The Center for Medieval Studies welcomes our newest fellow, Dr. Sara Moens.


Central to the research of Sara Moens is the development of monasticism during the Central Middle Ages. For her doctoral dissertation at Ghent University she reconstructed the world of Guibert of Gembloux (c 1124-1214). This Benedictine monk and abbot is mostly known as the last secretary of the famous Rhenish prophetess, Hildegard of Bingen, yet he merits scholarly attention in his own right. The works (letters, vitae) and manuscripts Guibert produced during his life illuminate the rich life and network of this very fascinating figure and, at the same time, offer a glimpse into the way traditional coenobitism positioned itself within a changing religious and intellectual landscape after the middle of the 12th century.

For her current postdoc research project “Female devotion, male commitment? The rise of Cistercian women and the provision of the cura monialium in the Southern Low Countries, 1150-1275” she studies the flourishing of female spirituality in the Southern Low Countries, in particular the place of the Cistercian nuns within this broader movement. By examining their spiritual ideals, the interplay with other spiritual women e.g. beguines or recluses and the institutionalization process of their communities she traces the emergence of a specific Cistercian identity. In addition, she explores the role of men, both ecclesiastical and monastic, in the formation and support of these Cistercian women’s communities, thus contributing to the ongoing debate on the cura monialium.

During her stay at Fordham University she will focus on the study of several vitae and exempla collections relevant for her research project. These hagiographical sources testify to a culture of shared ideals and networks between Cistercian nuns and other spiritual women, and provide a window onto the men that were drawn to the care for these nuns and their motives. She will also prepare a book proposal of her PhD dissertation.