Using the vitae of thirty women deemed holy by their contemporary communities, this book analyzes the spiritual landscape these women inhabited, and the ways they circulated through religious and lay environments. The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries marked a period of proliferation of female saints, particularly in Italy, and the vitae of these saints present a wide variety of religious practice and experiences. This book aims to scrutinize the ways of living of these independent holy women as they moved through urban society, and to analyze the ways in which they navigated their secular communities. As much as these narratives recount the lives of holy women, because they so often remained deeply rooted in the secular world even while seeking greater spiritual awareness and connection, these sources give evidence of the function and structure of lay women’s experiences, challenges, and opportunities within urban Italy.
Andrea Boffa, York College, The City University of New York, NY, USA.