Female Religious Life and the Cura Monialium in Hirsau Monasticism, 1080 to 1150

  • Julie Hotchin
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


This chapter explores the historical context of the Speculum virginum through investigating the expansion of religious life for women in houses founded or reformed by monks of Hirsau in the late eleventh and first half of the twelfth century. Under the influence of William of Hirsau and his immediate disciples, there was a dramatic growth of interest in reestablishing the vita apostolica as a way of life in which women could participate alongside men. Many monastic houses influenced by these reforms incorporated groups of women living as recluses alongside a male monastic community. Inevitably the participation of women in a way of life traditionally defined by men created tensions. The Speculum virginum can be seen as vindicating a way of life that might easily provoke criticism from outsiders. Male commentary on female religious life was a process through which they could actively constitute their own male religious identity.The popularity of this treatise within male communities, involved in pastoral responsibility for religious women, reflects a continuing need for men to be instructed in the way they had to relate to religious women.


Pastoral Care Religious Life Twelfth Century Female Community Male Community 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 3.
    Urban Küsters, Der verschlossene Garten. Volkssprachliche Hohelied-Auslegung und monastiche Lebensform im 12. Jahrhundert (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1985)Google Scholar
  2. Urban Küsters, “Formen und Modelle religiöser Frauengemeinschaften im Umkreis der Hirsauer Reform des 11. und 12. Jahrhunderts,” in Hirsau. St. Peter und St. Paul. Teil II Geschichte, Lebens-und Verfassungsformen eines Reformklosters, ed. Klaus Schreiner (Stuttgart: Konrad Thiess, 1991), pp. 195–220.Google Scholar
  3. 23.
    Mary M. McLaughlin, “Peter Abelard and the Dignity of Women: Twelfth-Century `Feminism’ in Theory and Practice,” in Pierre Abélard—Pierre le Vénérable. Les courants philosophiques, littéraires et artistiques en occident au milieu du XIIe siècle. Abbaye de Cluny 2 au 9 Juillet 1972 ed. Jean Jolivet (Paris: CNRS 1975), pp. 287–333 emphasizes this point in her analysis of Abelard’s relationship with the women at the Paraclete.Google Scholar
  4. 43.
    Karl E. Morrison, Conversion and Text: The Cases of Augustine of Hippo, Hermann-Judah, and Constantine Tsatsos (Charlottesville: University Press ofVirginia, 1992).Google Scholar
  5. 49.
    Sally Thompson, Women Religious:The Founding of English Nunneries after the Norman Conquest (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 55.Google Scholar
  6. 51.
    Alison I. Beach, “Claustration and Collaboration between the Sexes in the Twelfth-Century Scriptorium,” in Monks and Nuns, Saints and Outcasts: Religion in Medieval Society, ed. Sharon Farmer and Barbara H. Rosenwein (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000), pp. 57–75.Google Scholar
  7. 65.
    Jeffrey Hamburger, “`On the Little Bed of Jesus’: Pictorial Piety and Monastic Reform,” in The Visual and the Visionary: Art and Female Spirituality in Late Medieval Germany (New York: Zone Books, 1998), pp. 383–84.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Constant J. Mews 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie Hotchin

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations