Theology as conversation: Gertrud of Helfta and her sisters as readers of Augustine

2004 2004

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation analyzes the use of Augustine's life and thought, especially as recorded in his Confessions, in the Herald of Divine Love. It argues that Gertrud collaborated with her sisters at Helfta to produce a book adopting, advancing, and inviting readers into Augustine's conversational model of theology.

The first chapter introduces Gertrud and Helfta, reviewing the literature and suggesting some modifications to the standard accounts. The second chapter analyzes the work's composition history, described in its Prologue with the feminine and collaborative metaphor of childbirth. The combination of her autobiography with the convent's hagiography expresses God's choice of Gertrud through and for the holiness of others.

The third chapter discusses Gertrud's spiritual autobiography in Book II, written in the prayerful style of Confessions. She uses Augustine's image of the pierced heart as a “book” in which to read God's merciful love, created through conversational narratives connecting personal and communal salvation history.

The fourth chapter analyzes Gertrud's “Life and Revelations” in the compiled portions of Legatus, especially Books I and V. In Book I her sisters advocate a model of female holiness as converted scholarship, comparing Gertrud to Augustine as an inspired theological teacher formed by a holy community. In Book V they conclude the work with divine promises of the book's wonderworking power as Gertrud's relic. Along with Gertrud, the Helfta women offer the Legatus in praise of God and to enable readers' holiness by assisting them to discover and respond to grace in their personal salvation history.

Indexing (details)

Religious history
0469: Theology
0320: Religious history
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Augustine, Saint, Bishop of Hippo; Conversation; Gertrude the Great, Saint; Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo; Saint Gertrude, the Great; Theology
Theology as conversation: Gertrud of Helfta and her sisters as readers of Augustine
Grimes, Laura Marie
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 66/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780542017582, 054201758X
Cavadini, John C.
University of Notre Dame
University location
United States -- Indiana
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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