Women as Performers of the Bible: Female Preaching in Premodern Europe

Carolyn Muessig

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


This 12,000-word article argues that the key to recognizing female participation in late medieval and early modern pastoral care is to understand the diverse methods of communication that women used to present biblical messages. Several premodern women interpreted the Bible in performative ways. Like Francis of Assisi they often employed gestures -- and even dance -- to convey their interpretations. They also relied heavily on New Testament narration to articulate some of the most profound Christian beliefs such as the Incarnation and the Resurrection. These women enacted their sermons through mime and verbal narration recreating the iconic details of the life and death of Christ. This study will look at four women who communicated New Testament narratives. Three were Dominicans, the nun Tommasina Fieschi (c. 1448-1534) and the tertiaries Stefana Quinzani (1457-1530) and María de Santo Domingo (c. 1485-1524?). Our fourth example is the Abbess Juana de la Cruz (1481-1534), who was a Franciscan.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerforming the Bible
EditorsCarla Bino, Corinna Ricasoli
Place of PublicationLeiden
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers
Publication statusSubmitted - 1 May 2019


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