth century.35

Another manuscript pointing to an integrated scriptorium in the vicinity of Meaux is an eighth-century copy of Augustine's De Trinitate in the Municipal Library of Cambrai. The codex contains the name MA-DAL-BER-TA enclosed within an initial I. Two initials resembling this I, with the name David, appear in the famous Sacramentary of Gellone, copied in the late eighth century in the region of Meaux and now housed at the Bibliothèque Nationale. Despite some earlier attempts to account for the feminine ending in the Cambrai manuscript as a scribal error, most modern scholars agree that it was copied in the scriptorium of a double monastery in the vicinity of Meaux, either at Faremoutiers or at Jouarre.36

Bischoff has also discovered the existence of a scriptorium at Würzburg, where a nun named Abirhilt and possibly another named Gunza were working.37 To this list we must add the scriptorium at Remiremont, where, in the ninth century, the nun Caecilia had the honor of recording her abbess's donation and where the convent's Liber memorialis was undoubtedly also written.38 Yet another nunnery, the one at which Eugenia worked, has remained unidentified. A ninth-century scribe, she proudly signed her name with Greek letters in the copy she made of Priscian's grammar, now at the Bibliothèque Nationale.39

Further study of early medieval manuscripts will undoubtedly disclose more details about the activities of nuns as teachers, librarians, writers, and scribes. Even with the data now available to us, we can conclude that nuns played a significant role in the cultural life of the Frankish Kingdom. The ninth-century artist, illuminating the so-called First Bible of Charles the Bald, did not engage in flights of fancy when he depicted Saint Jerome dictating his translation of the Bible to both men and women.40 He modeled the women, with scrolls in their hands on Jerome's right, and the men, with books in their laps on Jerome's left, after the learned nuns and monks of the early Middle Ages. Pictures in other ninth-century manuscripts also attest that the scholarly woman surrounded by scrolls was a standard paradigm.41


Women in religious communities made a significant contribution to Merovingian literature. Although modest in scope and pragmatic in focus, as Pierre Riche has demonstrated. Merovingian writings exerted a lasting influence on hagiography and devotional literature. While Merovingian legal texts were the products of episcopal and royal courts, saints’ lives, hymns, and prayers were closely connected both in their inspiration and composition with the monasteries. Nuns left an imprint on this type of literature by introducing feminine ideals into hagiography and leaving a record of their own mystical experiences.

The learned Bollandists, who began editing saints’ lives in the seventeenth century, assumed that the anonymous biographies of male and female saints surviving from merovingian times had been composed by men. The only work in which the author had identified herself as a woman and a nun, Baidonivia’s Life of Saint Radegund, was dismissed as an exception. Influenced by Krisch’s remark that her style was barbarous,43 scholars have tended to disparage her work as mere compilation, especially in comparison to Fortunatus’ skillful and dramatic Vita of Radegund that Baudonivia intended to supplement.44

That the biographer of Saint Wynnebald, who was also entrusted with the task of putting into writing the verbal account of the saint’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Saint Willibald, was a nun of Heidenheim has been demonstrated by Bernard Bischoff.45 The cryptogram of Hugeburc’s name, appearing in the earliest extant manuscript, might have been deciphered earlier if scholars had paid attention to Saint Boniface’s testimony that the Anglo-Saxon nuns who came with him to the continent were avid readers and talented writers. The missionary’s correspondence makes it clear that his close friend, Saint Lioba, was only of the several Anglo-Saxon nuns who turned to the composition of religious poetry.46

The possibility that Frankish nuns may also have made a contribution to the meager literary production predating the Carolingian Renaissance and that their writings may be buried among the anonymous hymns, chronicles, and saints’ lives in early medieval manuscripts has not been seriously considered. Only recently, as the high standards of learning in Frankish female convents have gained recognition, have scholars begun to pay closer attention to evidence that suggests feminine authorship. An awareness of Gisla's erudition (Charlemagne's sister and a nun at Chelles) led the German scholar Hoffman to trace to her convent the composition of the Annales Mettenses.47

The older version of Saint Balthild's life, the A Vita, was also composed at Chelles by a nun of the community.48 The intimate details the A Vita gave of Balthild's activities and death, as well as the prominent place it accorded to the bishop of Paris in the circle of Balthild's friends, leaves no doubt that this version was written at Chelles, not long after Balthild's death in 679, by someone who knew the queen quite we11.49 A reference in the preface to the “dilectissimi fratres,” at whose behest the work was composed, convinced scholars that the author was a monk of Chelles.50

A careful scrutiny of the A Vita, however, reveals that Chelles was not a double but a single female community when Balthild lived there. The text does not mention the presence of monks. Although there were priests at the bedside of the dying Balthild,51 their function was purely sacramental. They were summoned to entrust her “blessed soul to God.”52 The fact that, when the priests arrived, Balthild told the sisters to leave indicates that the priests and the nuns did not constitute a monastic community.53 An entirely different picture emerges from the Vita of Bertila, the first abbess of Chelles, who was installed in that office by Balthild herself and under whose leadership Balthild later lived at Chelles. Composed in the second half of the eighth century, the Vita Bertilae depicted the monastery as a double institution with a substantial number of monks and nuns.54 Rather than dismissing one of the lives as an unreliable source, we can resolve the discrepancy in their stories by considering the time of their composition. The Vila Bertilae reflects changes that occurred after Balthild's death. Bertila, who outlived Balthild by twenty-six years (dying around 705), invited monks to join the community after the death of her patroness.55

The authoress of Balthild's A Vita may have finished her composition after the first monks were admitted to Chelles. I doubt, however, that the “dilectissimi fratres,” to whom she dedicated her work, were the new brothers. Rather, as Nelson suggested, they were probably the monks of Corbie, which was also founded by Balthild and where Balthild's friend, Theudefrid, continued to serve as abbot for some time after her death.56

