Project Title: Writing St. Godelieve: Drogo of Saint-Winnoc’s Authorial Imprint
Student: Christine Mendiola ’16
Mentor: Dr. Ellen Arnold
In the 11th century, Drogo of Saint Winnoc wrote his final vita—saint’s life—the Life of St. Godelieve. After a lifetime of writing to promote his monastery, he was finally penning the life of an individual vying for sainthood. It was a success. The young woman murdered by her husband was canonized in 1084 shortly after her death. So fast in fact, modern scholars have been fascinated with her and the chaotic politics that sped up her ascent to sainthood. But since little is known outside the vita, Drogo has not gotten such attention. My capstone focused on using this written work to understand Drogo in his own words.
As a Benedictine monk, we assume Drogo was provided with an excellent education. In his previous works, he extensively quotes Bede and uses topoi—conventions—common with his genre. We know he held a special position in his monastery because he travelled to different countries and wrote multiple pieces of hagiography (religious writings) for his abbot. Surprisingly, his unique voice emerges most as male monk portraying a young married martyr. Scholars, including Caroline Walker Bynum and Jane Tibbetts Schulenburg, have identified patterns of female sanctity in vitae, in which male writers focus on bodily descriptions and food/eating. However, Drogo claims that holy men and women should be equal and excludes and transforms these tropes in Godelieve’s story.
Anonymous authors are common in the medieval period, so we should not overlook Drogo, the author of this unusual tale. Medievalists need to celebrate and cherish the few known writers’ we have access to. Each individual has an impact on what they write, and when we acknowledge their impact, we can learn about the writer, not just the subject, when we read historical sources.