Between the Cloister and the Vineyard: The Economic Networks of the Nuns of Eleventh-Century Anjou

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 11:30 AM
Chicago Ballroom G (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Marguerite Ragnow, James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota
Marguerite Ragnow

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Between the Cloister and the Vineyard: 

The Economic Networks of the Nuns of 11th-Century Anjou

            There was only one monastic community for women in 11th-century Anjou:  the abbey of Sainte-Marie de la Charité, popularly called le Ronceray.  Founded in 1028 by the count and countess of Anjou, Fulk Nerra and his wife Hildegarde, the Benedictine abbey played an important role in the economy of Anjou, a role managed entirely by its nuns.

            The economic networks in which this community of nuns was a part were many.  They included the family networks of the nuns, themselves, who drew their relatives into patterns of giving that granted the abbey and its nuns rights, privileges, and property across much of the county.  Also included were networks of non-nobles:  peasants and townsfolk who owned, leased, or operated in cooperation with the nuns mills, vineyards, pastures, and a host of other types of real property and rights. 

            Social and economic networks in medieval France have been explored for the male dominated monastic communities of Cluny (Barbara Rosenwein) and of the Cistercians (Constance Berman), among others, but the Benedictines, particularly female Benedictines, have not received the same attention.  This paper will examine the integral part the abbey of le Ronceray played in the economy of Anjou.  It also will explore how the nuns of Anjou fit into a broader, more nuanced understanding of the economic impact of female monastic communities elsewhere, and across a broader chronology.

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