Petition to Become an Anchoress

To become an anchoress, a woman had to seek permission from the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities. First, she needed to speak with the local ecclesiastical authority, the parish priest. In the conversations that would follow, she would need to convince the priest that her desire to be an anchoress was truly spiritual, i.e. that she wasn’t running away from something, or being forced to take this step, or choosing this arduous vocation out of pride. Next, a letter would be sent to a higher authority, that is the bishop who would ultimately give permission for the woman to undertake her vocation. There follow two letters regarding Christine Carpenter, an anchoress in Shere, Surrey, England. The letters were written in 1329 and give some insight into the process that was observed. Click on the following links to open the letters of inquiry and consent.