The corrected and revised version of Balthild's life, the B Vita, which was composed in the early ninth century, may also have been the work of a woman. Because it referred to Balthild's testament in the convent's archives, the editor concluded that the author was the convent's “bibliothecarius.” But the learned librarian could just as well have been a woman. Neither external nor internal evidence in this later version, nor for that matter in the Translatio S. Baltechildis, which was composed shortly after 833, excludes the possibility of female authorship.57

Female authors writing about women introduced feminine values and ideals into hagiography. They replaced the ideal of the asexual female saint, the “virago,” whose greatest accomplishment was the imitation of male virtues, with a heroine who relied on female attributes to achieve sanctity. The conventional topoi of monastic lives - humility, piety, and self-denial - appeared also in the compositions of Baudonivia and the nun of Chelles. Radegund, according to Baudonivia, served meals to pilgrims and washed and dried the face of the sick with her own hands.58 Balthild also, according to the authoress of her Vita, sought menial jobs at Chelles, such as cooking and the cleaning of latrines.59 But the characterization of the two saints as mother figures, peacemakers, and promoters of dynastic cult centers was an unusual theme in hagiography. It represented the assimilation into religious life of the nurturing and mediatory roles women were expected to play as daughters and wives in Merovingian society. Although women transcended their biological and sexual roles in religious communities, they did not reject the attitudes associated with these roles. On the contrary, they elevated feminine psychological traits to a spiritual plane.

Writing between 609 and 614,60 Baudonivia was the first to emphasize typically female attributes, which do not appear either in Fortunatus' Vita of Radegund or in the other sources that Baudonivia used. Her aim was to compose a guide for her fellow nuns. Not wishing to repeat “those things that the blessed father, Bishop Fortunatus, has written about,” she concentrated on the second phase of Radegund's life, when the saint lived in a cell adjacent to the convent she had built at Poitiers.61 The prototype of the ideal nun that Baudonivia presented to her sisters was not, however, a self-effacing and sexless abstraction. In contrast to Fortunatus' portrayal of Radegund as the withdrawn wife and reluctant queen whose main objective was to transcend her femininity and escape from her husband, Baudonivia described Radegund as an outgoing and emotional woman, who was as concerned about the affairs of the convent as about the developments in the …

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The childless Radegund in Baudonivia's Vita assumed the responsibilities of motherhood, nurturing and disciplining the spirit of the sisters with boundless energy:

When the lesson was read, with pious solicitude caring for our soul, she said: “If you do not understand what is read, it is because you do not ask solicitously for a mirror of the soul?” Even when the least [of us] out of reverence took the liberty to question her, she did not cease with pious solicitude and maternal affection to expound what the lesson contained for the good of the soul.63

An extension of Radegund's role as mother was her function as “domina,” which she discharged with strictness and kindness even after her death. She punished severely her former servant, Vinoberga, for sitting on her throne, but then took pity on her after she had prayed for mercy.64

Radegund's attempts to act as a peacemaker and her efforts to set up the convent as an intermediary between royalty and divinity were also interpreted by Baudonivia as expressions of her feminine concerns. While the love of peace was not an entirely new motive in hagiography,65 this was the first time that a female saint assumed the role of peacemaker as a family obligation. The conventional notion that the love of associates in the monastery obliterated the memory of parents and husband, one that Baudonivia dutifully introduced,66 did not prevent her from making clear that Radegund retained close ties with her husband's kin:

Because she loved all the kings, she prayed for the life of each and instructed us to pray without interruption for the stability [of their kingdoms]. Whenever she heard that they had turned against each other with hatred, she was greatly shaken and sent letters to the one and the other [imploring them] not to wage war and take up arms against each other but to conclude peace so that the country should not perish. In the same way, she sent great men to give salutary advice to the illustrious kings so that the country should be made more salubrious both for the king and the people. She imposed continuous vigils upon the congregation and instructed us with tears in her eyes to pray for the kings without interruption.67

The relic that Radegund obtained from the Byzantine emperor played an important part in her scheme to develop the convent into an agency of intercession on behalf of kings. Baudonivia recalled that Radegund had regarded the piece of the true cross “as an instrument whereby the salvation of the kingdom would be secured and the welfare of the country assured.”68

The appearance of the same dual theme in Balthild's Vita-Balthild's motherly disposition, her sense of mission as peacemaker between the warring kingdoms, and the extension of this mission to Chelles, which under her guidance became the source of concord between God and the court-suggests the direct influence of Baudonivia. The nun of Chelles probably had access to Baudonivia's Vita Radegundis in the convent's library while she composed Balthild's life toward the end of the seventh century. It would be wrong, however, to accuse her of imitation. Balthild, like Radegund and all Merovingian wives and mothers, was socialized to serve in the family and the broader aristocratic structure as a mediatrix of conflicts. The biographer, being a woman herself, found this role admirable. Baudonivia's work, serving as her model, encouraged her to interpret Balthild's actions in the context of this feminine role.

