The horror of orthodoxy: Christina Mirabilis, thirteenth-century ‘zombie’ saint

  • Alicia Spencer-Hall


In 1232, Thomas of Cantimpré wrote his Life of Christina Mirabilis (c. 1150–1224), an account of the miraculous life and three deaths of an unenclosed holy woman from the Low Countries. The text opens with an explicit vindication of Christina’s return(s) as divinely mandated. Yet, the narrative shows that her community struggles to deal with the revenant in their midst. Through her example, they must confront the terrifying mechanics of purgatory, resurrection, and the co-incidence of body and soul. A similar unease is found in modern scholarship, in which Christina is typically referred to dismissively in terms more commonly applied to cinematic monsters. I work with such dismissive language – specifically the term ‘zombie’ – to move beyond this heuristic roadblock. The terms of filmic zombie-ism provide new insight into the merging of orthodoxy and terror in Christina’s vita.



The author thanks Jane Gilbert and Katherine Ibbett for their guidance with early iterations of this article and the Arts and Humanities Research Council for funding. Her current research, and the production of this article, is generously supported by the Modern Humanities Research Association.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alicia Spencer-Hall
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of French, Queen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

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