"Mooney's book accomplishes a rare feat: it is both a vital contribution to the study of Clare of Assisi and the religious worlds of which she is a part and an accessible case study of how the best and most careful work of historical scholarship in the study of religion is undertaken."— Journal of the American Academy of ReligionIn a work based on a meticulous analysis of sources, many of them previously unexplored, Catherine M. Mooney upends the received account of Clare of Assisi's founding of the Order of San Damiano, or Poor Clares. Mooney offers instead a stark counternarrative: Clare, her sisters of San Damiano, and their allies struggled against a papal program bent on regimenting, enriching, and enclosing religious women in the thirteenth century, a program that proved largely successful.
"Catherine Mooney has provided not only an invaluable handbook for the study of the Clarist rules but also a thought-provoking reappraisal of the traditional portrait of St Clare and the origins of the order that bears her name."—Parergon
"In this impressive display of scholarship, Catherine Mooney exposes some long-standing myths about Clare of Assisi and the historical context in which Clare lived, not only broadening the documentary sphere in which the lives of Clare and her sisters in religion are viewed, but also rethinking what the results of this increased scope mean."—Renaissance Quarterly
"Mooney's work is compelling and is an important contribution to Franciscan scholarship. As she demonstrates, penitential communities were diverse in the thirteenth century. However, Mooney also emphasizes that common among them was their insistence upon determining their own form of life amid interference from ecclesiastic authorities that sought to regularize them. Therefore, beyond the study of Clare and the penitential movement in Italy, the monograph also raises questions about the experiences of female penitential communities in other regions in medieval Europe, such as the Low Countries and France.—Medieval Feminist Forum
"[N]ot a traditional biography, Mooney's careful reading of the sources—about Clare herself, the origins of the Order of San Damiano, and the papacy's steadfast attempts to impose greater standardization and enclosure on female religious communities during the early thirteenth century—reveal a woman who was firmly committed to her faith, and determined to resist any attempts to prevent her from fulfilling her understanding of her vocation. Mooney scrutinizes a variety of sources—letters, papal documents, vitae, religious rules, and canonization testimonies—in order to better contextualize Clare and her contemporaries."—Speculum
"This book is absolutely needed for its depiction of Clare not as a woman destined to be the founder of the Order of San Damiano but as a woman caught in the middle of a struggle between the papacy and the larger grassroots reform movement of the vita apostolica."—Carolyn Muessig, University of Bristol
Catherine M. Mooney is Associate Professor of Church History at Boston College. She is editor of Gendered Voices: Medieval Saints and Their Interpreters, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.