Christina of Markyate
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Christina of Markyate was born in Huntingdon, England, c. 1095–1100, and died perhaps after 1155. As a young girl or adolescent, named Theodora, in a wealthy family, she visited the abbey of St Albans and took a vow of chastity. In her teens, Ralph Flambard, bishop of Durham, attempted to seduce her. When she resisted he betrothed her to a friend, Burhtred, with the compliance of her parents, the Augustinian prior of Huntingdon, and the bishop of Lincoln. With the support of the archbishop of Canterbury and a hermit called Eadwine, she joined Alwen, a recluse at Flamstead, for some two years, and afterwards Roger, a monk and deacon of St Albans Abbey and hermit at Caddington, for four more. At length Abbot Geoffrey of St Albans built her a convent at Markyate, in the parish of Caddington, Hertfordshire. During this period of secret confinement, she experienced her first visions of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.
After a protracted process, her husband freed her from her marital obligations, and she was able to emerge from hiding. As her reputation for holiness and her visionary gifts became widely known, a number of other women gathered around her at Markyate, which had been left to her by Roger when he died in 1121 or 1122. Her community received considerable financial support from Geoffry de Gorham or Gorron, Abbot of St Albans, and she formally professed as a nun, in about 1130 or 1131. In 1145, the land on which Markyate stood was formally handed over to the nuns by the canons of St Paul's Cathedral, London, who owned it, in exchange for a nominal rent, and her community was formally consecrated as the Priory of Markyate and dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
There are three important records of her life:
- a Latin manuscript containing an account of her life written by an official male biographer (first edited by C. H. Talbot; superseded by the edition of Hermite-Leclercq)
- several biographical details in the chronicles of St Albans Abbey
- the so-called St Albans Psalter, which she probably owned
She is also mentioned in two documents dated 1155 which suggest, but do not prove, that she was still alive in that year.
- CH Talbot (editor and translator), The Life of Christina of Markyate – A Twelfth-Century Recluse. (Oxford University Press, 1987). ISBN 0-19-821274-7.
- Vie de Christina de Markyate, édité et traduit par Paulette l'Hermite-Leclercq & Anne-Marie Legras, Sources d'Histoire Médiévale publiées par l'IRHT, 35, 2 vols. (Paris: CNRS, 2007).
- D Watt, Medieval Women's Writing, (Cambridge: Polity, 2008).
- Elizabeth Petroff, ed, Medieval Women's Visionary Literature, (Oxford University Press, 1986). ISBN 0-19-503711-1
- Dyckhoff, Peter, Christina, Ein Klosterleben im Mittelalter, J. F. Steinkopf Verlag, Kiel, ISBN 3-7984-0769-X
- B Stock, After Augustine: The Meditative Reader and the Text, (Philadelphia, 2001), p63
- Map showing Markyate and other places mentioned in the Life of Christina of Markyate
- A Cell of Self-Knowledge
- The St Albans Psalter
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