Christine Carpenter: The Anchoress of Shere

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Teenage girls discovering a sudden, intense religious passion are not uncommon. Recall us to Bernadette Soubirous who saw the visions at Lourdes, or the 'prophesies' vouchsafed to Lucia De Santos during the Miracle at Fatima. Nonetheless, taking a decision to be voluntarily shuttered from almost all human contact represents an extreme case of religious compulsion.

Such was the case with Christine Carpenter, who petitioned the church authorities when a teenager to be permitted to become an Anchoress. Anchoresses (or Anchorites, the male equivalent) committed themselves to live alone in a tiny cell - little bigger in size than themselves.

An extreme form of religious hermetism, the Anchoresses were alone in their cell with nothing to occupy their thoughts but communion with God. The cells - like that of Christine Carpenter - were small structures, typically built against the wall of a church or chapel. Aside from deliveries of food and water through a narrow slot in the wall and perhaps the chance conversation during those moments, Christine would have had no human contact at all during her long years of confinement.

From surviving correspondance, we know that Christine Carpenter petitioned for re-entry into the cell in 1333. At some point in the preceding 4 years, she had clearly left her hermetic existence but ultimately decided the material, secular world was not for her. Presumably, at some unknown point, she died inside the tiny stone space that still stands abutting St. James' Church today.

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 7th August 2014 | © Weird Island 2010-2020
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