Assumpta est Maria in celum: The Liturgical Levitation of Douceline of Digne

Event time: 
Thursday, November 9, 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Miller Hall (PROS406) See map
406 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Free, but register in advance
Open to: 
General Public
Event description: 

Please join us for a lunchtime talk with Institute of Sacred Music fellow, Dr. Samantha Slaubaugh. Since lunch is included, RSVP to by Monday, November 6, 2023.

Note: Seating capacity is limited and will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.

In the thirteenth century, communities of women called “beguines” flourished throughout Europe. These lay women were not consecrated religious and yet, they often looked and acted like those in a religious order. Despite the intense interest in late medieval beguines in the previous decades, a major barrier has prevented a thorough understanding of their liturgical practices: a lack of liturgical manuscripts from beguine communities. This dearth of evidence means that little is known to us about their lives of prayer. Despite this lacuna, scholars have long recognized the centrality of liturgical practice to beguine spirituality, especially as seen in mystical and hagiographic texts written by or about beguines.

Evidence for the liturgical practices of a beguine community is front and center, however, in the hagiographic text for Douceline of Digne (d. 1274) left by Las donnas de Robaut (the Women of Roubaud), the self-titled beguine women in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Provence. This Old Occitan hagiography, likely written by a member or members of the beguine community, narrates the story of the founder of the beguines of Roubaud, Douceline of Digne, and her ecstatic raptures and levitations. This talk will provide an introduction to my current book project, The Practice of Ecstasy: Liturgical Formation for the Beguines of Roubaud, which analyzes this hagiography as a liturgical guide, one which was likely used to train novices in a liturgical ideal for the beguine community. Drawing on one chapter from the book, which investigates the narratives of Douceline’s ecstasies on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, I will demonstrate how the raptures of this holy woman modeled liturgical leadership and the practice of joy that appropriately celebrates the assumption of the Virgin Mary. By levitating, Douceline performs the Assumption as the Virgin Mary, modeling the imitatio Mariae the beguines were encouraged to embrace. By singing the office with great joy, Douceline performs the appropriate emotion for the feast. By doing all of this among Franciscan friars, Douceline exerts liturgical leadership that is supported by her local community.

Samantha Slaubaugh received her PhD in Theology at the University of Notre Dame, where she specialized in Liturgical Studies. As a liturgical scholar, she focuses primarily on the Latin Middle Ages. Her research explores the connections between the liturgy and experiences of ecstasy or mystical union with God. She is particularly interested in the practices of medieval beguines and other lay women. She is currently a fellow at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.