Women in Monastic Settings

Here are Morgan’s Questions:
1. Why is the architecture of the convents discussed so much in this article? What is Hamburger’s purpose of that?

2. What do you think about the Ebstorf convent’s reform reconstruction in the mid 15th century?

3. Does this article change your perception about nuns during the Middle Ages or women from Middle Ages in general?

4. What reasons have contributed to the dismissal of female artists and patrons of these convents over time?

5. Why are Liturgies so important?

6. “Even as art historians turn to allied disciplines for methodological guidance, we should not overlook the extent to which our own objects of study can transform approaches to other fields of historical inquiry.” (p.126) What does Hamburger mean by this statement about the role of art history?


6 responses

  1. (This comment was inspired by question number 4 even though it doesn’t answer question number 4.) Something that struck me in this article was the comment that men were responsible for the preservation of art, and therefore, they only preserved what seemed important to them, which was the art of other men. If the art of women had been better preserved or recorded, I think the huge gap between male and female artists wouldn’t be quite as large as it is. (It would still exist, of course. But I believe it would be marginally smaller.)

    • Right though. Also interesting are in the instances in which friars acted as “agents” from the nuns.

      “…friars served nuns as their agents, procurring and purveying works of art…” (p. 120)

  2. 3. This article definitely did change my perception of nuns in the Middle Ages. I definitely underestimated both how strict convents were and how many freedoms nuns gained by joining convents.

    • The nuns at Longchamp seemed especially rebellious! It seems to be the case that the more wealth the convent was able to amass from indulgences and patronage from people who wished to demonstrate their piety, the less ascetic and more indulgent (pardon the pun) the nuns became. Nuns who suppoedly were the brides of Christ and “held no private property” owned house, gold and silver jewelry, manuscripts–they operated more like communes than “convents.” Did the paradoxical enclosed establishments defeat their purpose? There are only so many sumptary laws one could pass before being redundant and losing whatever apparent claimed authority…

  3. Q 1–I think that Hamburger’s purpose in linking architecture and worship is to connect visual symbol with function so that the social relevance can be better understood. It was interesting to me that so many of the convents mentioned were in repurposed buildings modified to create a visual culture that would reflect and serve both religious and dailt behavior.

  4. I was surprised by the prevalence of aristocratic women as patrons, who carried strong enough influence to establish their own religious programs. Even more astonishing the fact that nuns purchased and maintained lifetime ownership of relics that other nuns had made! It makes sense, considering that these convents were intended to be mostly self-sufficient–yet the women could not conduct their own Mass? They could create the liturgical vessels and other important sacred objects, but could not perform their own confessions? Yet they actively participated economically…
    Nun became more real to me through this article. Instead of passive beings, they were living, emotional, pious, resourceful and sensual! They read and recited romance stories!

    5. Liturgies are key to any faith or belief system by definition: form or formulary according to which public religious worship is conducted, especially Christian worship; rite, ritual, celebration, sacrament, observance. Liturgies mark important events in the lives (and sometimes deaths) of saints and of Christ, especially relating to His resurrection (by which Christian believers attain salvation and remission of sin). Any relics of the cross or representative objects used for rites such as the Eucharist are then invaluable to any cathedral. It’s a wonder why nun’s work has been so readily dismissed…

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