Unconventual Women: Religion, Politics, and Image in the Court Beguinages, 1585-1713

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Unconventual Women: Religion, Politics, and Image in the Court Beguinages, 1585-1713
Moran, Sarah Joan (creator)
Moran, Sarah (Director)
Muller, Jeffrey (Reader)
Bonde, Sheila (Reader)
Lincoln, Evelyn (Reader)
Göttler, Christine (Reader)
Brown University. History of Art and Architecture (sponsor)
Copyright Date
In the aftermath of the Dutch Revolt, the revitalization and strengthening of Catholicism in the Spanish Low Countries was physically manifested in the hundreds of new, sumptuously decorated churches that sprang up across the region. Some of the grandest of these structures were found at the Court Beguinages, religious institutions where single laywomen, called Beguines, lived together in order to pursue a spiritual life but did not adopt religious enclosure. Despite tensions caused by their liminal status, the Beguines established a symbiotic relationship with the Tridentine Church in which they helped to implement Counter-Reformation reforms and in return gained the support of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In part because they rejected the monastic vow of poverty, the Beguinages drew vast numbers of Low Countries women, who in turn pooled their resources to become leading patrons of architecture and the fine arts.This dissertation examines the visual culture of the Court Beguinages from around 1585, the year in which Catholic control was reestablished in the South Low Countries, and 1713, when Spain ceded the territory to Austria. Drawing on archival sources, secondary literature, and extant artworks and buildings, I develop a model for analyzing the Beguines' use of visual forms to shape their individual and corporate identities. My work is divided into five chapters; the first addresses the history of the Court Beguinages as institutions and discusses the historiographical issues at stake in their study. In the second chapter I situate the Beguines within current scholarship on women in early modern Europe, and I then turn to the creation of a new, cohesive 'public image' for the Beguines during this period, which was achieved through the development of new iconographies and the dissemination of printed texts and images. The fourth chapter analyzes the architecture of the Beguinages, and in the fifth I look at how the painted altarpieces installed in their churches helped the Beguines claim a place for themselves in the early modern spiritual economies of Low Countries cities.
early modern women
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2010)
xxiii, 373 p.


Moran, Sarah Joan, "Unconventual Women: Religion, Politics, and Image in the Court Beguinages, 1585-1713" (2010). History of Art and Architecture Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://doi.org/10.7301/Z0348HMP