1st Edition

Women in Christianity in the Medieval Age 1000-1550

Edited By Laura Kalas, Roberta Magnani Copyright 2025
    288 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume offers a comprehensive introduction to and investigation of the multivocality of women’s experience in the Middle Ages. In medieval Europe women saw their role in the Christian Church and society progressively confined to conflicting models of femininity epitomised by the dichotomy of Eve/Mary. Classical views of gender, predicated on misogynistic dichotomies which confined women to matter and the corruption of the flesh, were consolidated in powerful male-dominated clerical institutions and widely disseminated. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, however, women’s corporeality and somatic spirituality contributed to and influenced burgeoning modes of piety centred around the cult of the Virgin Mary and the veneration of the suffering body of Christ on the Cross. This shift in devotional practices afforded women as bodily beings the space for an increased level of self-expression, self-realisation, and authority. Ranging from philosophical and theological enquiry to education and art, as well as medical sciences and popular beliefs, the essays in this collection account for the complexities and richness of the conceptualisations and lived experiences of medieval Christian women. The book will be especially relevant to students and scholars of religion and history with an interest in medieval studies and gender. Whilst expounding the key strands of thinking in the field, it engages with and contributes to some of the latest scholarly research. 


    Laura Kalas and Roberta Magnani

    1 Theological Approaches to Women 1000-1550                             

    Hazel Davis and Louise Nelstrop

    2 Mary in the Middle Ages: A Woman for All Women                   

    Sue Niebrzydowski

    3 Saints’ Lives: Bodies, Texts, and Readers in Medieval Lives of Female Saints

    Shari Horner                                                                                                              

    4 Embodying Medieval Holy Women: Science, Technology and Medicine

    Laura Kalas                                                                                                               

    5 Women as Educators in Medieval Europe: Learners, Teachers, Mentors

    Deborah Youngs                                                                                                        

    6 Philosophical views of Women                                                                  

    Nicole Wyatt

    7 Women and Popular Beliefs                                                                       

    Hannah Skoda

    8 Representations: The Image and Experience of Women in Medieval Christian Art

    Miriam Gill


    Laura Kalas is Senior Lecturer in Medieval Literature at Swansea University, UK. Her research focuses on medieval religious culture and especially writings by, and about, women, on medicine, materiality, and devotion.

     Roberta Magnani is Senior Lecturer in Medieval Literature at Swansea University, U.K. Her research interests lie in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer and late medieval manuscript culture with a specific focus on queer and trans theory. She has co-edited with Diane Watt a Special Issue of the journal postmedieval entitled ‘Queer Manuscripts’.

    “This valuable, engaging and wide ranging volume offers a comprehensive examination of the role of women in European Christianity between 1000 and 1500. The introduction is clearly written and highly informative. The chapters approach the subject from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, variously addressing women in philosophy, theology and religion, popular belief, medicine and science, education, and art. While patriarchal Christianity could certainly be oppressive and restrictive, this volume emphasises that women were central to the medieval religious world and that, in a whole variety of ways, they were able to demonstrate agency in their devotional lives.” - Diane Watt, Professor of Medieval English Literature, University of Surrey