Isabel de Villena (1430-1490) is one of the most fascinating women of the Spanish middle ages. Related to the royal family, she became abbess of the Poor Clare convent, the Santa Trinitat, in Valencia in 1462, a position she held for almost thirty years until her death. Her treatise on the religious life, Vita Christi, was the first book by a woman to be printed in the kingdom of Aragon.
This is the first full-length survey in English of Isabel's life and literary works. The author pays particular attention to the way in which devotion to the Virgin Mary is manifested and described through material culture, on her rich fabrics, brocades, silks, shoes, and crown. The book thus highlights not only Isabel's distinctive contribution to the genre of the Vita Christi, but also reflects the status of Valencia as a centre for trade and producer of silks and velvets at the time, as well as its flourishing shoe-making industry.
Lesley K. Twomey is Principal Lecturer, Hispanic Studies, Northumbria University.
ReviewsThe Fabric of Marian Devotion
is as rich in insights as the fabrics and adornments that graced the Virgin Mary in Villena's text were rich in materials and workmanship. In addition to the persuasive nature of Twomey's overall arguments, nearly every page has some fascinating sidelight on such topics as conflicts among Valencia's guilds or the symbolic hierarchy of colors. In short, this intellectually alluring book -- along with the anthology of English translations of selected chapters from the Vita Christi
included in an appendix -- will help a significant Iberian author to become better known in the English-speaking world. --Ronald E. Surtz, Princeton University
First Published: 21 Mar 2013
13 Digit ISBN: 9781855662483
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Imprint: Tamesis Books
BIC Class: GTB
Details updated on 24 May 2015
- 1 Introduction: Isabel de Villena: Her Life and Times
- 2 Reading the Vita Christi
- 3 Pure Bodies: Feeding the Soul in the Vita Christi
- 4 Veiled Bodies
- 5 Reading Red: Deepening Understanding of Red in the Vita Christi
- 6 For Richer, for Poorer: Redrawing the Boundaries in the
- 7 The Fabric of Society: Dressing, Undressing, and Gifting in Sor Isabel's Writing
- 8 Shoes, Shoes, Shoes: Stepping out in Style
- 9 The Crown of Stars and Franciscan Rosary Devotions
- 10 Literary Liturgy: Sor Isabel's Processions and Prayers
- 11 Conclusion
- 12 Appendix: selected chapters translated from the Vita Christi