The Chelles authoress stressed the motherly aspects of Balthild's activities as a queen. She looked after the young men in her court as an “optima nutrix,” and treated the poor as a “pia nutrix.”69 When she described Balthild's rule as regent, she emphasized that Balthild was an instrument of divinely ordained harmony between the warring kingdoms.70 Finally, when she spoke of Balthild's plans for Chelles, she made it clear that Balthild knew only too well that the congregation had to offer prayers not only for the king and queen but for the royal officials as well. With the magnates running the kingdom, the help of God had to be obtained for a broad constituency if Chelles was to serve as a dynastic cult center.7l

While some female hagiographers translated attitudes associated with feminine roles in secular society into ideals of sanctity, another seventh-century nun, Aldegund, found her own voice and gave expression to her own spiritual experiences. Born around 639, Aldegund founded Maubeuge and served as its first abbess.72 She began having visions as a child and as an adult had almost nightly communications with the divine. According to the author of her Vita, who claims to have been educated at Maubeuge and to have known her personally, Aldegund left a record of her visions by dictating them to Submus, abbot of the neighboring Nivelles. Passages from the book were read aloud to the sisters, and the author personally was asked by Aldegund to act as a reader. Although no manuscript of this original version of Aldegund's visions is extant, the Vita claims to provide a summary of its contents.73

Visions serving as premonitions of impending death or as assurances of salvation at the time of death were common themes in early medieval hagiography. Christ as the bridegroom appeared in Baudonivia's Life of Radegund, promising the saint that she would be one of the brightest diadems in his crown.74 The dying Balthild saw Mary welcoming her to an altar, which had stairs behind it flanked by angels and leading up to heaven.75 Aldegund's visions, covering a broader range of incidents, brought together many strands of early medieval mysticism, imprinting feminine values upon this type of spirituality.

In her first vision, Aldegund saw Christ calling her to monastic life.76 Some of her later experiences were in the form of encounters with the devil, who appeared to her as a roaring lion and a rapacious wolf, images that were probably patterned after Saint Anthony's temptations.77 Aldegund's firm “virilitas” in resisting the demon was a variation on the “virago” motif in Roman literature.78 She was always given consolation after the temptations, a foretaste of the mysteries of heaven. Christ, the Holy Ghost, angels, and blessed souls advised her not only on how to achieve salvation but also explained to her the sense of mystic phenomena. Angelic messengers and their reassuring words were conventional topics in saints' lives. Even Aldegund's vision of a beautiful young girl sent from heaven by the Blessed Virgin had its parallel in Pope Gregory I's Dialogues.

Although the imagery and symbolism of Aldegund's visions were inspired by earlier models, the message the heavenly envoys brought to her was new. Instead of advising Aldegund to abstain from laughing and joking and to hold her tongue if she wanted to join the circle of celestial virgins, the young girl sent by Mary spoke about the commandment of love: “You shall love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your powers, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37).79 Love was also the advice that Saint Peter gave to Aldegund when he informed her that she would soon be summoned to heaven:

Why are you bewildered? I am Peter the Apostle who has the power to bind and to loose and was sent to you by Jesus Christ. 0 chaste [virgin], you are counted among the blessed! The Lord desires your departure .... Do not fear; whoever fears is not perfect in love; “but perfect love casts out fear, for fear has to do with punishment” (John 4:18).80

Unlike the visions of female saints described by men, Aldegund's experiences were not designed to instruct women on overcoming the weaknesses of their sex. As in the saints' lives written by women, Aldegund's message was intended to draw the lesson of love. By penetrating the nature of women's religious impulses and spiritual experiences, female authors of the seventh century became eloquent witnesses to the true meaning of evangelical piety at a time when the church emphasized rituals as the way to salvation. They revealed that the women who sought an active part in the spiritual and monastic experiments of the seventh century were not weak in mind or spirit, but could live fully the message of the Gospels and imitate Christ.


The significant literary creativity of women in Merovingian monasteries was not sustained in the Carolingian period. Although nuns continued to act as scribes, book collectors, teachers, and librarians, they were not known to be active in Carolingian literary scholarship. A careful scrutiny of the contents, themes, and imagery of the anonymous saints' lives and devotional literature composed in Carolingian times may reveal the authorship of nuns.8l It would, however, be foolish to expect discoveries of female contributions to the new branches of literature that resulted from the Carolingian revival of learning. The new literary products, the textbooks, Biblical commentaries, sermons, theological treatises, letters, encomia, and moral instructions addressed to kings, and the interpretations of canon and civil law were written by men. The Carolingian revival of learning, which began at Aachen under the sponsorship of Charlemagne and was later introduced into the cathedral and monastic schools, bypassed the communities of women.

The active interest in books and learning exhibited by the female members of his own family was not taken into account by Charlemagne in his legislation on education. The general instructions Charlemagne issued on standards of scholarship in 789 specified that “psalms, musical notations, songs, computations, grammars in each monastery and bishopric . . . and, whenever it was needed, the Gospels, the Psalter and the Missal were to be written by men who had reached the age of majority.”82 Although this legislation was not uniformly enforced, it did cast aspersions on the performance of nuns as scribes and scholars. In addition, the strict cloistering of women religious, which began under Charlemagne and continued under Louis the Pious, limited the opportunities for nuns to keep abreast of the new learning. Nuns, unlike monks, were not trained in the new schools. Abbesses were not allowed to go to the leading centers of learning to master the new skills. The restriction that convents could educate only girls undoubtedly served to justify the exclusion of nuns from the mainstream of education and intellectual life. The Carolingian program of learning had as its purpose the creation of an elite that was literate in Latin, well-versed in Christian doctrine, and familiar with the Roman liturgy. Because women could neither preach nor participate in the liturgy, there was no need to introduce this new program in female communities.

These circumstances explain why the only authoress known to us in the ninth century was not a nun but a secular woman. The motherly instinct of Dhuoda was stronger than her embarrassment at her ungrammatical Latin. The desire to leave a moral guide for her son, who was taken from her in infancy, overcame Dhuoda's painful awareness that she was pursuing the craft of men.83 It is equally noteworthy that a nun as writer reappeared in the tenth century, when the restrictions imposed by the Carolingians on female communities were no longer observed. In an era that has been called the darkest of the dark centuries, when literary activity had reached such a low ebb that in all western Europe historians are hard pressed to list the names of more than a half a dozen writers, a woman religious achieved fame by producing enduring classics of devotional and secular literature. Hroswitha of Gandersheim, a prolific author equally talented in prose and poetry, composed plays, legends, histories, and epic poems. Her works apparently were not popular in the Middle Ages: few manuscript copies remain in existence. But, rediscovered in the sixteenth century, they have been translated into many languages and continue to be read today.84

Flexible monastic structures, such as those which existed in Merovingian times, were more congenial for female creativity than the rigid Carolingian nunneries. The strict cloistering of women religious and the separation of the sexes in the monastic schools of the ninth century were not conducive to the realization of the intellectual potential of women. Rather, they resulted in the exclusion of women religious from the mainstream of education and led to the perpetuation of the misogynistic myth that, compared to men, women had weaker minds.


