Abstract

This article examines depictions of St. Monica and St. Birgitta of Sweden as religious teachers for their children in fifteenth-century England. While many critics have used the iconography of St. Anne teaching the Virgin Mary to read as evidence for such teaching, this study focuses on textual proof from hagiography, using John Capgrave's portrayal of St. Monica in his Life of St. Augustine and the lives and Revelations of St. Birgitta of Sweden circulating in England. These texts highlight how Monica and Birgitta take an active role in raising their children as good Christians, praying and crying over their spiritual welfare, but must ultimately turn to ecclesiastical authorities for help with their religious education. In the charged religious climate of fifteenth-century England, these texts emphasize clerical supervision and prioritize the more conventional practices of tears and prayer over religious teaching for mothers to preserve their children's faith.

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