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In castro poenitentiae

· Essay In castro poenitentiae ·

Although it came out many years ago, In castro poenitentiae, Santità e società femminile nell’Italia medievale by Anna Benvenuti (Herder, 1990) remains, along with other essays written by the Italian medievalist, the main point of reference for those who wish to discover more about the life of the urban hermitesses who inhabited city districts in the Middle Ages. Since the 13th century, in fact, we have witnessed the flourishing of a new type of urban recluse, living alone or with a few companions in the heart of the city or in the suburbs, enclosed in cells or along the very walls of the city. The faithful offered them material support, while the bishop and clergy provided them with the sacraments and spiritual care. Their presence became a distinctive feature of medieval Italian cities, and this typology, often found in hagiographic collections, demonstrates a creative spontaneity of female religiosity unequaled in later centuries. The recluses gave spiritual advice to those came to visit them; in the auspices of the city, they warded off dangers by their prayers from their cells which often lay on the border between the village and fields. (@LuceScaraffia)

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