Monastic Walls: Some queries….

As my 312 students know, I love this article.  I think it introduces important issues about monasticism, personal property, female mysticism, and architectural space and how it structures worship.  Natalie will have much more to say on this subject, but here are my 2 cents.

1.  Does the Janus-like characterization of the cloister as both prison and paradisus seem odd to you?

2.  What is the function of the emporium in a monastic church?

3.  How did the spiritual practices of females help blur the line between public and private worship?

4.  “Architecture played a role in enforcing women’s access to the altar and in shaping their experience of the Mass.”  Discuss.

5.  How was the Andachtsbild incorporated into the female worship service?


6 responses

  1. 1. While I agree that both concepts existed simultaneously, I think that categorizing them in this way is a product of binary thinking.

    2. The emporium had several functions. One function was a meditative hang-out where clergy could create manuscripts.

    3. Family members, up to the third degree, were allowed to visit nuns. nuns were also allowed outside of the walls to travel with monks, and sometimes left once their monk counterpart died. Even though they were most often in the cloister, they were still seen on the outside.

    4. I found the story of the grille to be very interesting, in that it limited them so greatly and yet they were so loyal to its boundaries. Also, I think it is interesting that some church designs planned for nuns to occupy special spaces, such as the wings of the transcept, as if they were planning to hide the nuns from the service.

    5. It was something she saw every day during all aspects of her worship.

  2. The fact that women could obtain a sort of power through religion is interesting, but I think it also brings up an important issue that we have (I’m pretty sure) discussed here before. On the surface, at least, it seems that women can only obtain power if they are these sort of chaste, religious figures. I know I’m combining the Chadwick reading as well, but I think this brings up a contemporary issue a lot of women face, which is: can you be a powerful, intelligent and yet sexual woman without being categorized with pejorative terminology? Hamburger mentions at one point in the article how the nuns in an image would appear to be engaging in romantic affections, but their halos prevent this from appearing to be more than a religious affection. Still, this idea of connection with Christ through love as opposed to suffering seems to be important as I thought women (and especially in art) were always tinged somehow by Eve’s sinful, seductive nature, which results in suffering. I don’t know. I could be wrong and rambling, but maybe in this case it is sort of a step up?

  3. We discussed this a little last semester, however I still find it really interesting (and problematic) that nuns relied so heavily on men (mass, confession, receiving eucharist, not burning alive!). And as a result, architecture was modeled to fit the specific needs of the priests and nuns.

    Some passages I liked:
    “We must not forget that, above all else, the cura monialium was designed to ensure that women and the images produced for them were anchored to systems governed by men.” (108)

    “In these terms, a history of art in enclosure would be an oxymoron: what place could images have had in an environment in which sight itself was seen as an encouragement to sin?” (109)

    “Enclosure and the cura monialium inevitably evoke the image of women as pawns rather than patrons. Women, however, were not only patronized, they also acted in their
    own right as significant sponsors of female monastic communities.”(114)

  4. “His communication triggers her ecstacy: “after the Mass-kiss, when the priest consecrates the elements, there forget all the world. There be entirely out of body. There inshining love embrace your beloved who has alighted into your heart’s chambers drom heaven and hold him warmly close until he has granted all that you wish.”
    I thought this was just one of many problematic quotes that attempt to sexualize nuns in one way or the other. Perhaps the most famous example of this is The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. In my presentation and our class discussion tomorrow, I hope to discuss this. The concept of women and muses has been discussed at length in our class discussions, however, I think that looking at different kinds of women and their muse like qualities (often tinged with sexuality) is incredibly interesting!

  5. In regards to the question of architecture I think it is most certainly true that buildings shape our experience of a space. However I would have appreciated a discussion about that concept in general before discussing the nuns’ experience of space.
    Also, at one point she argued that enclosure could empower nuns (111) but I don’t feel like she clearly justified her statement.
    Furthermore, throughout the article I felt like she provided interesting data and stories, but did not draw strong conclusions from her discussion.

    And as a total aside, but an interesting one, she discussed the separation of sexes to prevent sexual encounters between monks and nuns. What about sexuality between nuns? That’s right lesbian nuns! I read an article in my Feminisms and Religion course last semester that addressed the topic. It would have added an interesting element to Hamburger’s article.

  6. I too was interested in the way that the nuns were presented as connecting with Christ through love instead of suffering.

    I found it troublesome that many of the reforms described seemed to move towards stricter forms of enclosure. Was this an overall trend or did those stories just happen to be the ones included in the article?

    My knowledge of life in convents is limited, so this article was very informative. The section discussing the detailed inventories that were taken at the convents was especially interesting, I thought. (I really, really am curious to know how the disagreement between to nuns over property was resolved.) However, I had trouble following the argument that was being presented though. It would have helped me as a reader if Hamburger had drawn out his conclusions more clearly.

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