Anchoritic Traditions of Medieval Europe

Anchoritic Traditions of Medieval Europe

Edited by Liz Herbert McAvoy


Boydell Press



An examination of the growth and different varieties of anchoritism throughout medieval Europe.
The practice of anchoritism - religious enclosure which was frequently solitary and voluntarily embraced, very often in a permanent capacity - was widespread in many areas of Europe throughout the middle ages. Originating in the desert withdrawal of the earliest Christians and prefiguring even the monastic life, anchoritism developed into an elite vocation which was popular amongst both men and women. Within this reclusive vocation, the anchorite would withdraw, either alone or with others like her or him, to a small cell or building, very frequently attached to a church or other religious institution, where she or he would - theoretically at least - remain locked up until death. In the later period it was a vocation which was particularly associated with pious laywomen who appear to have opted for this extreme way of life in their thousands throughout western Europe, often as an alternative to marriage or remarriage, allowing them, instead, to undertake the role of 'living saint' within the community.

This volume brings together for the first time in English much of the most important European scholarship on the subject to date. Tracing the vocation's origins from the Egyptian deserts of early Christian activity through to its multiple expressions in western Europe, it also identifies some of those regions - Wales and Scotland, for example - where the phenomenon does not appear to have been as widespread. As such, the volume provides an invaluable resource for those interested in the theories and practices of medieval anchoritism in particular, and the development of medieval religiosity more widely.

Dr LIZ HERBERT MCAVOY is Senior Lecturer in Gender in English and Medieval Studies at Swansea University.

CONTRIBUTORS: Anneke B. Mulder-Bakker, Gabriela Signori, M. Sensi, G. Cavero Dominguez, P. L'Hermite-Leclercq, Mari Hughes-Edwards, Colman O Clabaigh, Anna McHugh, Liz Herbert McAvoy.


January 2010
256 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843835202
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

Introduction - Liz Herbert McAvoy
Anchorites in the Low Countries - Anneke B. Mulder-Bakker
Anchorites in German-speaking regions - Gabriela Signori
Anchorites in the Italian tradition - M. Sensi
Anchorites in the Spanish tradition - G. Cavero Domínguez
Anchoritism in medieval France - P. L'Hermite-Leclercq
Anchoritism: the English Tradition - Mari Hughes-Edwards
Anchorites in late medieval Ireland - Colmán Ó Clabaigh
Anchorites in medieval Scotland - Anna McHugh
Anchorites and medieval Wales - Liz Herbert McAvoy


Several chapters could be set as reading in undergraduate courses, and graduate students and researchers seeking an orientation to the field in general, or an overview of anchoritic practice within a particular geographic region, will find much of value in this collection. PARERGON

A rich array of articles, covering anchoritic experience across Europe. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

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