Gendering Charity in Medieval Hagiography

P. H. Cullum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


By the later Middle Ages the pious were taught that there were two forms of the religious life, the active and the contemplative. While those living by a rule were generally directed towards the contemplative life, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries had seen a great emphasis placed on the active life, both for religious, such as the new Augustinian and mendicant orders, and also for laypeople. In practice of course the two were not mutually exclusive and each can be found both in the lives of those recognised by the Church for their sanctity, and those who merely aspired to holiness. Nevertheless, spiritual advisers often recommended the active life as particularly suited to those who were not enclosed. Within the active life it was often the expression of charity through almsgiving that was the most prominent exemplary practice. Charity also played a part in the investigation of putative cases of sanctity by the papacy, and in the representation of sanctity in collections of the lives of saints, such as Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend.1 By the early fifteenth century when Christine de Pisan, a well-read recipient of this tradition, was writing her book of advice to women, The Treasure of the City of Ladies, she explained the two forms of the religious life but couched the expression of the active life solely in terms of almsgiving and charity.2

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGender and Holiness
Subtitle of host publicationMen, Women and Saints in Late Medieval Europe
EditorsSamantha J. E. Riches, Sarah Salih
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)0203994604, 9781134514892, 9780203994603
ISBN (Print)0415258219, 9780415258210, 9780415510882
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2002

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Medieval Religion and Culture


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