Ministers of Christ’s Word: Benedictine Women Religious in Early and Central Medieval England


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Medieval Institute


This project uncovers the liturgical and pastoral ministries performed by Benedictine women religious in England from 900 to 1200, primarily through codicological and textual analyses of the liturgical manuscripts that these communities produced and/or used. Five ministries of the “word” are examined in detail: the creation and maintenance of histories and saints’ lives, communal teaching and preaching, the practice of penance, the proclamation of the gospel, and the celebration of the Divine Office. This project challenges previous scholarly accounts of these ministries that either locate them exclusively in the so-called “golden age” of early Anglo-Saxon women religious, or read the Benedictine and Gregorian reforms of the late tenth to twelfth centuries as effectively relegating women religious to complete dependency on the sacramental care of male clerics. Far from being wholly dependent on such care, this research shows that many women religious exercised control of and creativity in the ministries of their communities.