He must have realized how stupid he was to get married to Christina.
They perceived the problem to be his lack of manliness:. He was to get his way either by force or entreaty, and if neither of these sufficed, he was to know that they were standing by to help him. He must just remember to act the man. Burthred apparently lacked advantage in both physical force and entreaty in seeking sex with his wife Christina.
Sensing that Burthred was coming into her bedroom, Christina jumped out of bed and hung on a nail, hidden between the wall and the curtain. Not finding what he had hoped, he gave the signal to those waiting by the door. They immediately burst into the room, and with lights in their hands ran here and there looking for her, all the more eagerly since they were sure she had been in the room when he entered it and that she could not escape without them seeing her.
What, I ask you, do you suppose were her feelings at that moment? How she trembled in fear for her life as they noisily sought her! Was she not faint with fear? She imagined herself already dragged out in their midst with them all surrounding her, leering at her, threatening her, abandoned to the violation of her seducer.
Presenting a woman in danger and prompting sympathy for her is a core strategy in communication that seeks attention, e. The Life of Christina of Markyate adds a touching, dramatic gesture:. Finally, one of them by chance touched and held her foot as she hung there, but since the curtain between them deadened his sense of touch, he let it go, not knowing what it was. That would make a winning scene in a Hollywood blockbuster movie about a strong, independent woman who prevails over her husband seeking to rape her.
Events the next day provide another propitious Hollywood movie scene:.
In front of her was a kind of fence which, because of its height and the sharp spikes on top of it, was calculated to prevent anyone from climbing over it. Behind her, almost on her heels, was the young man, who at any moment might catch hold of her. With amazing ease she jumped over the fence, and looking back in safety from the other side she saw her pursuer standing there unable to get across.
Archbishop Thurstan of York, who was a close friend of the Bishop of Durham Ranulf Flambard, intervened to help Christina after she fled from her home and her marriage. Thurstan met privately with Christina for a long time. That was foolish in light of the subsequent literary history of Ranulf being accused of attempting to rape Christina. He served Christina well. He promised to annul her marriage, confirm her vow of virginity, and permit her husband, by apostolic indult, to marry another woman.
He fulfilled his promises. With Christina desperately seeking a safe place to live, Thurstan also arranged for her to live with a cleric who was a close friend of his.
But the devil, the enemy of chastity, could not for long bear this situation. And he took advantage of their close companionship and feeling of security to infiltrate himself stealthily and with guile, then later on, alas, to assault them more openly. But the devil could not wrest consent from the maiden, even though he titillated her flesh and put ideas in her head.
The man, blessed with naturally potent masculinity, suffered terribly from the carnal allure of Christina:. Sometimes the wretched man was so aroused that he came before her naked, burning with lust and quite beside himself, and behaved in such a shocking way that I cannot make it known lest by such shamefulness I pollute the wax by writing about it or the air by saying it. Sometimes falling on the ground, he implored and beseeched her to have pity upon him and to have compassion on his wretched state.
The ideology of courtly love valorizes men begging women for love and sex. Men who act like courtly lovers are dupes. Begging women for sexual pity, or pity generally , seldom works. So it was with Christina:. And though she herself was struggling with this wretched passion, she wisely pretended that she was untouched by it.
Men are far inferior to women in guile. For then, her passion cooled; for in his absence she used to be so inwardly inflamed that she thought the clothes which clung to her body might catch fire! Had this happened while she was in his presence, the maiden might well have been unable to keep herself in check. A dream of stern admonishment from Mary Magdalen, a renowned holy harlot , ultimately cured his lust.
Married men wanting sex with their wives should seek much different blessings. Geoffrey promised to be the patron of her hermitage and provide for its material needs. She in turn provided him with moral instruction and served his spiritual needs. Nor did she make a secret of reproving him harshly in his presence whenever she knew that in his absence he had gravely sinned … Whenever Geoffrey was sorely tempted to sin, he imagined Christina to be present, for he knew that scarcely anything was hidden from her, and so he easily repelled temptation.
She also advised him about whether he should accept particular ecclesiastical travel assignments. Christina and Geoffry, in addition to not having sex, related to each other in ways similar to that of many wives and husbands today. Men should read the Life of Christina of Markyate.
That story can help men to understand their need for sexual self-confidence. It might also inspire men to reject the oppressive material-provider gender role and assert their moral equality with women. This son of an obscure priest in the diocese of Bayeux was the first man of ignoble birth in English history to climb from the bottom to the top of the social scale by the backstairs of the royal administration.
I reference the text with the Latin section numbers and the page in the English translation of id. Talbot provides the Latin text. If Geoffrey was seeking to honor not the person Christina, but rather the friendship between himself and Christina by giving her a book for her private use, a book he knew she would enjoy, then the choice of dedication location would have been something personal, a place chosen for its special meaning for both giver and receiver.
This delight Christina would have touched each time she prayed Psalm , on levels besides the obvious. Albans Psalter , and perhaps dream or craft your own wild-goose theory about it and the characters involved in its creation. The book is a beauty! You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Twitter account.
You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. One of two golden clasps securing a facsimile of the St. Albans Psalter Christina went on to thwart the rather barbaric advances of Ranulf Flambard, to whom her aunt was mistress. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: In France, Abbess of the Paraclete and lover of Abelard wrote some of the most moving and intellectually sophisticated thoughts of the age in her continued pining for her husband lost to her for a life of religion.
Quiet is not, however, completely silent, and Christina of Markyate is unique as a twelfth-century religious Englishwoman in having commanded sufficient high regard amongst some of her contemporaries for a Latin saints life, or vita , about her to be commissioned. It tells the struggles of Theodora, an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman from Huntingdon, trying to resist marriage by fleeing to the protection of local hermits.
Changing her name to Christina, she became a hermit and later, as the community of women that has built up around her gained a more official status, a prioress and the close confidante of Abbot Geoffrey of St Albans. Her vita was most likely commissioned by the Abbot and written by a monk from his St Albans community. The wealth of personal detail found in it shows the anonymous Writer to have also been closely acquainted with Christina and her family and friends.
She is, undeniably, contained within a male-authored narrative and a genre which prioritised spiritual truth over what actually biographically happened, yet this account is unusual partly because it was written whilst Christina was still alive. It also seems from the vita that Christina recognised her visionary powers as a remarkable divine gift and that she herself wanted them recorded. She suggests, in one recorded incident, that if visions like hers had happened during the time of the celebrated fifth-century Pope Gregory the Great then they would have been written down.