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June 23, 2004
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v2.1 Reference

Queenship and Sanctity

The Lives of Mathilda and the Epitaph of Adelheid

At the dawn of the second millennium, authors from monasteries in Burgundy and northern Germany recorded the lives and deaths of two powerful and pious women, Mathilda (d. 968) and Adelheid (d. 999). Both were extolled as saints, exemplary figures guided by God and witnessing to His grace. Unlike most other holy women, however, Mathilda and Adelheid were not ascetic nuns, but queens. They were deemed worthy of praise not only for their devotion to God and their lives of faith, but for integrating these traditional virtues with more "worldly" attributes: noble birth, royal marriage, political power, and illustrious offspring. In turn, the saintly reputations of both women were used by their biographers to advance the interests not only of their own ecclesiastical communities, but of a new generation of secular rulers.

Queenship and Sanctity brings together for the first time in English the anonymous Lives of Mathilda and Odilo of Cluny's Epitaph of Adelheid. Richly annotated, with an extensive introduction placing the texts and their subjects in historical and hagiographical context, it provides teachers and students with a crucial set of sources for the history of Europe (particularly Germany) in the tenth and eleventh centuries, for the development of sacred biography and medieval notions of sanctity, and for the life of aristocratic and royal women in the early Middle Ages. In addition, two appendices present contemporary accounts of Mathilda by the monk and historian Widukind of Corvey, and a survey of the evidence for Mathilda's ancestral ties to the legendary Saxon hero Widukind, whose defeat by Charlemagne in the late eighth century ultimately led to Saxony's assimilation into the Frankish church and kingdom.

A useful resource for scholars of the period, yet accessible to non-specialists, Queenship and Sanctity is an engaging introduction to two fascinating women and the world they helped to create.

Sean Gilsdorf Sean Gilsdorf received his Ph.D. in medieval history from the University of Chicago and currently is a research associate in the Department of History at Smith College. He is the editor of The Bishop: Power and Piety at the First Millennium.


"Gilsdorf has made a valuable contribution to the English-language body of works on medieval German history. Gilsdorf's translations . . . are lucid and enjoyable. . . . Gilsdorf has provided non-specialists expanded access to Ottonian sources, which should help to increase the attention this fascinating period receives in American classrooms. Because of the prominence of powerful Ottonian women and the relatively few biographical depictions of women in secular life from the early and central Middle Ages, scholars and students of women and biography will especially benefit from this useful volume. . . . The translations of the Lives of Mathilda and the Epitaph of Adelheid alone make Queenship and Sanctity worth reading, and specialists will find it a valuable reference. The introduction, appendices, and notes make it highly suitable for a course on medieval or religious history; one could also teach these texts usefully in a course on women or gender. Indeed, the lucidity and liveliness of the translations recommend them for both classroom and independent undergraduate research."—Valerie L. Garver, Biography

"The detailed discussion of the three documents and the translations themselves are highly welcome contributions to the history of queenship in the tenth century."—Albrecht Classen, Mediaevistik

The Catholic University of America Press

9780813213743 : queenship-and-sanctity-gilsdorf
Paperback / softback
224 Pages
$29.95 USD

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