Clare of Assisi : shaping a new paradigm of sainthood.
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Sutherland, Gabrielle E.
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Separating the historical figure of Saint Clare from the icon handed down from history is a significant part of this study. Part of the complexity of the life of Clare of Assisi rested in the negotiation of her very public spiritual life during a time of ecclesiastical reform and her formative association with the Franciscan movement. Another part of that construct can be attributed to her role in society as a noblewoman in the burgeoning Italian commune with all that involved. Finding the woman who was Clare within the iconic image passed down poses a challenge. The process of becoming a saint is a living dialogue between the saint-the-person and sainthood-the-symbol. Semiotic theory offers a method for studying this process of Clare-the-saint serving as image, becoming a symbol, and eventually a sign for her time—especially for women—as she grappled with questions of identity, redefined relationships, and applied her theories towards a model for Franciscan living. The legendae surrounding Clare (even those produced during her lifetime) were a significant element of this process, as the writers consciously drew upon traditional and contemporary themes from literature and iconic imagery. Clare employed similar themes in her own writings, and the Church did the same upon her death, using the occasion to re-formulate and more firmly cement canonization procedures.