Fruitful in singleness

  • Salisbury J
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This paper explores the concept of virginity and the way of life of virgins in the early middle ages in Spain. It discusses the respect and awe given virgins from the pre-Christian era and argues that such veneration was firmly based in rural traditions associating personal abstinence with public prosperity. For villagers in Iberia's northern hills, virgins were fertility symbols, and this association persisted from the pre-Christian period through the years of Roman occupation and into the Visigothic Christian centuries. While villagers venerated virgins for helping to bring fertility to the vicinity, women had their private motives for renouncing family life. This paper discusses some of the reasons women may have had for remaining virgins and the several ways of life chosen by such women. This analysis concludes with a consideration of the relationship between the Church hierarchy and dedicated virgins. The Church viewed independent, respected women as a threat to orthodoxy and obedience. Throughout the sixth century, Visigothic ecclesiastical writings and legislation were largely designed to transform independent virgins into nuns, who were bound by vows of obedience as well as chastity. © 1982.

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  • Joyce E. Salisbury

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