Women, inferior or superior to men?

Paleochristian Sarcophagus

This sarcophagus from San Justo de la Vega in the province of León, constructed around the year 310, is one of the first works on the peninsula that reflects the Christianization of the Hispano Roman provincial elites. Its formal characteristics are a continuation of Roman tradition, but its iconography expresses the essence of the new religion. The pagan Roman pantheon disappears, and a scene of Adam and Eve, ashamed of their nudity, appears in the center, surrounded by other biblical scenes.

This foundational tale, taken from Genesis, would subsequently reach the Middle Ages as a part of the tradition of the founding Fathers of the Church, who comment on the idea of a woman, Eve, created from the rib of her companion Adam. This concept became the basis for female subordination to men. Only toward the end of the Middle Ages did an opposing tradition arise, when other voices – both female and male, like fray Martín de Córdoba in Castilla, or Christine de Pizán in France– defended that women were more excellent because they were God´s most recent creation and therefore constituted the more perfect of the two, a reversal of the traditional argument.