The saintly abbesses in our stories remained astonishingly free to invent their own way of life through the application and interpretation of rules written by men…Radegund’s correspondence with Abbes Caesaria illuminates a process of sharing experiences through a network of women and men devoted to the monastic experiment…

The care and nurturing of these communities clearly provided much joy to both the mothers and their daughters.But life in the convent was not all sunshine and light. Many women were hustled out of the world as soon as the monastery became an established institution in Gaul, and they had a tendency to pursue their own ambitions with little regard for communal peace. Other women lived temporarily or permanently in monasteries although they had no evident vocation for the religious life. Children were brought into the monastery in infancy. Some were raised to be nuns and successfully embraced their vocation…Others completed their education and got married…Other women were formally imprisoned in convents.

Unlike later convents, the typical Merovingian institution housed women from every rung of the social ladder, and most of the saints used their fortunes to provide shelter for the helpless, like the six female slaves ransomed by Bishop Bercharius in 696 who formed the core of his community at Puellemoutiers.

Jo Ann McNamara, Sainted Women of the Dark Ages


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