Church Reform & 12th Century Renaissance Women

The lives of women during the Church Reform and the Twelfth Century Renaissance did not dramatically improve!

The number of nunneries may have skyrocketed after the election of Gregory VII but it didn’t mean that it was easy for them and that boundless opportunities were given to them in the religious sphere. It appears that these women were just somehow inspired to be involved in religious life since in the late eleventh century, the spirituality of Western Christendom included the “urge to live a poor and simple life in solitude and isolation” and “a zeal for preaching the gospel far and wide.”

The “one effect of the Gregorian reform was to diminish the possibilities of active female participation in formal religious organizations.” Monastic vocation may be available for women but they were still excluded from priesthood. “The nuns were ruled by a man rather than an abbess” in Cluniac order. In the annual council of abbots, Cisterian abbesses were excluded and meeting decisions were only announced to them. Dominican nuns were also not permitted to preach by the medieval church. Christina of Markyate was one of the women who encountered difficulties as she aspired to live a religious life. She made a pledge of virginity but was raped by a bishop, and was forced into betrothal with the approval of her parents. Robert of Arbrissel may have founded “one of the largest and wealthiest monasteries for women in Europe” but he practiced syneisaktism and “slept among women.”

Compared to seventeenth – nineteenth centuries, there were only a few medieval women authors as their “participation in the dominant structures of intellectual life” was limited. Men also mostly handled properties. When it came to quid pro quo payments, husband still received a larger payment than his wife even if the property that was transferred came from her inheritance. In medieval romance literature, males were generally displayed as heroes, while women were objects to be pursued. Although there were some developments in the lives of women, they were not as great, and their society was still dominated by men, in my opinion.