Virginity, Theology, and Pedagogy in the Speculum Virginum
This chapter introduces the Speculum virginum as an original synthesis of teaching about women’s religious life, composed in Germany in the first half of the twelfth century. It considers the evidence of a twelfth-century library catalogue of Hirsau, that it was written by a monk of Hirsau, known as Peregrinus, subsequently identified by Johannes Trithemius in the late fifteenth century as Conrad of Hirsau. The Speculum virginum was one of a number of pedagogically innovative writings by a prolific author, who delighted in creating fictional dialogues to provide instruction about the purpose of the religious life. The Speculum virginum puts forward the image of Theodora as a female disciple of Peregrinus, who instructs her in the meaning of true virginity and the correct relationship between flesh and spirit within the religious life. It provides a theology of the religious life for women that would be very influential in the Latin West until the eve of the Reformation.
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