1. Part of this chapter was written in 1976 in honor of the eightieth birthday of Constance M. Winchell, former Reference Librarian of Columbia University Libraries.

2. Moreau, in his Histoire de l 'E'glise en Belgique, gave some credit to nuns in the intellectual and artistic movements of Belgian monasteries. Jean Verdon wrote, “Nous avons peu de renseignements sur les activités intellectuelles et artistiques des moniales” (“Recherches,” p. 137).

3. Bernhard Bischoff, “Die kolner Nonnenhandschriften and das Skriptorium von Chelles,” pp. 395-401.

4. Caesarius, Regula sanctarum virginum 7, ed. Morin, p. 7. Ad sanctimoniales epistola, 2, 3, 7, ed. Morin, 39, 43.

5. Aurelian of Arles, Regula ad virgines 26 (PL 68, 391); Donatus of Vesuntinus, Regulae ad virgines 6 (PL 87, 278); Waldabert, Regula cuiusdam patris ad virgines, 12; all three are in L. Holstenius's collection (1, 372, 380, 400).

6. Agius, Agii Vita et obitus Hathumodae, 2 (MGH Script. 4, 167).

7. Epist. aevi mer. collectae 11 (MGH Epist. 3, Mer. kar. aevi 1, 452).

8. Baudonivia, De vita s. Radegundis 9 (MGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 384). See also note 63, below. Fortunatus, Opera poetica 8.1 (MGH Auct. ant. 4/1, 1).

9. Vita s. Geretrudis A 6 (MGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 460). Vulfetrud, her niece, was also characterized as “sanctae regulae normam: sacris litteris imbutam et nutritam.”

10. Vita ss. Herlindis et Renildae 4-5: (AS 22 Martii, 3; 384-385) “divinis dogmatibus sive humanis artibus religiosisque studiis et sacris litteris erudiendas . . . . Quaecumque enim legendo vet audiendo didicerant, memoriter retinebant . . . . In praedicto namque monasterio . . . omni divino dogmate pleniter erant eruditae diversis usibus divini officii et Ecclesiastici ordinis, id est, in legendo, modulatione cantus, psallendo, necnon quod nostris temporibus valde mirum est etiam scribendo atque pingendo . . . . Simili etiam in universis operis arte, quod manibus foeminarum . . . fieri solet, honestissime fuerant instructae, id est nendo et texendo, creando ac suendo in auro quoque ac margaritis in serico componendis.”

11. Ad sanctimoniales epistolae 2.7 (ed. Morin, 43; PL 67, 1124C), excerpted by Amalarius of Metz in Regula sanctimonialium 5 (PL 105, 953A). The Regula cuiusdam patris ad virgines 12 (Holstenius 1, 400), attributed to Waldabert, also made it clear that handiwork should not be undertaken to the detriment of the “lectio divina.”

12. Vila s. Geretrudis A 2 (MGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 457): “per suos nuntios . . . sancta volumina de urbe Roma et de transmarinis regionibus gignaros homines ad docendum divini legis carmina, sibi et suis meditandum, Deo inspirante, meruisset habere.” The memorization of laws in the form of poetry was an Irish custom, which also became popular in England. A century later, Eadburga, abbess of Thanet, had members of her convent memorize divine laws in the form of poetry, according to a letter from Lioba to Boniface. See number 29 in Die Bnefe, Tangl, p. 52. See also below, note 46.

13. For a discussion of the Irish tradition of learning, see Eoin MacNeill, “Beginnings of Latin Culture in Ireland,” Studies.- An Irish Quarterly Review of Letters, Philosophy and Science, 20 (1931), 39-48, 449-460.

14. Vita Bertilae 6 ('NIGH Script. rer. mer. 6, 106): “electas personas et devotissimos homines.”

15. See number 35, in Die Briefe, ed. Tangl, p. 60. He asked Begga to send him the passions of martyrs (number 14, in ibid., p. 27). He also thanked Eadburga for some unidentified books she had sent him (number 30, in ibid., p. 54). On nuns as suppliers of books to Boniface and Lull, see, B. Bischoff, “Scriptoria a manoscritti mediatori di civiltà,” in Mittelalterliche Studien, Vol. 2, (Stuttgart, 1967), 324.

16. Boulogne-sur-Mer, Bibl. Mun., MS 74 (82). See E. A. Lowe, Codices latini anti quiores, vol. 6 (Oxford, 1936), 738.

17. Vilae sancti Bonifatii ('NIGH Script. rer. germ. in usu schol. 95): “unde contigit, ut necessitate compulsus de sua provincia evocaret feminas religiosas, quatinus sui clerici et nobilium filii et eisdem nutrirentur et caelestis praedicationis ministri imbuerentur.” On Tecla and Lioba, see also Boniface's letter number 67, in Die Briefe, ed Tangl, pp. 139-140. This letter mentions also Lull's aunt Cynehilda and her daughter Berthgyth, who were “valde eruditae in liberali scientia” and were active in Thuringia as teachers. On Kitzingen, see H. Petzolt, “Abtei Kitzingen.” Jahrbuch fur frankische Landesforschung, 15 (1955), 69-83.

