Book Series Disciplina Monastica, vol. 8

Virtual Pilgrimages in the Convent

Imagining Jerusalem in the Late Middle Ages

Kate Rudy

  • Pages: 475 p.
  • Size:210 x 270 mm
  • Illustrations:93 b/w, 14 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2011

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  • ISBN: 978-2-503-54103-7
  • Paperback
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  • ISBN: 978-2-503-56661-0
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"Kathryn Rudy's book allows modern readers to visit the mental universe of fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century religious women by exploring their guidebooks for spiritual journeys. (...) Rudy has identified a genre of text that so puzzled many earlier bibliographers that they sometimes neglected even to mention the texts in descriptions of manuscripts in their catalogues. (...) Rudy's long and deep study of these books and their texts has resulted in a satisfying and stimulating consideration of a key devotional practice performed by women in religious communities in the Netherlands." (Ann Roberts, in: Historians of Netherlandish Art, 2 May 2012)

"Kathryn Rudy hat eine bahnbrechende Studie über die essentielle Bedeutung von Pilgerreisen in Frauenkonventen vorgelegt. Komplexe Mechanismen des virtuellen Reisens werden erhellt, welches nicht nur eine abstrakte Geistesübung war, sondern auf vielschichtiger Rezeption von Bildern, performativen Handlungen und Rauminszenierung beruhte." (Anne Müller, in: Sehepunkte - Rezensionsjournal für die Geschichtswissenschften, 12 (2012), Nr. 7/8)

"Kathryn Rudy's Virtual Pilgrimages is an important book that covers an essential, but neglected aspect of medieval pilgrimage, pilgrimages as performed by people who could not travel. (...) The implications of this book for pilgrimage art research are enormous. (...) This book is also significant for pilgrimage studies at large, for successfully moves beyond any lingering remnants of structuralism. (...) Rudy's study confronts pilgrimage in an entirely contextualized way, demonstrating an entirely medieval way of thinking about performing pilgrimage... The result is an integrated understanding of medieval pilgrimage that explains it as both the motivation for and reception of an important category of texts and images." (Jennifer Lee, in: Peregrinationes. International Society for the Study of Pilgrimage Art, Autumn 2012 -

"This fascinating and scholarly account is a valuable addition to Brepols’ Disciplina Monastica series, and has set up a signpost to further interdisciplinary study in this and related fields which other scholars will be eager to follow and emulate." (Catherine Oakes, in: Journal of Art Historiography, 7 (2012) -

"L'auteur a réuni une documentation textuelle et iconographique de grande qualité, donnant une transcription et une traduction en anglais de onze textes en moyen-néerlandais pour la plupart inédits. Elle a su mettre en lumière et croiser des pratiques mal connues, qui pouvaiet sembler marginales, et qui s'avèrent en réalité situées au coeur des dévotions de l'époque. Elle offre enfin un nouvel éclairage sur la culture - au sens plus large du mot - religieuse et sur la spiritualité des communautés féminines (...)." (Marielle Lamy, in: Revue Mabillon, n.s. 25 (2014), p. 438)

"Kathryn Rudy's Virtual Pilgrimages in the Covent describes a fascinating set of materials and provides a lively, productive account of how they matter to our understanding of late-medieval devotional cultures.(...) In gathering and analyzing these texts as a coherent group, and in linking them to important visual analogues, Rudy has done a great service to medieval scholarship." (Jessica Brantley, in: Speculum, 89/4, October 2014, p. 1194-1196)

"This is a magnificent, revisionist study of an important topic." (Simon Ditchfield, in: The Catholic Historical Review 102, 1, 2016, p. 160-161)



‘Walking in Christ’s footsteps’ was a devotional ideal in the late Middle Ages. However, few nuns and religious women had the freedom or the funding to take the journey in the flesh. Instead they invented and adjusted devotional exercises to visit the sites virtually. These exercises, largely based on real pilgrims’ accounts, made use of images and objects that helped the beholder to imagine walking alongside Christ during his torturous march to Calvary. Some provided scripts whereby votaries could animate paintings and sculptures. Others required the nun to imagine her convent as a miniature model of Jerusalem. This volume is grounded in more than a dozen texts from manuscripts written by medieval nuns and religious women, which appear here transcribed and translated for the first time, and a multiplicity of (occasionally three-dimensional) images. They attest to the ubiquity and variety of virtual pilgrimages among religious women and help to reveal the functions of certain late medieval devotional images.

Kathryn M. Rudy, Lecturer at the University of St Andrews, is an authority on Northern European illuminated manuscripts and prints. She has written about indulgences and the functions of images.