“Italian Saints Against Bohemian Heretics: Heterodoxy, Witchcraft, and Mysticism c.1500” | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh

“Italian Saints Against Bohemian Heretics: Heterodoxy, Witchcraft, and Mysticism c.1500”

February 8, 2011 - 4:30pm - 5:30pm
Tamar Herzig (Department of History, Tel Aviv University)

Department of French and Italian, the Humanities Center, the Women’s Studies Program, and the Department of Religious Studies

This paper explores the propagation of the fame of St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) and her late-fifteenth century female Dominican emulators—four Italian sante vive (living saints) who were famous for their paramystical experiences—in the Kingdom of Bohemia.

At the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, reports of the Italian women’s miraculous experiences spread north of the Alps thanks to the endeavors of Dominican inquisitors and polemicists involved in the campaign against the heterodox sect of the Bohemian Brethren (Unitas Fratrum). I propose that these friars revived an earlier Dominican tradition of employing the physically manifest sanctity of female mystics in confutation of heretical contentions. Analyzing some of the texts that they published about the sante vive, I suggest that their writings also shed light on the increasingly gendered understanding of both heresy and witchcraft on the eve of the Reformation.

Questions? Please contact the Director, Professor Jennifer Waldron

(jwaldron@pitt.edu) or consult the website for more details:



Tamar Herzig has been a senior lecturer in early modern history at Tel Aviv University since 2007. Her research interests include religious history, gender history (with a focus on the Italian Renaissance), religious reform movements, Christian mysticism and sanctity, the Catholic Reformation, witch-hunting and demonology, and the Roman Inquisition. She is the author of Savonarola’s Women: Visions and Reform in Renaissance Italy (Chicago, 2008).


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