18. Caesarius, Regula sanctarum virginum 36 (Morin, 14).

19. Vita Bertilae 6 (MGH Scnpt. rer. mer. 6, 104): “ut illis de suis discipulis ad eruditionem vel sanctam instructionem . . . dirigeret.”

20. According to Vita Bertilae 14 (MGH Script. rer. mer. 6, 104), the son of Balthild, Clothar III, was educated there. Similarly, Theuderic IV (721- 737), the son of Dagobert III, was raised by the nuns of Chelles: Libel hist. franc. 53 (HIGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 328).

21. Paschasius Radbertus dedicated his Expositio in Psalmum (PL 120, 993-1064) to the nuns of Soissons. See ibid. 994D-995A. He may also have written for them his De partu Virginis (PL 120, 1365-1386).

22. Capit. eccl. ad Salz. data (803/804), 7 (MGH Capit. 1,119): “Omnino prohibemus, ut nullatenus masculum filium aut nepotem vel parentem suum in monasterio puellarum aut nutriendum commendare praesumat, nec quisquam ilium suscipere audeat.”

23. Caesarius, Regula sanctarum virginum 32 (Morin, 12): “quae . . . codicibus . . praeponitur, super Evangelium claves accipiant.”

24. The books given by two masters of the Cathedral School of Laon, Bernard and Adelelm, to Notre-Dame of Laon bear the notation “Hunc librum dederun[t] Bernardus et Adelemus Deo et Sanctae Mariae Laudunensis ecclesiae. Si quis abstulerit, offensionem Dei et sanctae Marie incurrat.” This dedication appears, for example, in Laon, Bibl. Mun., ms 122, fol. 77; on this manuscript, see M. Boutemy, “Chronique: Notes de voyage sur quelques manuscrits de l'ancien archdiocèse de Reims,” Scriptorium, 2 (1948), 124, and John J. Contrem, The Cathedral School of Laon: Its Manuscripts and Masters, A.D. 850-930 (Munich, 1978), p. 23, n. 23. For variations of their “ex-dono” in other manuscripts, see Contreni, “The Formation of Laon's Cathedral Library in the Ninth Century,” Studi medievali, 3 Ser., 13, 2 (1972), 926.

25. Recueil des chartes de l Abbaye de Saint-Benott-sur-Loire (876), 25.

26. Valenciennes, Bibl. Mun., MS 59. The manuscript is described by Bischoff in “Panorama der Handschriftenüberlieferung aus der Zeit Karls des Grossen,” in Karl der Grosse: Lebenswerk und Nachleben, Vol. 2 (Düsseldorf, 1965), P. 240.

27. Vienna, Osterreichische Nationalbiblothek, ms Lat. 2223; B. Bischoff and J. Hofmann, Libri sancti Kyliani. Die wurzburger Schreibschule (Quellen and Forschungen z. Geschichte d. Bistums u. Hochstifts Würzburg, 6; Würzburg, 1952). P. 53.

28. Autun, Bibl. Mun. Ms 3 (S3), fol. 186. For Lowe's reasons for his attribution, see CLA 6, p. xv, and for a description of the manuscript, see Number 716 CLA, 6, p. 5. Suzanne Martinet, librarian of the Laon Municipal Library, kindly pointed out to me, during my visit there in 1975, that she associates the manuscript with the nunnery of that city, founded by Salaberga in 640. So does Bernard Merlette, “Écoles et bibliothèques à Laon du déclin de l'antiquité au developpement de l'Université,” in Actes du 95e Congrès national des Sociétés savantes (Reims, 1970): Section de philologie et d'histoire jusqu'à 1610, Vol. 2 (Paris, 1975), 26-27. This attribution is based on the argument that Saint Salaberga's father was called Gundoinus and that the convent was also dedicated to Saint John and Saint Mary. According to J. Contrem, the convent was called Notre-Dame-de-la-Profonde and was dedicated to Saint John only at a much later date, after the twelfth century, The Cathedral School of Laon, p.15. See also jean Porcher, “Les manuscrits à peinture,” in jean Hubert, Jean Porcher, and Wolfgang Fritz Volbach, L'Empire carolingien (Paris, 1968), pp. 71-74; and Bonifatius Fischer, “Bibeltext and Bibelreform unter Karl der Grossen,” in Karl der Grosse: Lebenswerk and .'1âchleben, Vol. 2, ed. B. Bischoff (Düsseldorf, 1965), 169.

29. Laon, Bibl. Mun., ms 113. For a description, see Felix Ravaisson's list of Laon manuscripts in Catalogue general des manuscripts des bibliotheques publiques des départements de France, vol. 1 (Paris, 1849), 97-98, and the following note. Bischoff, in the handwritten inventory of Laon mss, which Madame Martinet kindly showed me, identified the script as one used in the ninth century in a northeastern Frankish scriptorium. J. Contreni, lists this manuscript as being at Laon in the second half of the ninth century. The Cathedral School of Laon, p. 53, n. 55.

