Epilogue and Conclusion

  • Paula M. Rieder
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In 1913, a woman in Brittany prepared to make her way to church for her relevdilles. Around her shoulders she wore a widows’ shawl: a heavy cloak with a silver clasp and a hood that she pulled over her head to hide her face. As she left her home, she paused on the doorstep to give people a chance to turn away from her. Word had been passed from neighbor to neighbor and, by now, everyone knew that she was going to the church at three o’clock. So, the neighborhood women returned to their houses; the men she passed on her way busied themselves about something to be sure she was not noticed. When she came to the cemetery that surrounded the village church, she stepped over its low wall rather than going in through the open gate. Avoiding entering the front door of the church, she went instead to the porch set aside for baptism. The priest, having been warned in advance of her arrival, waited for her there dressed in a white stole and surplice. He handed her a lighted candle, aspersed her with holy water, and then, giving her the end of his stole, he led her into the church. As she knelt before the altar, the priest aspersed her again with holy water and recited over her a prayer of benediction. When the blessing was completed, the woman, removing her heavy cloak and uncovering her face, left the church with her head held high. She went out of the cemetery through the main gate.


Married Mother Unmarried Mother Disciplinary Power Sacred Space Holy Water 
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    Pierre-Jakez Hélias, Le Cheval d’orgueil; Mémoires d’un breton du pays bigouden (Paris: Plon, 1975), pp. 51–52.Google Scholar
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    Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage, 1979), p. 183.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Martin Irvine, “Abelard and (Re)Writing the Male Body: Castration, Identity, and Remasculinization,” in Becoming Male in the Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Bonnie Wheeler (New York: Garland, 1997), pp. 87–106.Google Scholar

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© Paula M. Rieder 2006

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  • Paula M. Rieder

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