DEVOTIONAL ART, MEDITATION, AND SENSORY EXPERIENCE: HOW GERMAN NUNS GAINED SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY BETWEEN 1300 AND 1500
|West, Ashley D.
|Booth, Constance Hale
|In the late Middle Ages, nuns in southern Germany and the Rhineland were strictly enclosed behind their convent’s walls, and they had been stripped of their clerical powers as a result of papal reforms. However, life in such cloistered environments allowed nuns’ affective piety to evolve and flourish in new ways, for example, via the use of devotional images. This paper examines the devotional imagery created and used by nuns in these regions, and how such imagery aided them in developing spiritual authority, as a way of overcoming not only their loss of clerical authority, but also perceived weaknesses and inferiority ascribed to female bodies, minds, and morals by contemporary male theorists and theologians. This study concentrates on a small subset of images – those of the suffering and wounded body of Christ. These include the profusely bleeding and suffering Christ on the Cross, and images that are related to his side wound and the pierced Sacred Heart. Of particular interest is how these nuns used images to stimulate their meditation and imaginative visions, for which women had a propensity in their piety. It was this personal engagement with the images that invoked an intensely gendered and inherently sympathetic relationship with Christ, and also provoked their bodily senses, which thus allowed for a deeper and more salvific experience that put them on a direct path to uniting with God. The results of this study indicate that, due to a confluence of these and other factors, nuns were able to acquire an authority of their own via their ability to establish a close connection with the divine through their gendered alignment with the humanity, flesh and blood of Christ, and through the unique and personal piety they developed. These instances of intimate union with the divine did not go unnoticed by members of the male clergy, who by their gendered nature, were more resistant to imaginative and visionary experiences. Some even saw the heightened and emotional experiences of the nuns as superior to, and more immersive than, their own devotion, thus giving these women a degree of spiritual authority over their male colleagues. Moreover, some religious men were not only aware of this, but also encouraged women in their imaginary and spiritual visions, and sought to learn from them.
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|Theses and Dissertations
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|DEVOTIONAL ART, MEDITATION, AND SENSORY EXPERIENCE: HOW GERMAN NUNS GAINED SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY BETWEEN 1300 AND 1500
|Hall, Marcia B.
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