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Holy Mediocrity: Saintly Matrons and the Dominicans in Late Medieval Italy

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Holy Mediocrity: Saintly Matrons and the Dominicans in Late Medieval Italy', 'Julia Lauren Miglets', 'The task of this study is to explain why a cluster of female saints who were noted not for their miracles but for the moderate – even boring – quality of their sanctity, a paradigm I call “holy mediocrity,†emerged in Northern Italy in the late fourteenth century. I examine the development of the paradigm of holy mediocrity through the vitae of the women lauded as saints for their moderate piety: Villana delle Botti of Florence (1332–1361), Maria Sturion of Venice (ca. 1379–1399), and Bonacosa da Beccalòe of Milan (1352–1381). ', '“Holy Mediocrity†elucidates the social implications of spirituality and sanctity to demonstrate how pressures on women in the Trecento and Quattrocento both necessitated and made possible an imitable model of sanctity. Holy mediocrity represented a pastoral initiative by the clergy, and especially Dominicans, to provide realistic spiritual advice to upper-class women who found that the demands of marriage, particularly the marriage debt, were not easily reconciled to the Church’s traditional idealization of virginity, and who worried that their wealth would prevent their entry into Heaven. Holy mediocrity posited a new profile for female sanctity – a less transgressive model that sought to circumscribe the potentially disruptive nature of female charisma. ', 'In a broader sense this is a study of late medieval and Renaissance religious culture, which uses one of these moderate holy women, Villana delle Botti, as a microhistory to map the intersections of the sacred and society. To do so, this project not only uses hagiography, monastic records, and city chronicles, but also art and architectural evidence.', 'Ultimately, this project illuminates the spiritual economy of late medieval Italy and how it functioned. More specifically, it explains the importance of “boring†holy women like Villana delle Botti both to their contemporaries and to our understanding of the religious milieu of the later Middle Ages. It shows why a model of piety was constructed for women to aid them in navigating the competing demands of marriage, motherhood, and piety, and how this paradigm was ultimately subverted by its own mediocrity.

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  • 10/14/2019
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