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Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome

Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome

The Lives of Margherita Colonna by Giovanni Colonna and Stefania

Translated by Larry F. Field
Edited and Introduced by Lezlie S. Knox and Sean L. Field

Margherita Colonna (1255–1280) was born into one of the great baronial families that dominated Rome politically and culturally in the thirteenth century. After the death of her father and mother, Margherita was raised by her brothers, including Cardinal Giacomo Colonna. The two extant contemporary accounts of her short life offer a daring model of mystical lay piety forged in imitation of St. Francis but worked out in the vibrant world of medieval Rome.

In Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome, Larry F. Field, Lezlie S. Knox, and Sean L. Field present the first English translations of Margherita Colonna’s two “lives” and a dossier of associated texts, along with thoroughly researched contextualization and scholarly examination. The first of the two lives was written by a layman, the Roman Senator Giovanni Colonna, one of Margherita Colonna’s brothers. The second was written by a woman named Stefania, who had been a close follower of Margherita Colonna and assumed leadership of her Franciscan community after Margherita’s death. These intriguing texts open up new perspectives on numerous historical questions. How did authorial gender and status influence hagiographic perspective? How fluid was the nature of female Franciscan identity during the era in which the papacy was creating the Order of St. Clare? What were the experiences and influences of female visionaries? And what was the process of saint-making at the heart of an aristocratic Roman family? These texts add rich new texture to our overall picture of medieval visionary culture and will interest students and scholars of medieval and renaissance history, literature, religion, and women’s studies.

“This volume of translations and extensive commentary is the rare publication that manages to make a major contribution both to scholarship and to teaching. The texts and commentary illuminate the religious and institutional aspirations of one of Rome’s most powerful families during a crucial period, but also the devotional and spiritual values alive in thirteenth-century Italy.” — Patrick J. Geary, Institute for Advanced Study

“Margherita Colonna, a Roman noblewoman, embraced poverty, founded an open convent, experienced visions, and died in the odor of sanctity at the age of twenty-five. Her family immediately pressed for Margherita’s canonization, but any hopes for papal recognition of her holiness were quashed when Boniface VIII launched a crusade against the Colonna. What survived this assault were two unusual hagiographic Lives. These texts and related documents are here made available in a fluid English translation, prefaced by an excellent introduction and accompanied by helpful notes, making this a most welcome addition to the growing corpus of records of thirteenth-century sanctity available for classroom use.” — Daniel Bornstein, Stella K. Darrow Professor of Catholic Studies, Washington University in St. Louis

" Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome is an outstanding resource for teaching the history of Christianity. Juxtaposing two subtly different ‘lives’ of the late thirteenth-century Roman noblewoman Margherita Colonna, the authors provide an entrée into a range of fascinating questions about religious identities and visionary experience as well as the influence of authorial gender and status on narrations of holiness. The translations and supporting apparatus are accessible without sacrificing complexity, yielding a rich and stimulating collection for beginners and experts alike." — Maureen C. Miller, University of California, Berkeley

" Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome is a product of the intellectual generosity of leading historians of female Franciscanism. Offering accessible English translations of the sources for a remarkable holy woman, Margherita Colonna (d. 1280), Field, Knox, and Field open up fascinating lines of inquiry for students of religion, gender, and late medieval sanctity and for anyone interested in the social world of late medieval Rome." — Frances Andrews, University of St. Andrews

ISBN: 978-0-268-10201-2
236 pages
Publication Year: 2017

Larry F. Field is professor emeritus of sociology and criminal justice at Western New England University. He is the translator of The Sanctity of Louis IX: Early Lives of Saint Louis by Geoffrey of Beaulieu and William of Chartres.

Lezlie S. Knox is associate professor of history at Marquette University. She is the author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medieval Italy.

Sean L. Field is professor of history at the University of Vermont. He is the author of a number of books, including The Beguine, the Angel, and the Inquisitor: The Trials of Marguerite Porete and Guiard of Cressonessart (University of Notre Dame Press, 2012).

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Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome

The Lives of Margherita Colonna by Giovanni Colonna and Stefania


Translated by Larry F. Field
Edited and Introduced by Lezlie S. Knox and Sean L. Field

 Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome: The Lives of Margherita Colonna by Giovanni Colonna and Stefania
Cloth Edition
Paper Edition

Margherita Colonna (1255–1280) was born into one of the great baronial families that dominated Rome politically and culturally in the thirteenth century. After the death of her father and mother, Margherita was raised by her brothers, including Cardinal Giacomo Colonna. The two extant contemporary accounts of her short life offer a daring model of mystical lay piety forged in imitation of St. Francis but worked out in the vibrant world of medieval Rome.

In Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome, Larry F. Field, Lezlie S. Knox, and Sean L. Field present the first English translations of Margherita Colonna’s two “lives” and a dossier of associated texts, along with thoroughly researched contextualization and scholarly examination. The first of the two lives was written by a layman, the Roman Senator Giovanni Colonna, one of Margherita Colonna’s brothers. The second was written by a woman named Stefania, who had been a close follower of Margherita Colonna and assumed leadership of her Franciscan community after Margherita’s death. These intriguing texts open up new perspectives on numerous historical questions. How did authorial gender and status influence hagiographic perspective? How fluid was the nature of female Franciscan identity during the era in which the papacy was creating the Order of St. Clare? What were the experiences and influences of female visionaries? And what was the process of saint-making at the heart of an aristocratic Roman family? These texts add rich new texture to our overall picture of medieval visionary culture and will interest students and scholars of medieval and renaissance history, literature, religion, and women’s studies.

“This volume of translations and extensive commentary is the rare publication that manages to make a major contribution both to scholarship and to teaching. The texts and commentary illuminate the religious and institutional aspirations of one of Rome’s most powerful families during a crucial period, but also the devotional and spiritual values alive in thirteenth-century Italy.” — Patrick J. Geary, Institute for Advanced Study

“Margherita Colonna, a Roman noblewoman, embraced poverty, founded an open convent, experienced visions, and died in the odor of sanctity at the age of twenty-five. Her family immediately pressed for Margherita’s canonization, but any hopes for papal recognition of her holiness were quashed when Boniface VIII launched a crusade against the Colonna. What survived this assault were two unusual hagiographic Lives. These texts and related documents are here made available in a fluid English translation, prefaced by an excellent introduction and accompanied by helpful notes, making this a most welcome addition to the growing corpus of records of thirteenth-century sanctity available for classroom use.” — Daniel Bornstein, Stella K. Darrow Professor of Catholic Studies, Washington University in St. Louis

" Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome is an outstanding resource for teaching the history of Christianity. Juxtaposing two subtly different ‘lives’ of the late thirteenth-century Roman noblewoman Margherita Colonna, the authors provide an entrée into a range of fascinating questions about religious identities and visionary experience as well as the influence of authorial gender and status on narrations of holiness. The translations and supporting apparatus are accessible without sacrificing complexity, yielding a rich and stimulating collection for beginners and experts alike." — Maureen C. Miller, University of California, Berkeley

" Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome is a product of the intellectual generosity of leading historians of female Franciscanism. Offering accessible English translations of the sources for a remarkable holy woman, Margherita Colonna (d. 1280), Field, Knox, and Field open up fascinating lines of inquiry for students of religion, gender, and late medieval sanctity and for anyone interested in the social world of late medieval Rome." — Frances Andrews, University of St. Andrews

ISBN: 978-0-268-10201-2

236 pages