top of page

Nihil Terrenum, Nihilque Carnale in Ea:

Matilda of Tuscany and Anselm of Lucca during the Investiture Controversy

This article investigates the relationship between Matilda of Tuscany and her spiritual advisor Anselm of Lucca during the tumultuous period of the Investiture Controversy. The contemporary sources, Vitae of Anselm of Lucca and Donizo’s Vita Matildis, highlight both the spiritual and the secular dimensions of this friendship. Furthermore, the bishop of Lucca’s five Prayers written for the countess uncover a novel aspect of Anselm and Matilda’s relationship. In these texts Anselm, while expressing a new devotion for Christ and the Virgin Mary, shows the origin and goal of his fatherly direction for Matilda. Anselm’s novel devotion seems to have been triggered by the life and mission of Countess Matilda, generated by their common obedience to Gregory VII and influenced by the Eucharistic Controversy, with which Anselm was associated.

Francesca Guerri, Nihil Terrenum, Nihilque Carnale in Ea: Matilda of Tuscany and Anselm of Lucca during the Investiture Controversy, "Storicamente", 13 (2017), no. 31. DOI: 10.12977/stor68

Anselm of Canterbury and Matilda of Tuscany: The Journey of Friendship

This article investigates Matilda’s friendship with Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury. It presents and analyzes new evidence of Matilda's role during Anselm of Canterbury’s first and second exiles and explores the political, social, and ideological implications of Anselm of Canterbury and Matilda’s relationship in depth. The article suggests that the countess may have impacted Anselm of Canterbury’s notion of Libertas Ecclesia. It considers the spiritual friendship between the archbishop of Canterbury and Matilda, re-examining the extant sources and evaluates a new, wide variety of data – mainly their letters, Anselm of Canterbury’s devotional writing, and the Admont illuminated manuscript of Anselm of Canterbury’s Prayers and Meditations. These sources allow us to uncover new aspects of the intense familiarity between the saint and the countess and, disclosing new personal elements of their spirituality and devotional piety, clarify the nature and scope of the relationship.

“Anselm of Canterbury and Matilda of Tuscany: The Journey of Friendship”,  MATILDICA, Rivista annuale dell’AMI-MIA – Matilda of Canossa and Tuscany International Association.

Forthcoming book ... 

The Friendship Network of Matilda of Tuscany.

Reconstructing Matilda’s Motivation and Ideology Through the Lens of her Individual Relationships

Matilda of Tuscany (1046-1115) was one of the most significant female figures in the European Middle Ages. Matilda was the countess and duchess of a vast domain, stretching from Lombardy to the region of Latium, which she ruled in her own right.  While a vassal of the German emperors and related to them by blood bonds, she assisted seven popes, thus determining the fate of the Investiture Controversy and, eventually, of the entire Christendom. Matilda successfully defended the reform party and defeated the powerful army of Emperor Henry IV. Although the countess’s exceptional story empowered her alone, as ruler in her domains, she never acted in isolation. Human relationships were at the center of Matilda’s existence; friendship was an essential way to gain political alliances, advance the ideals of reform, and access the Divine.

I have shown how Matilda’s concept of friendship was based upon models provided by exemplary women who, before the countess, were vigorously involved in the defense of church reform and absorbed in intense correspondence with passionate reformers. My work demonstrates how these models introduced a new perception of lay female rulership and spirituality and were crucial examples for Matilda.

However, Matilda’s extraordinary life, position of power, remarkable devotion, and particular political setting of the Investiture Controversy would encourage the countess and her most important spiritual and political advisors to seek a redefinition of the meaning of political and spiritual friendship. Indeed, I have shown that Matilda’s intense and reciprocal relationships with the members of her entourage and, most of all, with Pope Gregory VII, Anselm II bishop of Lucca, and Anselm of Bec and Canterbury served as significant triggers for the new language of friendship and new spiritual developments, which transformed the image of women, renovated the language of prayers, and set in motion a change of religious sentiments.

bottom of page