Dates: ~1096/8 - ~1160
Occupation: hermit, nun, religious visionary
Known for: standing against family and culture to stick to her early vow of virginity
Also known as: Saint Theodora, Christina the Recluse
About Christina of Markyate:
Born with the name of Theodora, her family tried to marry her to a man named Burthred after she resisted a seduction by the chief justice of England. But Christina had already taken a vow of virginity, deciding on a visit to St. Albans to become a nun. Her parents attempted to marry her to a nobleman, Burthred. Christina was pressured into betrothal but resisted consummation of the marriage, even an attempt by her young husband to force her.
She suffered persecution from her family for her stance. She finally escaped and ran away, staying with a nearby anchoress, Alfwen, hiding there for two years. After that, she took refuge with a monk, Roger, at St. Albans, still continuing to hide to escape her family and Burthred. Roger became her spiritual mentor. Finally, Burthred gave up his quest, and released her from her betrothal vows.
When Roger died, four years after Christina arrived there, he left the hut to her. The Archbishop of York took her under protection. She took up a hermit's life at Roger's hut, though not shut up as an anchoress. In 1131 she took formal vows. Geoffrey of Dunstable (d. 1146) founded a community at Markyate for Christina, whom he considered his teacher and friend. More women gathered around her, and in 1145 a house was built to house the larger community.
In the 1150s, a story of her life was published, probably by a chaplain serving her community, including her life story and an account of her visions. The manuscript was found by C.H. Talbot in the British Library and published in 1959. A St Albans Psalter which she used survives. The community survived until Henry VIII dissolved it along with other monasteries in England.
More About Christina of Markyate:
- The Life of Christina of Markyate, a Twelfth Century Recluse. C. H. Talbot, editor. Oxford, 1959; Oxford, 1987.
- "The Marriages of Christina of Markyate." Viator, 21, 1990, pp. 71-95.
- Holdsworth Christopher J. "Christina of Markyate". In Derek Baker, ed., Medieval Women. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978. p. 185-204.
- "Christina of Markyate." in Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff, Medieval Women's Visionary Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 144. (selection of her writings)
On the Net:
- Christina of Markyate - information on the manuscript in the British library about Christina's life.
- The St Albans Psalter - another writing associated with Christina of Markyate.
- Ancient manuscript on the web - story of the St Albans Psalter includes a summary of the life of Christina of Markyate
More women's history biographies, by name: