To Take Care of the Monks, Take Care of Christina: Christina of Markyate and the Medieval Spiritual/Material Market
Matthew Horn (Kent State University)
LATCH 5 (2012): 1-27.
In this essay I will delineate two of these emphases: (1) Christina’s powerful interaction with boundaries and the spaces they demarcate, and (2) the material/spiritual economy that develops between Christina and Geoffrey, the Abbot of the St. I will then argue that these emphases together form a message that might have been aimed at The Life’s monastic (and to some extent aristocratic) audience, perhaps even the abbots who succeeded Geoffrey. This general message is that material support for ancillary, miraculous mediators1 who stand outside official communal boundaries (whether the boundaries be ecclesiastical or civil) can result in valuable spiritual compensation.
Christina of Markyate’s 12th-century biography, The Life of Christina of Markyate, has a few salient features that distinguish it from the common run of prior or contemporaneous hagiographic works. There is an intimacy surrounding Christina that has led at least one influential critic to consider this text as moving far beyond the normal literary structures of saints’ lives. Others, who see it staunchly positioned as a saint’s life, take pains to point out that the writer’s almost effortless weaving together of various narrative strands renders the text seamless—a hagiographic masterpiece. To this second group, narrative skill makes the work unique.