Our customer service expert, Lauren Michalczyk, takes us to the 12th century today with a book she read for graduate school!
Medieval literature is an unknown territory to most people unless you’re forced to read a specific text for school. Luckily, my journey through the twelfth century begins with The Life of Christina of Markyate by Anonymous. Before I dive in, I want to clarify that this biography was most likely written by multiple people as the writing style changes many times through the text. In the Introduction written by Samuel Fanous and Henrietta Leyser, both assert that Christina’s friend, Abbot Roger, employed nuns and other Godly people to write about Christina’s life.
Born Theodora, she changes her name to Christina to fulfill her need for spiritual kinship. Christina wishes to live her life as a recluse to grow closer to God, but her parents object to this idea because they will have to support her financially. Refusing to believe that their daughter wishes to commit herself to God, Christina’s parents tell her promised husband, Beorhtred, to hide in her room and rid her of her virtue as she sleeps. Christina is too smart for these tricks and waits for Beorhtred to come to her room. When he arrives she tells him that she has married God and does not want to tarnish herself for Him when she goes to Heaven. Once Christina reaches the highest level of Heaven (due to her purity, of course) she will consummate her marriage with God. Like many of you, I was shocked by this notion, but rather than ask my professor about it I decided to let it go.
The story continues and Christina moves to Markyate where she is concealed for four years with the help Abbot Roger and her weird, lover-friend, Geoffrey. She escapes many sexual advances from the bishop and other churchmen. SPOILER ALERT: Christina keeps her virginity for the entirety of her life.
Would I read The Life of Christina of Markyate again? Absolutely not. Am I happy that I had to read it for school? Surprisingly, yes. The text itself is 80 pages so it’s a quick read. Some parts of her story are hilarious because her visions are so outrageous. She thinks she’s in a meadow and bulls (a symbol for men) are about to attack her and physically rip her apart limb from limb. It’s safe to say that The Life of Christina of Markyate is unlike anything I’ve read. If you’re looking to diversify your reading list then this book is for you!
Want to chat about it? I’d be happy to discuss it with anyone who is willing :)