Regularisation, Innovation, and Invention:
 Observant Reform and the Quasi-Religious Life. Alison More

Observant reformers were concerned about restoring order to the Church and returning to an imaginary age of pristine ideals. Reformers sought to achieve this goal not only through their fiery rhetoric, but also through providing education and pastoral guidance. When interacting with groups of non-monastic women, that guidance often took the form of constructing and imposing an identity that was compatible with traditional forms of monastic life. Under Observant care, these groups of women found themselves subject to a process of institutionalization that directed them towards something that closely resembled traditional religious life. This process resulted in the growth of a new type of tertiary order, which both reflected Observant ideals and provided an answer to the longstanding problem of providing supervision and spiritual care for non-monastic groups. However, instead of acknowledging the novelty of the new orders, reformers often worked with the women involved to create a fictive history that showed both medieval roots and a connection with a saintly founder. This paper is part of an ongoing project exploring the Observant use of historical and hagiographic fragments to create ideal histories of these groups with a particular focus on the Franciscan third order.

alison.more@utoronto.ca


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