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Secular and Religious Women and the Abbaye aux Dames de Saintes

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Monastic cartularies and the charters they contain are some of the most extensive medieval writings done under the directorship of women. Here the twelfth-century cartulary produced for Notre Dame de Saintes by Agnes of Barbezieux reveals key aspects about religious women and their secular sisters. The women who populate the charters of Saintes moved between the secular and religious worlds relatively easily, acting publicly in courts and in courtyards, sometimes secular and religious women in concert, sometimes in opposition to each other. They managed substantial economic resources as well as being recipients of pious acts of donation. Women in the monastery maintained strong connections with family members, bringing them into the monastery's circle of influence. While violence was a backdrop to many acts, the women in the cartulary successfully combatted its effects. Among tenants of the abbey, women make only limited appearances in the records in comparison to men of their economic class, but have equal economic status when they do.

Affiliations: 1: University of Iowa


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