Performing Female Sanctity—and Reading it: The Visitatio Sepulchri of Wilton and Barking Abbey
This article discusses two traditions of the Visitatio Sepulcri enacted by women religious in late medieval England, based on the exceptional surviving documentation of liturgical performances from the abbeys of Barking and Wilton. Although these documents do not give access to what happened in these Easter morning performances, they do provide evidence for how the agency of the nuns was encoded into every aspect of their respective liturgical tradition. One of the most striking dimensions of this agency is that the abbesses and nuns shaped performance practices to conceptions of their embodiment. I explore how each abbey grounded authority within the bodies of holy women in relation to biblical episodes in which they touch the resurrected body of Christ, and via the teachings of the apostolorum apostola, Mary Magdalene. Of central concern are the critical tools necessary to read the embodied practices that each abbey crafted through their repertoire of movement and use of artifacts.
women religious, female sanctity, performance, liturgy, embodied knowledge, Visitatio sepulchri, Wilton and Barking Abbey, Mary Magdalene, performative reading
Brazil, Sarah "Performing Female Sanctity—and Reading it: The Visitatio Sepulchri of Wilton and Barking Abbey." Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 57, No. 1 (2021)