Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 7446
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Simmons , Loraine N.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: The Abbey Church at Fontevraud in the Later Twelfth Century: Anxiety, Authority and Architecture in the Female Spiritual Life [The article considers how Abbey of Fontevraud implemented spatial expressions of "proximity anxiety" prompted by the special needs of a dual-gender community. Title note supplied by Feminae.].
  • Source URL: Gesta 31, 2 (1992): 99-107. Link Info target = '_blank'>Gesta 31, 2 (1992): 99-107. Link Info
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Architecture- Religious Double Houses Fontevrault- l'Abbaye, Maine-et-Loire, France- Abbey, Double House Founded by Robert d'Arbrissel Monasticism Regula Women in Religion
  • Award Note:
  • Geographic Area: France
  • Century: 12
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations: Eight Figures. See the linked article in JSTOR to view these illustrations. Figure One Fontevraud Abbey, aerial view. Figure Two Fontevraud Abbey, church of the Grand Moutier, nave from the west towards the choir. Figure Three Fontevraud Abbey, church of the Grand Moutier, choir and ambulatory, early twelfth century. Figure Four Fontevraud Abbey, plan of modern abbey complex. Figure Five Fontevraud Abbey, church of the Grand Moutier, plan. Figure Six Angouleme, Cathedral of Saint-Pierre, nave from the west, 1110-1128. Figure Seven Fontevraud Abbey, church of the Grand Moutier, western piers of the crossing. Figure Eight Fontevraud Abbey, church of the Grand Moutier, nave domes under restoration, 1906.
  • Table:
  • Abstract: The twelfth-century church of the Grand Moutier at the royal abbey of Fontevraud (Fontevrault) survives in much of its original form. The order was founded by Robert d'Arbrissel in 1101 as a dual-gender community in which the women were enclosed contemplatives while the men were priests, administrators and laborers under the direction of the abbess. By the later twelfth century, when the abbey church was completed, the community was still living according to the statues Robert had written, which both responded to and maintained tension between the genders over issues of authority. The statutes also reveal a strong concern about religious men and women occupying contiguous space. They legislate strict gender separation within the church and prescribe how interaction should occur when required by liturgical practice. So numerous are references to this issue in the statutes that one can speak of a preoccupation with "proximity anxiety." The two principal precincts of the church, chevet and nave, built in separate campaigns, offer contrasting experiences of interior space. The statutes suggest that during the second half of the twelfth century the choir in the chevet was assigned to the monk-priests and the nave to the nuns, and indicate that a barrier separated the two. They also allow us to understand how the contrasting spaces embodied proximity anxiety and authority issues, addressing the nuns through themes of borders and boundaries. Applying the statues to the architectural space of the church, this article will consider how the nuns of Fontevraud in the later twelfth century used and experienced the interior of the abbey church and reconstructed it as an architectural embodiment of the statutes which thoroughly regulated their lives [Reproduced by permission of the International Center of Medieval Art.].
  • Author's Affiliation: University of Chicago
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1992.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: Not Available
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