30. The contents of the manuscript (Laon, Bibl. Mun., ms 113) were described both by Ravaisson in his Catalogue general and by Dom. G. Morin, “Un traité priscillianiste inédit sur la Trinité,” Revue Bénédictine, 26 (1909), 255-257 I have therefore omitted the incipits of those items which have been identified. The codex consists of I + 89 fols., measuring 270 X 209 mm. The writing in Carolingian minuscule is in single lines. The titles and first words of incipits and explicits are usually in red uncials. Fols. Ir-v: Table of contents. Fols. 1-13v: De Trinitate (unpublished; Morin attributes it to Priscillian's circle). Fols. 14-24: Libellus episcoporum catholicorum ad Unericum regem Vandalorum datum (PL 58, 219-234). J. Contreni identifies it as De persecutione Vandalica of Victor Vita, The Cathedral School of Laon, p. 73. Fols. 24v-33v: Nomina episcoporum catholicorum diversarum provintiarum qui Carthagine ex precepto regali venerunt pro reddenda ratione fides (PL 58, 269). Like the previous item, this also bears on the Monothelite controversy, according to Contreni in The Cathedral School of Laon, p. 72 and item 363 on p. 185. Fols. 34-36v: Praefatio orationis Soliloquiorum sancti Augustini episcopi (PL 32, 869). Fols. 36v-38v: Sermo de flu-vu sanguinis. This has been edited by C. Turner, “A Laon ms in 1906 and 1920,”Journal of Theological Studies, 22 (1921), 1-5. Dekkers, in Clavis patrum latinorum 845, lists this sermon as a spurious sermon by Fulgentius of Ruspe. Fols. 38v-39v: Sermo de natali sancti Cypriani. Inc.: Hodierna reddendi non [sic] debiti propitio domino. Morin has suggested that it was copied from Augustine's Serm. 284 (PL 38, 1388). Fols. 39v-40: Sermo resurrectionis domini. Inc: Post laborem noctis praeteritae quo. According to Morin, it was paraphrased from Augustine's Serm. 228 (PL, 38, 1 101). Fols . 40-42: Sermo de nativitate domini. Inc.: Thalamus Mariae et secreta coniuga quibus Gabrihel. Fols. 42-43v: De nativitate sancti lohannis. Inc.: Ecce amicus sponsi caelestis ponit organa sua in thalamo matris (according to Morin, it was composed in Africa). Fols. 43v-51: Dogma fides catholicae (Gennadius of Marseilles, Liber eccl. dogm.; Dekkers, Clavis patrum latinorum 958). Fols. 51-58v: Epistola fides catholica in defensione tnium capitulorum (Facundus of Hermiane, Opera omnia (CCL 90A, 419-434]) . Fols. 59-59v: Carmen natalis domini nostri lesu Christi (Sedulius, Hymnus II, Opera omnia [CSEL 1o, 163]). Fols. 59v-61v: Epistola sancti Hieronymi ad Oceanum et Sofronium de vita clericorum (PL, 30, 287; Dekkers, Clavis patrum latinorum 145). Fols. 61v-85: Liber de quattuor virtutibus. According to Morin, this was paraphrased from Augustine; see also Contreni, The Cathedral School of Laon, Item 382, p. 186. Fol. 85v: four lines of a poem: O crucifer bone . . . Solum mare quam fierent (Aurelius Prudentii Clementis carmina [CSEL 61, 13]).

31. Alcuin, Epist. 15, 84, 88, 154, 195-196, 213-214, 216, 228 (MGH Epist. 4; Kar. aevi 2, 40-42, 127-133, 249, 322-325 354-358 359-360, 371-372).

32. See below, notes 33 and 37.

33. B. Bischoff, “Die kölner Nonnenhandschriften.” M. Boutemy attributed these manuscripts to the scriptorium of Saint Amand. “Le scriptorium et la bibliotheque de Saint-Amand,” Scriptorium, 1 (1946-47), 7.

34. Laon, Bibl. Mun., ms 423, fol. 79v (Lowe, CLA 6, 760). The manuscript has 79 numbered folios and two unnumbered ones. It includes: fols. 1-33v: S. Isidorus Hispalensis, De natura rerum; fols. 34-45: S- Isidorus Hispalensis, In libros veteris ac novi testaments proemia; fols. 45v-7g: S. Isidorus Hispalensis, De ortu et obitu patrum. The title, Liber rotarum, is on folio one. It is possible to read the last word in the subscription as “rogatum” rather than “rotarum.” This is the reading given in a handwritten description of the manuscript in Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes, Section latine, which Madame Folin has kindly called to my attention. Lowe related to this manuscript: Laon, Bibl. Mun., ms 137 (Lowe CLA 6, 765): Orosius, Historiae; Cambridge CCC 334 (Lowe CLA 2, 128): Origines, Homiliae in Lucam, which has on folio 97 the notation: Fortunatus scripsit; London, British Museum Additional tits. 31031 (Lowe CLA 2, 174): Gregorius, Moralia I-V. 46; Paris, Bibl. Nat. Lat. 2024 (Lowe CLA 5, 539): Ambrosius, De fide; Paris, Bibl. Nat. Lat. 12168 (Lowe CLA 5; 630): Augustinus, Quaestiones in Hepateuchum; and also two mutilated volumes, now Colmar 45 + Berne 380 (Lowe CLA 6, 752), and Basel N14A + Freiburg im-Breisgau 483, 12.

35. Contrem identified Martin's notations in the fragment (Paris, Bibl. Nat. Lat. 2024). But he did point out that “nothing concrete is known about the scriptorium at Notre-Dame-de-la-Profonde, if indeed Dulcia did belong to it.” The Cathedral School of Laon, p. 49.

36. Cambrai, Bibl. Mun., ms 300 (283) fols. 155 (Lowe, CLA 6, 739). A. Wilmart, “Le copiste du sacramentaire de Gellone au service du chapitre de Cambrai,” Revue Bénédictine, 42 (1930), 218-222. Wilmart suggested that she was the illuminator. The other manuscript in question is Paris, Bibl. Nat. Lat. 12048 (Lowe, CLA 5, 618). J. Deshusses identified Madalberta with the monk Madalbreto of Rebais. “Le sacramentaire de Gellone clans son contexte historique,” Ephemerides liturgicae, 75 (1961), 1 99. For a different view, see Bernhard Bischoff, “Frühkarolingische Handschriften and ihre Heimat,” Scriptorium, 25 (1968), 307; Carl R. Baldwin, “The Scriptorium of the Sacramentary of Gellone,” Scriptorium, 25 (1971), 3-17; and idem, “The Scribes of the Sacramentary of Gellone,” Scriptorium, 27 (1973), 16-20.

