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Danielle B. Joyner

From the time John Cassian established the first female foundation in Marseille in ad 410, monastic women lived in varying states of enclosure and were surrounded by diverse images and objects that contributed to their devotion, education and livelihood. The first rule for women, written in 512 by St Caesarius of Arles, emphasized their strict separation from men and the world, as did the Periculoso, a directive issued by Pope Boniface VIII (reg 1294–1303) in 1298. Various architectural solutions developed throughout the Middle Ages to reconcile the necessities of enclosure with the access required by male clerics to celebrate Mass and provide pastoral care. Nuns’ choirs, where the women would gather for their daily prayers, were often constructed as discreet spaces in the church, which allowed women to hear or see the Mass without interacting with the cleric, as in the 10th-century choir in the eastern transept gallery at St Cyriakus in Gernrode, Germany. In some Cistercian examples, the nuns’ choir appeared at the west end of the nave. Dominican and Franciscan architecture was largely varied. Double monasteries, which housed men and women, also required careful construction. A 7th-century text describing the church of St Brigida in ...