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Home Again: Conclusions On Women As Pilgrims In The Later Middle Ages

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Chapter Summary

For western European Christians living in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, pilgrimage offered a nearly unique opportunity. Women were not prohibited from engaging in the majority of pilgrimage-related activities, and they were in many ways encouraged to participate. Female pilgrims appear in a variety of texts, written by authors who held a variety of opinions about their presence. While precious few of these sources record the subjective opinions or remembrances of a female pilgrim, women's presence at pilgrimage shrines-virtually all of them-is nonetheless well-documented in the later Middle Ages. Mystics, beguines, and female pilgrims all interacted with a Christian tradition that was at times openly misogynist, but was also tremendously flexible. They all participated in forms of devotion that did not absolutely require official Church sanction or formal adoption of religious status. And all three forms of religious practice were increasingly attractive or available to women.

Keywords: female pilgrims; later Middle Ages; religious practice; western European Christians



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