Constructions of Female Sanctity in Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern Period


Edited by Andrea-Bianka Znorovszky

Publication date: November, 2018

Pages: 154, colour

ISBN 978-615-80996-8-4                   Paperback, €27.00

ISBN 978-615-6405-03-6                   Hardcover, €89.00

eISBN 978-615-80996-9-1                  eBook, €27.00

DOI: 10.22618/TP.HAA.20181

For any unavailable copies on our website, please refer to our distributors: ISD LLC for North and South America and EUROSPAN for Europe and the rest of the world.

 You can read this book in open access.



By Gerhard Jaritz


By Andrea-Bianka Znorovszky


Bricks to Bones: Royal Women and the Construction of Holy Place in the Stepennaia Kniga 

Author(s): Rosie Finlinson

Abstract: This essay explores the symbolic envisioning of the royal woman in the sixteenth-century Muscovite “Book of Royal Degrees.” It argues that the princesses figure as carriers not only of royal heirs but also as signifiers of spiritual capital and territorial legitimacy for the ruling dynasty, as they map the physical and spiritual borders of Orthodox Muscovy through their association with holy sites. The terms of their veneration move with the geo-political imperatives of the text, and the consolidation of political power in the Kremlin manifests itself in the body, and eventually the womb, of the woman carrying the Muscovite autocrat.


Macrina and Melania the Elder: Painting the Portraits of Holy Learned Women in the Fourth-Century Roman Empire 

Author(s): Andra Jugănaru

Abstract: Macrina the Younger and Melania the Elder, two outstanding monastic leaders of the fourth century, are presented in the sources not only as exemplary saints, but also as learned women. They received both a secular and a theological instruction. They were perceived both as ascetic leaders and as spiritual teachers. The male authors who wrote about them stress their involvement in controversies over theological trends and ascetic life-styles not only in order to give additional proofs for their holiness, but also in order to use these saintly figures as mouthpieces of their own positions.

 - CHAPTER 3 -

The Apocryphal Geography of the Virgin Mary in Hagiographic Collections: Dissemination and Liturgy 

Author(s): Andrea-Bianka Znorovszky

Abstract: This essay concentrates on the dissemination of Marian apocryphal imagery in Western Europe in relation to various textual sources used in devotional and liturgical contexts. It aims at presenting the geographic distribution, the confluence zones, and the density of Marian Apocryphal iconography with the purpose of establishing areas subject to individual case studies. Also, it highlights local developments and the incorporation of several iconographic themes into the apocryphal material.

 - CHAPTER 4 -

Private Devotion and Political Ostentation: Roger I the Great Count and the Spread of Saint Lucy's Cult in Southern Italy 

Author(s): Francesco Calò

Abstract: This paper shows that among the various strategies adopted by Roger the Great Count, during the conquest of Muslim Sicily, the reactivation of St. Lucy’s cult can also be named. This reactivation was done through building churches and basilicas in her name, because Sicilians saw in him the Sicilian martyr’s favourite and therefore the envoy of God for the liberation of the island. Between the eleventh and the thirteenth century, St. Lucy’s veneration spread widely, thanks to the Normans, also in the rest of southern Italy, making St. Lucy one of the most respected saints in the medieval sanctoral.


Beyond a Hagiographic Cliché. On the Supernatural Sustenance of Saint Catherine of Siena 

Author(s): Cătălina-Tatiana Covaciu

Abstract: From an early age, Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) is told to have drastically reduced her food intake – among other ascetical practices – to the point where she only took bitter herbs, cold water, and the host. Eventually, in the wake of the mystic merger with Christ, Catherine became able to live in a completely spiritual manner, without any corporeal nourishment. In fact, scholars emphasize that food deprivation constitutes a recurrent topic in medieval hagiographic accounts, meeting the expectations of the time concerning (especially female) criteria of sainthood. And yet, the saint herself recalls her inedia, so that a more nuanced interpretation of the data is required. Under these circumstances, this chapter proposes a particular focus on sanctity in a theological – namely Christological – perspective, as the saints, who successfully emulate the virtues of the Saviour, are accordingly elevated above earthbound limitations; thus, Catherine’s marvellous condition will be regarded in the light of the genuine belief in the body’s transformative potential. Moreover, her painful endeavour to eat according to nature provides the saint with an opportunity to partake in Christ’s redemptive suffering.


Between Similarity and Distinction: Notes on the Iconography of Saint Wilgefortis in the Medieval and Early Modern Period 

Author(s): Silvia Marin Barutcieff

Abstract: This study is centred on Saint Wilgefortis, probably best known saint from the group of crucified maidens. The aim is to investigate a number of late medieval and early modern representations of the virgin who can be studied from the perspective of gender inversion. Starting from the origins of this theme of gender change, the elements underlying the transformation process will be analyzed, in the broader context whereby deformity was chosen as a means for gaining spiritual salvation. The saint’s similarities with other holy figures will also be discussed, as well as the attributes ascribed to her by popular belief, during the above-mentioned period.

Data sheet

Andrea-Bianka Znorovszky
Trivent Medieval
Book series
History and Art
Book series editor(s)
Gerhard Jaritz and Monica Ann Walker Vadillo
Publication date
November, 2018
Page numbers

Specific References

Set Me as a Seal Upon Thy Heart: Constructions of Female Sanctity in Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern Period is a collection of essays focusing on saintly women’s representations both in Eastern and Western Christianity starting from Late Antiquity to the High Middle Ages and Early Modernity. The volume discusses two different categories in relation to the conceptualization of female sanctity: the context of their construction in hagiographic sources and the emergent power rendered by their martyrdoms. It offers a transdisciplinary perspective on the present research carried out in the fields of hagiography, history, and art history.

ANDREA-BIANKA ZNOROVSZKY received a Joint Excellence in Science and Humanities Research Fellowship from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, in collaboration with Universität Salzburg, Institut für Realienkunde des Mittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit. Starting with September 2018, she functions as a researcher at the Universita Ca'Foscari, Venice, Italy, as a recipient of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions-Individual Fellowship (IF), financed by the European Commission, Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation 2014- 2020.

She received her PhD magna cum laude in Medieval Studies from the Central European University in Budapest in 2016. Her doctoral dissertation, Between Mary and Christ: Depicting Cross-Dressed Saints in the Middle Ages (c. 1200-1600), explored the iconographic development of cross-dressed saints in relation to their cult in Western Europe. She also holds a Masters Degree in Medieval Studies from the Central European University, Budapest. In 2016-2017 she functioned as an Assistant Professor at the American University of Central Asia, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, where she taught academic writing (First Year Seminar) and art courses (Women in Art and Literature). 

Her research interests lie in the areas of signs and symbols of images, women in art and literature, women and gender in the Middle Ages. Currently, she is investigating the transition of Marian Apocryphal depictions from hagiographic collections to church space with particular emphasis on France (also Western Europe).

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