A canoness is a rather mysterious category of female religious. There are
a handful of appearances of the word in the fourth and fifth century but it
first comes into common usage in 8th century England. In the early ninth
century, a rule for canonesses was compiled and approved by the Council of
Aachen and thereafter the canoness rule was a common alternative to the
BEnedictine rule for women. The canoness rule was most popular in the great
imperial abbeys of Germany. That being said, it is not clear from the rule
or from other sources just what canonesses did or how they might have
related to episcopal functions. The abbess of Quedlinberg was called
Metropolitana and sat on the imperial diet until napoleonic times.
Canonesses were particularly targeted by the "reformers" of the Gregorian
period but again it is not clear why. I favor the idea that it is because
their liturgical functions encroached on those of canons--which seems to be
corroborated by Jacques de Vitry.
As with men, the Augustinian rule governed a new type of religious which
appears in the twelfth century. Canons and canonesses regular were
generally devoted to public services, preaching (for men) and hospital care
among other things. Their rule lacked regulations for cloistering.
Adaptations of the Augustinian rule which did not require a vow of poverty
or a permanent commitment to celibacy became popular among many varieties of
women religious in later centuries.
The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.
From: Christopher Crockett <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 10:46 AM
Subject: 1550-1625 Painting and medieval religious vestments
"Goris Dr. H.J.M.J." <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>...she must be some Canoness belonging to the high nobility.
my ignorance is nearly complete, so i hate to spoil a perfectly good thing,
but i can't recall every seening the word "canoness" before?
*were* there female canons?
canons "regular" of st. augustine, or what?
i have the feeling that i've forgotten the obvious.
interesting site, though i had quite a bit of trouble seeing the
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