The Spiritual Desire of Women in the Late Middle Ages : Focused on the Female Saints in The Golden Legend


Lee, Pil-Eun

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The purpose of this research is to explore the situation of women and their desire in the late Middle Ages by analyzing the narratives of the female saints. In order to explore women's perceptions of the social situation and women's mentality, 󰡒The Golden Legend󰡓 which is a collection of narratives of the saints would be analyzed. This book was edited by Jacobus de Voragine in the thirteenth century. This book was intended to educate future preacher and very popular book. This book was not created with the intention of the Jacobus, but was the narratives that has been transmitted orally, and would contain the social situation and desire of the people. In this book, 41 saints among 200 saints are the female, all the saints except 4 saints (3 male saints and one female saint) are ancient saints. And all female saints are virgins except 5 saints. In this book the female saints were noble origin, beauty, and wisdom. Because they rejected the love of pagan kings, they faced cruel torture and terrible martyrdom. The sign of religious person was virginity. Martyred female saint for preserving their virginity contributed Europe as a Christian world. Women was able to infiltrate the male religious realm through martyrdom. This view was strengthened by emphasizing that Jesus' lineage was the Virgin Mary, not Joseph. Various religious women's movements appeared in the thirteenth century, and the church authority looked at these women with suspicion. In this social situation, religious women would have tried to officially recognize for their activities. This desire of women could be identified with the situation when ancient female saints were martyred to protect virginity. In the thirteenth century, women were the mainstay of charity work. The female saints played an important role in spreading and defending Christianity in Europe by their terrible martyrdom. The women who were martyred in the early church were also heroes of the war. Through these efforts, women gained the freedom to live the life of charity they wanted. And the most representative figure of such female saints was the Virgin Mary, the mother of God.


I. Introduction
II. The Spiritual Desire of Women Revealed in the Female Saints' Narratives
1. Physical Violence in War
2. Virginity as a Sign of Female Hero
3. Charity as a Sign of Freedom
III. Conclusion


  • Lee, Pil-Eun Korea Nazarene University


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