Browse Vitae

Title Communitiessort descending Region
Joan de Bere

NULL

Matilda

Notre Dame des Vertus à la Flèche

Mary

Notre Dame des Vertus à la Flèche

Melania the Younger

According to Palladius, while Melania was still in Italy, she and Albina moved to Sicily and then to Campania. They lived with 15 eunuchs and 60 virgins, who were both slaves and free women (Palladius: the Lausiac history, ch., 61). Melania later established a community of virgins on the Mount of Olives.

Pelagia

After her conversion (described below), Pelagia disguised herself as a eunuch and took up a cell on the Mount of Olives.

Macrina

After Macrina's fiance died, she began to live her life as a virgin dedicated to God. In this way, she merged two exclusive concepts: the unmarried girl and the widow. She remained living at home but began to pray regularly. She recited the psalms at regular intervals, engaged in manual labor, and began to bake her mother's bread. In this way, she humbled herself before those around her by engaging in work reserved for slaves (Virgins of God : the making of asceticism in late antiquity, 44-46).

After Basil the Elder died, Emmelia along with three of her children- Macrina, Peter, and Naucratius- moved from Neocaesarea to live in their country estate at Anessi. There, Macrina set up a monastery for women. Since her brothers also practiced an ascetic lifestyle while living on the property, it is likely that the female and male communities had regular interaction. Naucratius soon moved elsewhere on the family's property to live in an all male community, but Peter continued to live in his mother's house until he became bishop in 380 (Virgins of God : the making of asceticism in late antiquity, 78-83, 97).

When Naucratius died in 357 in a hunting accident, Macrina encouraged Emmelia to join Macrina in her ascetic lifestyle. They gave away all of their luxuries and shared in the same lifestyle as their maids (Life of St. Macrina, 970C-972B).

At this point, Macrina appears to have assumed the role of head of household, managing her mother's estate and manumitting all their slaves. Some slaves likely stayed in Macrina's house and joined her community. Around 357, virgins began to gather around Macrina and Emmelia and an ascetic community emerged. In 368 and 369, when Cappadocia and Pontus experienced bouts of famine, Macrina adopted orphan girls into her community. In addition, wealthy women, such as Vetiana and the deaconess Lampadion joined the community (Virgins of God : the making of asceticism in late antiquity, 83-95).

As the community grew, its members established a hierarchical structure. Melania was recognized as the founder and she acted as the sole and final authority in all matters. Lampadion presided over the community, thus acting as a second in command to Melania. The decision to join the community was personal; there was no public ceremony or vow which defined membership in the community. The women wore distinct clothing and continued with a routine of prayer and manual labor (Virgins of God : the making of asceticism in late antiquity, 96-102).

In the meanwhile, after Naucratius' death, Macrina's brother Basil moved into Naucratius' small and rustic monastery. During his time living as an ascetic, he wrote The ascetic works of Saint Basil. Although he never mentions Macrina or her community in this work, he likely had frequent contact with Macrina and she was influential in developing his ideas about female monastic life (Virgins of God : the making of asceticism in late antiquity, 102-104).

Gregory of Nyssa's Life of St. Macrina offers a detailed picture of female monasticism in its earliest stage. Here, monastic and ascetic movement drew on the networks and resources of the biological family. Cohabitation involved mixing biological kinship, patronage, and ownership, but also shared the common goal of ascetic practice (Approaching the Holy Household). The biological family did not exist as an impediment to ascetic practice, but rather Gregory portrays Macrina as an example of the ideal spiritualization of the biological family. Macrina's family was transformed in its embrace of asceticism to a family where kinship bonds aided its members on their path towards salvation ("From the womb of the church": Monastic families).

Agnes Booth, Shepherd

Agnes was an anchoress attached to Norton Priory, a male foundation, who was sent to a chapelry of Cockersand in Pilling, Gastang.

Thecla

Athanasius, in his treatise On virginity, presented Thecla as a model virgin to the ascetic women living at home or in small, all-female communities in fourth-century Alexandria, Egypt.

