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Grant number like: FB-50007-04

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Kenneth Baxter Wolf
Pomona College (Claremont, CA 91711-4434)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2004 – 6/30/2005

Medieval Poverty Saints and the Poor

The late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries witnessed unparalleled economic growth and urbanization in Latin Europe, a development that expressed itself, among other ways, in a marked increase in and awareness of poverty. Alongside this rise in involuntary poverty came a remarkable number of experiments in voluntary poverty conducted by Christians of means, the most famous of whom was Francis of Assisi (d. 1226). In a recently published book (The Poverty of Riches: St. Francis of Assisi Reconsidered, Oxford, 2003), I explored the ironic relationship between Francis's brand of "holy" poverty and the ordinary poverty of the poor. My new project would involve preparing original translations (Latin to English) of six to eight lives of various poverty saints from this period (including Elizabeth of Thuringen, Raymond of Piacenza, Zita of Lucca, Walter of Lodi, and Isidro of Madrid), each with an introductory chapter providing the historical and hagiographical context. The point of this would be to provide a wide range of data to illustrate my thesis about the ironic and often antagonistic relationship between poverty as a socio-economic malaise and poverty as a spiritual discipline. The book that I imagine publishing in the end would not only provide Anglophonic readers with access to a fascinating series of saint's lives but would offer important insights into poverty as an idea in this period.