Call for Papers – Priests’ Wives and Concubines in the Medieval West (800-1200)

Priests’ Wives and Concubines in the Medieval West (800-1200) / Femmes et concubines de prêtres en Occident (800-1200)

To be held at Stanford University (California, USA), October 27-28, 2022.

This conference focuses our attention on medieval women married to or living with priests, with the goal of restoring priests’ wives to scholarship on gender, spirituality, family life, and the church, particularly in western Europe.  Our purpose is to excavate a history of clerical wives and concubines from the early ninth to the end of the twelfth century, that is from the Carolingian to the Gregorian reform.  By the end of this period, celibacy was largely established as an expectation for priests (even if clerical continence was never absolute).

The planned conference will explore the lives and circumstances of priests’ women, the sources that can reveal or shed light on their status or experiences, and the various roles—social as well as cultural—that they played within the family, their local communities, and the church more broadly.

We welcome paper proposals on a range of topics:

  • the various roles that priests’ wives played: as patrons of church building, owners and donors of books, makers of liturgical textiles, etc.
  • their importance to medieval communities and society; their impact on spirituality and religious life; their literacy and cultural role
  • the concrete effects on women of the celibacy rulings (changes in terms of marital status; eviction of clerical wives from their homes, the cathedral or even the city precincts) and their reactions (resistance, violence…)
  • the possible discrepancy between the legal and social status of clerical wives
  • the concealment or erasure of priests’ wives from written records

Sessions will generally comprise two twenty-minute papers, followed by a response and discussion.  Proposals for round-table discussion or specific themes, or short presentations of primary source materials are also welcome.  We particularly encourage proposals from graduate students and early career or non-traditional scholars.  Please feel free to reach out to us with any thoughts or questions – we are eager to hear from scholars working on, or interested in, this topic.

Organizers: Fiona Griffiths (Stanford University) and Émilie Kurdziel (Université de Poitiers)

Submissions should include a brief abstract (max. 300 words) and a curriculum vitae.  Please submit both (as .pdf or MS word attachments) by email to and by May 31, 2022.

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