Visigoth women, an exception to the rule

Lápida de Eugenia Pulse para ampliar Lápida de Eugenia. Sala 23

Eugenia's Tombstone

This beautiful marble tombstone originates from Mérida and is dated to be from the year 661. Upon its surface there appears an inscription with sentences separated by beautiful, stylized symbols in the shape of a leaf. The inscription refers to a woman by the name of Eugenia who reconstructed or enlarged a female monastery. Eugenia became a nun in this monastery, and later acted as Abbess there. It was dedicated, according to the inscription, by the powerful bishop Oroncio, the same bishop who had presided over the 7th and 8th Councils of Toledo.

We conserve a fair number of the names of women who founded monasteries all across the peninsula during the period of Visigoth domination. Providing monasteries and investing one´s fortune or one´s very life in them was a frequent practice among virgins and widows. For women, it was not only a way of expressing devotion and exercising charity, but also a way to access education and enjoy the power and freedom to act as they pleased. In this manner, they were able to exact influence and actively intervene in their society in spite of not complying with the characteristics that had been traditionally assigned to them as the weak, submissive and defenseless beings from which men demanded respect.