Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

History

First Advisor

Scott Bruce

Second Advisor

Fred Anderson

Third Advisor

Andrew Cain

Abstract

This paper will focus on the mobility of ascetic women from late antiquity through to the early Middle Ages with a particular emphasis on the practice of pilgrimage. As seen in multiple primary source documents, religious women from the West were journeying to the Holy Land and beyond from the fourth through to the early fifth centuries. This practice, however, is mentioned remarkably less in accounts of religious women north of the Alps in the late fifth century onwards. Evidence of women undertaking pilgrimages to the Holy Land is sparse while their male counterparts continued to make such journeys. Although the monastic rules that cloistered women certainly did have an impact on the movement of religious women in the early medieval West as other scholars have argued, there are a variety of external and non-religious factors that also contributed to the decline of female ascetic pilgrimages. This thesis will aim to give a more complete answer to this decline by focusing on the functions that religious women played in their communities, which effectively bound them to those same communities. I will argue that the changing image of female sanctity from late antiquity to the early Middle Ages reflects the social, economic, and political transformations that were occurring from late antique Roman society to early medieval Frankish society, thus resulting in a different model for women to follow as well as a different focus in the vitae of early medieval religious women.