Browsing History and Archaeology by Subjects
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Lay Female Devotional Lives in the Counter ReformationIn 1563, the Catholic Church responded to the Protestant challenge to the religious life as the most holy feminine state with the maxim aut maritus aut murus (wife or wall). The navigation of that dictum by early modern women across Catholic Europe has arguably been one of the dominant themes in the scholarship over the last thirty years. Certainly, there had always been the opportunity for women to lead a religious life outside of marriage and the cloister as beatas, tertiaries and beguines. Yet it was after the Council of Trent (1545-63) that women had to renegotiate a space in the world in which they could lead spiritually-fulfilling devotional lives. If this was one unintended legacy of 1517, then the quincentenary of the Reformation seems a timely moment to reflect on new directions in the now burgeoning historiography on lay women in Counter-Reformation Europe.
Writing a Spiritual Biography in Early Modern France: The 'Many Lives' of Madeleine de LamoignonIn the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, four different spiritual biographers wrote the "life" of the recently deceased lay dévote, Madeleine de Lamoignon (1609-1687). Each of these authors was seeking to compose a spiritual biography - an account of Madeleine's devotional life - and they were all penned with the distant prospect of beatification or canonisation in mind. This article analyses these four retellings of Madeleine's life in order to excavate the process of writing vitae, and situates this within the broader context of lay spiritual biography in early modern France. It is argued here that a comparative exploration of Madeleine de Lamoignon's "lives" reveals different, and sometimes competing, conceptions of lay female sanctity in the Counter-Reformation era. Ultimately, the article contends that by turning our attention to neglected biographies of lay women, scholars might better understand how a life outside of the cloister could be reconciled with saintliness.