Sunday, March 30, 2008


Hroswitha (or Hrotsvit) of Gandersheim (c.930-c.990) -

Nun, playwright, and the first women historian of the Germans. When she was young, she joined Saxony's most important nunnery, the Benedictine nunnery at Gandersheim. It was one of many founded in the 10th century under the encouragement of the Saxon (German) dukes. Gandersheim was recognized as a center of intellectual and religious activity. It had close ties to the German Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, who gave its abbess her own court, knights, and the right to coin money and attend the meetings of his Diet.
In the nunnery, Hroswitha developed her intellectual skills and eventually became a canoness. A canoness could leave the convent for outside visits, thus giving Hroswitha the chance to view the world beyond the abbey, and the knowledge to create her long epic poem detailing the rule of Otto I, "the Great." She also wrote plays and poems. Not all have survived, but those that do deal with the battle between Christianity and paganism, the lives of saints, and of heroic "frail" women who victoriously defend their virtue against "strong" men. Hroswitha gave herself the title "the strong voice of Gandersheim." She said, "Sometimes I compose with great effort, again I destroyed what I had poorly written...[so that] the slight talent...given me by Heaven should not lie idle in the dark recesses of the mind and thus be destroyed by the rush of neglect."

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