Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Christ’s Holy Week Sermons: Women’s Preaching and its Oral and Written Sources in Late-medieval Valencia

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2019), 96, (10), 1113–1134.

Abstract

This article begins by reviewing speculation that Isabel de Villena preached to her nuns in the Santa Trinitat convent. The article then examines the nature of women’s preaching, relating it to female verbal authority expressed in the Vita Christi. It draws evidence from the sermons recorded from other female preachers, such as Hildegard of Bingen, and also from male vernacular preachers such as the Valencian St Vincent Ferrer, as well as from the medieval ars praedicandi in the Peninsula. After contextualizing possible sermonizing in Isabel de Villena’s work, the article turns to the Vita Christi to present evidence that Isabel embedded her own sermons, considering whether they might have been preached in the convent and subsequently embedded in the text. To do this, it examines the words of the Christ preaching to the disciples in Holy Week, tracing the sources for Villena’s Latin quotations. It examines convent records to establish when and where sermons were heard during Holy Week in Valencian convents. It discovers that Villena’s preaching is not traceable to standard written Vita Christi sources, but rather takes orally delivered liturgy as its starting point.

Este artículo empieza con el argumento de que Isabel de Villena predicaba a sus monjas en el convento de la Santa Trinidad, Valencia. Examina la naturaleza de la predicación femenina la que vincula a la autoridad oral expresada en ciertas partes de la Vita Christi. Refiere predicadoras públicas y privadas, medievales, y además a los ars praedicandi peninsulares. Tras contextualizar los rasgos sermonarios en la obra de Isabel de Villena, se enfoca en la Vita Christi para considerar las ruebas que sugieran que la monja incluyía sus propios sermones en el texto, evaluando si hubieran podido haberse pronunciado en el convento antes de incluirse en la Vita Christi. Examina los sermones pronunciados en el templo en Semana Santa, trazando varias posibles fuentes, incluso la fuente oral de la liturgia. Descubre que no se oyían sermones profesionales, pagados a los frailes, cada día en la Semana Santa, por lo tanto dejando lugar a sermones pronunciados por una abadesa. Concluye que los sermones no remontan a las fuentes Vita Christi de sus antepasados en la tradición sino que se construyen a raíz de la liturgia de la Semana Santa oída en el convento.

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Twomey, Lesley K.