37. Würzburg, Univ. Bibl. M. p. th. f. 45: Gregorius, Homiliae in Evangilia; fol. 71v, has the name Abirhilt. See Bischoff and Hofmann, Libri sancti

Kvliani, pp. 7, 102, 160. The authors suggest that Gunza might have contributed to the copying of Würzburg, Univ. Bibl. M. p. th. f. 13 Defensor, Liber Scintillarum.

38. Liber memorialis yon Remiremont 1 (MGH Libri mem. 1, fol. 47r).

39. Paris, Bibl. Nat. Lat. 7560, fol. 54. Colette Jeudy dates the codex to the third quarter of the ninth century. See “L'Institutio de nomine, pronomine et verbo de Priscien,” Revue d’histoire des textes, 2 (1972), 123.

40. Paris, Bibl. Nat. Lat. 1 fol. 3.

41. See, for example, Paris, Bibl. Nat. Lat. 13396, fol. iv, Isidore of Seville presenting his Contra Judaeos to his sister Florentina. This manuscript was produced in northeast France around Boo, according to jean Hubert, Jean Porcher, and Wolfgang Fritz Volbach, L Europe des invasion, (Paris, 1967), pp. 174, 361. See also the unnumbered manuscript in the basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura, Rome, fol. 2 verso, produced by the School of Tours in the ninth century. Hubert, Porcher, and Volbach, The Carolingian Renaissance (New York, 1970), pp. 142, 350.

42. Pierre Riche, Education el culture dons Foccident barbare, 3rd ed. (Paris, 1973).

43. Krusch, the editor of the text, remarked in his introduction (MGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 360): “Scribere nesciens, quascumque legeret vitas sanctorum spoliavit.” Krusch, of course, treats some male hagiographer similarly.

44. Graus, Yolk, Herrscher and Heiliger, p. 409.

45. She has identified herself with a cryptograph in the introduction of the “editio princeps” (Munich, Ms Clm 1086). B. Bischoff, “Wer 1st chic Nonne yon Heidenheim?” Sludien und Mitteilungen zur Geschichte des Bentdiktinerordens, 49 (1931), 387; idem, “Panorama der Handschriften,” p. 247; and Eva Gottschaller, Hugeburc yon Heidenheim, philologische Untersuchungen zu den Heiligenbiographien einer Nonne des achten Jahrhunderts (Münchener Beiträge zur Mediävistik and Renaissance-Forschung, 12: Munich, 1973).

46. In a letter to Saint Boniface, Lioba stated that she had learned poetry from the abbess Eadburga, who had her memorize divine laws in the form of poetry. See number 2g, in Die Briefe, ed. Tangl, p. 52. Berthgyth, active in Thuringia as a teacher, also wrote poetry. See numbers 143, 147, 148 in ibid., pp. 282, 284-286.

47. H. Hoffmann, Cntersuchungen zur karolingischen Annalistik (Bonner historische Forschungen, to; Bonn, 1958), pp. 53-61.

48. J. Nelson has noted that a nun of Chelles wrote the older version of the Vita. “Queens as Jezebels,” p. 46, n. 33. Krusch, whose introduction to the Vita Nelson used as reference, did not identify the hagiographer as a woman, but merely noted that the earlier version was composed at Chelles by a member of the community; see Vila s. Balthildis (MGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 478).

49. In Vita s. Balthildis 19 (MGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 506), the author remarked that the events described “nostris peracta sunt temporibus”; Vita Balthildis 5 (ibid., 487) listed Chrodobert, bishop of Paris, before Ebroin, the mayor of the palace, in describing the regency after Clovis's death.

50. Vita s. Balthildis 1 (ibid., 482).

51. Vita s. Balthildis 15 (ibid., 501).

52. Levison has noted this in his introduction to Vita Bertilae (ITCH Script. rer. mer. 6, 97).

53. See Levison's remarks in Vita Bertilae (ibid., 99).

54. Vita Bertilae 5 (ibid., 106): “plurimi viri ac feminae festinabant, quos ipsa Dei famula Bertila . . . recipiebat . . .”

55. On the date of Bertila's death, see Levison's preface in Vita Bertilae (ibid., 96). The emphasis in Bertila's Vita on the abbess's fame as an administrator and educator attracting both sexes to the monastery would not have been appropriate if the expansion had occurred while Balthild was still alive.

56. On Theudefrid, see Krusch's preface in Vita s. Balthildis (MGH Scnpt. rer. mer. 2, 478).

57. Translatio s. Baltechildis (MGH Script. 15/1, 284).

58. On menial work as a sign of saintly humility, see Gratis, Volk, Herrscher and Heiliger, pp. 295-296, 409.

59. Baudonivia, De vita s. Radegundis 8 (MGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 383). Vita s. Balthildis 11 (.UGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 496): “ipsa quoque in quoquina ministraret sororibus et munditias vilissimas, etiam deambulationes stercorum, ipsa mundaret.”

60. L. Coudanne, “Baudonivie, moniale de Sainte-Croix et biographe de sainte Radegonde,” pp. 45-51 .

61. Baudonivia, De vita s. Radegundis (MGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 378). Radegund's cell was next to the “oratorium.” See M. Viellard-Troiekovroff, “Les monuments religieux de Poitiers,” in E'tudes mérovingiennes: Actes des Journées de Poitiers, 1952 (Paris, 1953), p. 287.

62. E. Delaruelle noted that, “Fortunate n'a vu en Radegonde que la moniale . . . soucieuse de tout ce qui s'y déroule et usant de son pouvoir encore royal pour y intervenir.” “Sainte Radegonde,” p. 69. Graus rejects this and states: “Fortunat in Radegunde vor allem die königliche Asketin sieht, die Nonne Baudinivia hingegen das Vorbild einer Nonne.” Volk, Herrscher and Heiliger, p. log.

