Browse Vitae

Title Communities Regionsort ascending
Margaret Dawbeny




Hild, Saint

Whitby, Hartlepool , and Hackness. May have also founded another monastery on the north shore of the River Wear.

Margaret Hemenhale

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).

Amice/Amicia de Hynton/Hinton

Little Marlow

Katherine de Lisle



Brewood Black Ladies

Elizabeth Hothe


Isabel Braynton


Margaret de Cheyney


Anne Rothenhall


Catherine [of Siena]
Agnes de Kynewarton


Edith Lancelene


Margaret Curzon


Joan de Gurnay

Barrow Gurney

Eleanor Weyland


Mabel la Wafre


Hawise [of LEI] Cts.of Gloucester