During the fourth century, Athanasius in his Apologia de fuga sua describes a community of women who were forced to leave Alexandria, Egypt and relocate in the Kharga Oasis. On the necropolis of El Bagawat in the Kharga Oasis, two chapels include wall paintings which depict Thecla, one dating to the fourth century the other to later centuries (see "Artifacts"). Perhaps these refugee women founded a community with particular devotion to Thecla at El Bagawat.

An abundance of material evidence (papyri on which the Acts of Thecla are written, objects which depict Thecla, and churches dedicated to Thecla) indicate that Thecla had a strong following in Al-Fayyūm and in the Nile Valley. These cities include Antinoopolis (modern Sheikh-'Ibada), Oxyrhynchus (modern Al-Bashnasā), Arsinoe (modern Kīmān Fāris), and Aphroditopolis (modern Atfîḥ).

By the fifth century, a monastic community had sprung up at Hagia Thekla.

A number of clay flasks from Egypt depict St. Menas on one side, and Thecla on the other. This, coupled with a reference "the martyr shrine of Saint Thecla" in Miracles of St. Menas, 22.2.27-31, suggest that a shrine to Thecla was located near the pilgrimage center dedicated to St. Menas in Egypt in the fifth or sixth century. It is unclear whether a monastery was present at this shrine to Thecla, but it is likely that ascetic women made pilgrimages to this shrine.

There is also a Greek Orthodox convent dedicated to Mar Taqla in Maʻlūlā, a village fifty kilometers northeast of Damascus. The saint is believed to be buried there in a cave above the monastery. There is no evidence that any parts of the monastery or chapel date to the Byzantine period.

Chiara Offreduccio di Favarone

Benedictine monastery San Paolo delle Abbadesse in Bastia, Beguine monastery San Angelo di Panzo, and Franciscan monastery S. Damiano.

Magdalena von Freiburg

Clarissen house in Freiburg

Caterina de Vegri

Corpus Domini in Ferrara and Corpus Domini in Bologna.

Cyra

Cyra and NULL founded a community outside Beroea. According to Theodoret, they lived in a small hut and walled up the doors with clay and stones. They constructed a window through which they took food and spoke with the women who came to see them. Only Marana spoke to visitors; Cyra never spoke. They wore iron weights and cloth mantels which covered their face, neck, chest, hands, and feet. They lived in the hut for 42 years. Their maidservants who also wished to share in this lifestyle built huts around Cyra and Marana's hut. Some also lived in the open air. (Philotheos historia. English. 1985, XXIX.1-7).

Elisenda de Montcada

Founded the monastery of Pedralbes

Æbbe of Coldingham

Founder of Coldingham.

Herrad of Hohenbourg

Hohenbourg

Egeria

In her travel diary, Egeria addresses a circle of female readers, calling them "sisters." Because of this, some scholars think that Egeria was a member of a female monastic community in her homeland. Others note that, if she were a nun, it is unlikely that she would be able to leave her convent to travel freely for 3 years throughout the Near East. Following this line of thinking, she was a wealthy woman.

Beatrijs van Nazareth

Joined the Beguine community in 1207 for schooling. Entered the Cistercian convent in 1208. Founded her own priory in Nazareth in 1236.

Marana

Marana and NULL founded a community outside Beroea. According to Theodoret, they lived in a small hut and walled up the doors with clay and stones. They constructed a window through which they took food and spoke with the women who came to see them. Only Marana spoke to visitors; Cyra never spoke. They wore iron weights and cloth mantels which covered their face, neck, chest, hands, and feet. They lived in the hut for 42 years. Their maidservants who also wished to share in this lifestyle built huts around Cyra and Marana's hut. Some also lived in the open air. (Philotheos historia. English. 1985, ch. XXIX.1-7).

Matrona

Matrona spent the first three years of her monastic life in the male monastery of Bassianos, dressed in disguise. Matrona then moved to a monastery in Emesa, and after traveling to Jerusalem, Mt. Sinai, and Beirut in order to flee her husband, she returned to Constantinople and founded Matrones.

Genovefa, Saint

References to women who live and worship with her

Lewinna

Selsey

Margareta von Kenzingen

She entered the reformed Dominican convent of Unterlinden in Colmar sometime prior to 1423.

Theodora

St. Albans in Markyate, Hertfordshire. Founded a priory for anchorites in Markyate in 1145.

Battista de Varano

Urbino, Camerino

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