63. Baudonivia, De vita s. Radegundis g (.'NIGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 383-384): “Cum lectio legebatur, illa sollicitudine pia animarum nostrarum curam gerens, dicebat: 'Si non intellegitis quod legitur, quid est, quod non sollicite requiritis speculum animarum vestrarum?' Quod etsi minus pro reverentia interrogare praesumebatur, illa pia sollicitudine maternoque affectu, quod lectio continebat, ad animae salutem praedicare non cessabat.” Pope Gregory the Great attributed motherly feelings to Redempta toward her disciples (Dialogues 4.16, trans., O. J. Zimmermann [Fathers of the Church, 39; New York, 1959], p. 209).

64. Baudonivia, De vita s. Radegundis 12 (HIGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 385-386).

65. For example, see Graus, Volk, Herrscher and Heiliger, pp. 328, 386-387, 413. 66. De vita s. Radegundis 8 (MGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 383): “Congregation em . . . in tantumque dilexit, ut etiam parentes vet regem coniugem habuisse nec reminisceretur.”

67. De vita s. Radegundis 10 (ibid., 384): “quia totos diligebat reges, pro omnium vita orabat et nos sine intermissione pro eorum stabilitate orarc docebat. Ubi eos inter se amaritudinem moveri audisset, tota tremebat. et quales litteras uni, tales alteri dirigebat ut inter se non bella nec arena tractarent, sed pacem firmarent, et patria ne periret. Similiter et ad eorum proceres dirigebat, ut praecelsis regibus consilia salutifera ministrarent, ut, eis regnantibus, populi et patria salubrior redderetur. Congregationi suae assiduas vigilias inponebat et, ut sine intermissione pro eis orarent, cum lacrimis docebat.”

68. De vita s. Radegundis 16 (ibid., 388): “ut ei permitteret pro totius patriae salute et eius regni stabilitate lignum crucis Domni ab imperatore expetere.”

69. Vita s. Balthildis 4 (MGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 486). “Nutrix” had a broad connotation; it described teachers, both male and female.

70. Vita s. Balthildis 5 (ibid., 488): “Et credimus, Deo gubernante, iuxta domnae Balthildis magnam fidem ipsa tria regna tunc inter se tenebant pacis concordiam.”

71. Vita s. Balthildis 12 (ibid., 498): “Et conferens sepe cum matre monasterii. ut et regem et reginam et proceres cum digno honore cum eulogias semper visitarent, ut erat consuetudo . . . '

72. Vita Aldegundis (MGH Script. rer. mer. 6, 79-90). See especially the preface by the editor (ibid., 79-85). Levison omitted chapters 5 to 17; for these I have relied on the edition in Acta sanctorum Belgii selecta 4, 315-324. O'1 Aldegund's visions, see Stephanus Axters, O. P., The Spirituality of the Old Low Countries, trans. Donald Atwater (London, 1954), p. 1 1, and Van der Essen, Étude critique, pp. 219-260, 282-291.

73. Vita Aldegundis 18 (MGH Script. rer. mer. 6, 88).

74. De vita s. Radegundis 20 (NIGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 391).

75. Vita s. Balthildis 13 (MGH Script. rer. mer. 2, 498-499).

76. Vila Aldegundis 5 (Acta sanctorum Belgii selecta 4, 317).

77. Vita Aldegundis 8 (ibid., 318); see Athanasius, Vita b. Antonii abbatis 9 (PL 73, 132B): “Rugiebat leo, occidere volens . . . luporum impetus ingerebantur.”

78. Vita Aldegundis 8 (Acta sanctorum Belgii selecta 4, 318). The Lord's Angel comforted her by saying, “Pax tibi, confortare, viriliter age . . .” On the “virago” motif in Roman literature and medieval hagiography, see Marie-Louise Portmann, Die Darstellung der Frau in der Geschichtsschreibung des früheren Mitlelalters.

79. Vita Aldegundis 1 o (Acta sanctorum Belgii selecta 4, 319); cf. Gregory the Great. Dialogues 4.18 (Zimmermann 211-212).

80. Vita Aldegundis to (Acta sanctarum Belgii selecta 4, 319): “quid stupes? Ego sum Petrus Apostolus Jesu-Christi missus ad te, ligandi atque solvendi habens potestatem. In numero Sanctorum es recensita, ô pudica. Illuc egredere, desiderat to Dominus . . . . Noli timere, qui timet, non est perfectus in caritate, sed perfecta caritas foras mittit timorem, quoniam timor poenam habet.”

81. Hlawitschka suggests that the Vitae Amati, Romarici, Adelphii abbatum Habendesium (HIGH Script. rer. mer. 4, 211-221), may have been written either by a clerk or nun of Remiremont between 750 and 850. Studien zur Abtissinnenreihe, p. 16.

82. Admonitio generalis (789), 72 (MGH Capit. 1, 6o).

83. She referred to herself as “ignara” in the poem introducing her work. Le Manuel de Dhuoda, ed. Bondurand, p. 47. Manuel pour mon fils/Dhuoda, ed. Pierre Rich, p. 72.

84. Only one complete basic manuscript of her works and two partial copies, one of the twelfth and the other of the fifteenth century, have survived. See Paul de Winterfeld, Hrotsvithae opera (Berlin, 1902), pp. iii-v; and K. Strecker, Hrotsvithae opera (Leipzig, 1906). The latest edition of her works is by H. Homeyer, Hrotsvithae opera (Munich, 1970), and contains a complete bibliography. See, also, the bibliography in Homeyer's translation of her works into German in Werke (Paderborn, 1973), and in Ann L. Haight, ed., Hroswitha of Gandersheim, Her Life, Times and Works, and a Comprehensive Bibliography (New York, 1965).