Two Lives of Saint Colette: With a Selection of Letters by, to, and about Colette

Date Published

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Author(s)

Saint Colette of Corbie was a great French reformer of the Franciscan Order and the founder of seventeen convents. Though of humble origin, she attracted the support of pow-erful patrons and important Church officials. The two biographies translated here were authored by Pierre de Vaux, her confessor and mentor, right after her death, and by Perrine de Baume, a nun who for decades was Colette’s companion and confidant, about 25 years later. Both offer fascinating portraits of the saint as a pious ascetic assailed by demons and performing miracles, but also as a skillful administrator and caring mother of her nuns.

Saint Colette of Corbie (1381–1447; canonized 1807) is one of the most important reformers of the late-medieval and early modern period, one of the most influential of all pre-modern European women in terms of institutional impact, and a fascinating French fig-ure in the era of the Hundred Years War. She has never quite received her historiographic due, very likely because her two French “lives” — the second of the two authored by a woman — have not been available in English translation, while even the French edition is difficult to access. Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, one of America’s great medievalists and leading specialists in medieval French, is just the right scholar to make these compelling lives of Saint Colette available to a contemporary audience.

-Sean L. Field, Professor of History, University of Vermont

  • By Pierre de Vaux and Sister Perrine de Baume Edited and translated by Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski