Monday, July 28, 2008

Next item?

OK. Liturgy article is revised and off to a friend for reading.  (Thanks, friend!)  What's next?

There are two pieces I'm particularly interested in working on: one about nuns and slavery, and the other about patronage of and donations to nunneries.  For the first I'm just collecting bibliography and sources right now, as the second must take priority.  It's already committed and needs some revision by October.  The amount of time I have to work on it will also drop sharply in September once I start teaching, so I'd like to get the bulk of revisions on it done by the end of August.

Most of my research focuses directly on nuns themselves: what they did, how they lived, how they handled certain obstacles and situations, and so forth. This piece still uses monastic sources, but focuses on a different subject: the lay women who supported nunneries.  There were a lot of them.  I'm firmly convinced that successful late medieval monasteries really had to have a lot of small-to-middling donors to keep them going.  Large donors were nice, too, of course, but the very wealthy might prefer something splashy like founding a new monastery.  In the sources I'm working with I'm seeing a lot more smaller donors.  Why did they give to nunneries?  Did they get some benefit, social, spiritual, or otherwise, from doing so?  How did miscellaneous small donations affect the communities which received them?  These are the sorts of questions I'm approaching here.

4 comments:

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Sounds like that second project is pretty advanced, so go, you! But the one on nuns and slavery? That sounds VERY interesting. Can't wait to see what you come up with!

tenthmedieval said...

As is becoming usual, all of what I can scatter by way of advice is from much earlier, but, well. Nuns and slavery: when dear Abbess Emma is oblated to Sant Joan de les Abadesses she is given with four slaves, one of whom may then turn up as an estate manager for the monastery later on. Second project: I agree that monasteries and nunneries alike need a raft of donors to get them off the ground, but there is a stable state they can reach where they simply have enough to keep going already. Then they turn to consolidation, exchanges, filling gaps in their zones, regularising rights, and so on. As for the motivations of donation, the most interesting take for my money, though again early, is Barbara Rosenwein's To Be The Neighbor of Saint Peter: the social meaning of Cluny's property, 909-1049 (Ithaca 1989). I hope that's some use...

clio's disciple said...

I should definitely look at Rosenwein again, though it's also worth thinking about what may have changed by the later periods I'm looking at. I totally agree that well-established monasteries are generally in a mode of consolidation, and yet the community relationships represented by gifts, even small ones, still seem to me significant...

Interesting that Emma is given with several slaves. Muslim slaves? I'll definitely keep that in mind, as it's good to remember when phenomena such as this leave a long trail...

tenthmedieval said...

I completely agree about the continuing importance of donations. A monastery that's not attracting that sort of interaction is one where something's gone wrong with the social relations Rosenwein's talking about. I think Chris Wickham's The Mountains and the City has a couple of examples from near Lucca where this sort of disenchantment seems to occur.

As for Emma's slaves, ethnicity is hard to guess: their names are Samsó, Gualter, Bello, Adília & Susanna (normalised to modern Catalan). Not very Islamic, but there is an idea that Muslim slaves would be given Christian names on conversion. On the other hand, two of those are Old Testament, but the rest would be odd choices for nomina dei, being I think Gothic or Frankish. So I would guess, no, these are either hereditary, perhaps fiscal, slaves (which might explain why Gualter becomes a manager, if he does; two later occurrences of a person of this very unusual name in the neighbouring county apparently witnessing abbey transactions), or that they were judicially enslaved. There's only one occurrence of slaves identified as Sarraceni known to me from the tenth-century stuff, at Urgell, and rather more of judicial enslavement (though still not much). Emma's case is complicated, though, because we know that she does hold some fiscal rights, at least vindicates them in court later.

My apologies, by the way, for assuming you wouldn't know Rosenwein; you do high medievalists credit by looking so far back, I've become inured to people not doing so...