of the


Latin, English, German, French

from the

Medieval and Early Modern Periods

Bibliography * Introduction * The Texts
Principles of Transcription * Readership * RB * Links


Frank Henderson
and Contributors



The Rule of St. Benedict was written by a man, for communities of men, using masculine language. Over the centuries, however, the same Rule has also guided the lives of many women. In using it, women have had to interpret and adapt the Rule so that it spoke to them and to their own needs.

In the medieval and early modern periods, such reinterpretation and adaptation for women sometimes took the form of written versions of the Rule that were modified in language and content. Today these are generally referred to as "feminine versions" of the rule, or as "feminine rules." In place of purely masculine language, such versions may use explicitly feminine as well as gender-neutral and gender-balanced language; they may also continue to use explicitly masculine and generic masculine language. Other adaptations, e.g., regarding clothing and priests, might also be made in the text.

We envision that this site will include the full, original texts of several feminine versions of the Rule of St. Benedict, together with closely related documents.



The Texts:


Winteney Latin Version (early 13th c.; Latin)


Northern Prose Version (early 15th c.; Middle English)

Northern Metrical Version (mid 15th c.; Middle English)

Caxton Version (ca. 1491; Middle English)

Foxe Version (1516; Early Modern English)


Altenburg Version (1505; Middle High German)

Friedenspring Version (15th c.; Early Modern German)


Dijon Version (13th c.; Old French)


Comprehensive Bibliography

The Bibliography names all of the feminine versions of the Rule of St. Benedict that are now known from the medieval and early modern periods. Manuscripts, editions, bibliographies and studies of these texts are listed.




These feminine versions of the Rule of St. Benedict will be of interest to a broad readership in the following ways.

They provide examples of the development of Middle and Early Modern English, Middle High and High German, and Old French, and do so from the perspective of women.

They provide an example of the feminization of Latin texts.

The provide examples of the translation of Latin texts into medieval vernaculars, especially for the use of women.

The show the variety of approaches taken by medieval writers to the feminization and vernacular translation of a single basic text.

They will be of interest in medieval women's studies and to persons studying the spirituality of medieval women.

They provide new information on monastic history and the development of monastic practice, especially among women.


Text of the Rule of St. Benedict

Readers will find it helpful, if not essential, to have at hand a standard Latin and English text of the Rule, for example:

T. Fry, et al., RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in Latin and English with Notes Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1981. Hardback or paper.

An authoritative Latin version that we have followed with respect to verse numbering and presentation, is:

Rudolph Hanslik, ed. Benedicti Regula. (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, 75). Vindobonae: Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1960.


Principles of Transcription and Presentation

The original manuscript or printed text has been transcribed as faithfully as possible. For the sake of modern readers, however, modern punctuation has been used.

Notes. Notes are placed at the end of the relevant verse or hyperlinked to a section of notes.

Verses. Each verse is numbered as in RB1980 and Hanslik's edition. To facilitate comparison between one version and another, each verse begins on a new line. Verses that are out of order have been left in the manuscript position and identified by number as usual.

Additions. Substantive additions that form somewhat complete units within or at the end of a regular verse may be typed as independent verses and identified with letters: a, b, c. . . .

Expansions: Briefer expansions may be identified in notes; stylistic expansions usually are not noted.

Deletions. Deletions of entire chapters are noted in the introduction. Deletions of entire verses will be apparent by gaps in the verse numbering; sometimes these are noted. Deletion of text within verses may be noted if the meaning is substantially altered.

Spelling, Emendation and Division of Words. The spelling used in the manuscript is transcribed faithfully. If the manuscript spelling is clearly in error, it is emended; this is identified in a note. Words are not divided at the end of lines, even if this was done in the manuscript.

Contractions and Abbreviations. Contractions and abbreviations are completed, typing such completions in italics. Characters that are written as superscripts in the manuscript are treated as contractions.



John E. Crean, Jr.
Patricia A. Giangrosso
Antha Spreckelmeyer
Judith Sutera OSB

Under the Auspices of Magistra:
A Journal of Women's Spirituality in History


Web Resources


Frank Henderson's Page on Liturgy and Medieval Women
Electronic Resources for RB Studies

American Monastic Newsletter
OSB Index | ABA | Academic




Rev. 23.ii.2003 / www.osb.org/osb/aba/rb/feminine/index.htm