Constructing a female saint : the gendered construction of the cult of Walpurgis, 9th to 14th centuries : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Master of Arts in History at Massey University
'And so I have written of these signs and wonders so that it may be understood what divine majesty the virgin brings about for the love of God and men through the recent elevation of relics from her tomb. But so far those most famous relics of the dear virgin have been spread out through the whole of kingdom of the Franks, and every day many and quite excellent miracles of glorification are brought about through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is with the Father and the Holy Spirit in eternal glory for ever and ever, Amen.'1 Haec itaque signa et prodigia hic nunc scripto comprehensa, quae Divina majestas in illa novitate sublevationis ex monumento corpusculi, Deo et hominibus amandae Virginis peregit, multum laudanda et admiranda sunt. Sed adhuc in diversis per totum Francorum regnum provinciis, quae ejusdem Virginis reliquiarum pignoribus illustratae constitunt, quotidie plura excellentioraque preaconio digna efficiumtr per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum, cui est cum Patre et Spiritu sancto perennis gloria in secula seculorum Amen, Vita II S. Walburgis, ed. Godefridus Henschenius, Acta Sanctorum, Februarius Tomus III, 2nd edition, Paris, 1865, ch.20, p.552. [ Vita II] The numbering of the Vitae in this thesis follows the standard set in the Acta Sanctorum. The second Vita Walpurgis, written in the tenth century, testified to the remarkable rise of a female saint to a position of power and popularity. Walpurgis (ca. 710-779) was an Anglo-Saxon nun who joined the eighth-century Boniface mission to Germany and, with the help of her brothers Willibald and Wunibald, co-foundcd and eventually ruled the double monastery of Heidenheim. Her cult had its beginnings in the late ninth century, with the translation of her relics to Eichstätt, and the composition of the first Vita Walpurgis. Less than a century later, the Vita II could paint a picture of Walpurgis as a powerful saint whose relics were spread across Europe and widely venerated as foci of her miraculous powers. In the period of the ninth to the fourteenth centuries, Walpurgis came to posses an extended identity as intercessor and miracle-worker, protecting patron saint, daughter of a king, virginal bride of Christ, nurturer, producer of healing oil. Walpurgis thus cut a striking figure in the medieval landscape: she was a powerful female within a milieu of misogyny. This thesis therefore analyses the development of the cult of Walpurgis, and focuscs on the issue of gender to create an overall picture of the gendered construction of the cult of this female saint.