Margherita Colonna (1255-1280) was born into one of the great baronial families that dominated Rome politically and culturally in the thirteenth century. After the death of her father and mother, Margherita was raised by her brothers, including Cardinal Giacomo Colonna. The two extant contemporary accounts of her short life offer a daring model of mystical lay piety forged in imitation of St. Francis but worked out in the vibrant world of medieval Rome.
In Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome, Larry F. Field, Lezlie S. Knox, and Sean L. Field present the first English translations of Margherita Colonna’s two “lives” and a dossier of associated texts, along with thoroughly researched contextualization and scholarly examination. The first of the two lives was written by a layman, the Roman Senator Giovanni Colonna, one of Margherita Colonna’s brothers. The second was written by a woman named Stefania, who had been a close follower of Margherita Colonna and assumed leadership of her Franciscan community after Margherita’s death. These intriguing texts open up new perspectives on numerous historical questions. How did authorial gender and status influence hagiographic perspective? How fluid was the nature of female Franciscan identity during the era in which the papacy was creating the Order of St. Clare? What were the experiences and influences of female visionaries? And what was the process of saint-making at the heart of an aristocratic Roman family? These texts add rich new texture to our overall picture of medieval visionary culture and will interest students and scholars of medieval and renaissance history, literature, religion, and women’s studies.