Book Series Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts, vol. 21

The Abbaye du Saint Esprit

Spiritual Instruction for Laywomen, 1250 -1500

Janice Pinder

  • Pages: xiii + 219 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:1 b/w, 2 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2020

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58681-6
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58682-3
  • E-book
  • Available

Study and edition of a key text of French vernacular theology that had a significant impact in English translation.


“(…) this is a splendid piece of scholarship that adds much to our understanding and appreciation of medieval spirituality and female participation therein.” (Thomas A. Fudge, in Parergon, 38/2, 2021, p. 248)

“(…) the Abbaye du Saint Esprit is a gift to researchers in several fields, including the history of vernacular theology and lay spirituality, especially as inspired and practiced by late medieval women.” (Linda Burke, in The Medieval Review, 22/05/04)


The Abbaye du Saint Esprit was a successful work of vernacular spiritual advice for women, surviving in sixteen manuscripts and a widely copied Middle English translation. Unlike many other didactic religious texts, it offers few prescriptions for behaviour; rather, it instructs the reader to build a convent of virtues in her conscience and uses the allegorical structure of the building and its inhabitants to arrange brief teachings on prayer and virtuous practice. Between its genesis in the last quarter of the thirteenth century to its final development towards the end of the fifteenth, it was reworked several times for new audiences of women both lay and cloistered, bourgeois and aristocratic. The examination of these successive adaptations offers insights into the growth of lay religious culture, the participation of women in new religious movements, and the use and transformation of twelfth and early thirteenth-century monastic formation literature for new audiences.

This book also offers, for the first time, editions of all the French versions of the Abbaye and a modern English translation of the earliest version.


Acknowledgements, Abbreviations


Part I

Chapter 1. The Cloister of the Soul as a Lay Rule of Life

Chapter 2. The Religion of the Heart

Chapter 3. A Royal Cloister: The Sainte Abbaye

Chapter 4. The Miroir des dames Compilation

Chapter 5. A Franciscan Version: La Religion du benoit Saint Esprit

Chapter 6. A Devotional Text for Margaret of York: The Abbaye du Saint Esprit


Part II

Introduction to the Editions and Translation

La religion dou cuer de l’abbaie dou saint esprit (α1) and translation The Religion of the Heart of the Abbey of the Holy Ghost

La sainte abbaye (β1)

Le cloistre de l’ame (β2)

La religion du benoit saint esprit (γ)

L’abbaye du saint esperit (α2)

Enseignement (δ)