“The participation of women in religion is a very important issue from several points of view: this relates to social history, women’s history, itself and, of course, a religious history. In this paper we will approach the phenomenon of pious, who went from having a high regard in late medieval society to fall out of favor in modern precisely time because they had developed a particular way of living religion and service to others, outside ecclesiastical authority.
The pious lay women were wearing habit and devoted to prayer, work and exercise social assistance tasks. They did not live in seclusion and professed vows as religious, although some reached reputation for holiness. They lived in their own homes or in a house in common with other pious, that is, in beaterios. These communities have a very ancient origin; in fact, they can be traced to the very origin of Christianity. But the period of greatest development beatas occurred in the late Middle Ages in Spain, parallel to the Flemish Beguine. The phenomenon of the pious and beaterios have to link it to a specific way of living religion by many women, different from the more conventional and established religious orders and rules in monasteries and convents formula. The pious lived fully the new forms of religiosity related to Modern Devotion , ie religious individualism, interior and evangelical spirit.
Not being the pious subject to any rule, and therefore enjoy freedom, church authorities decided to intervene in the sixteenth century, concerned about controlling expressions of popular religiosity and even if they were carried out by free women. The reform of Cisneros, but above all, the Council of Trent forced the pious to become tertiary of established religious orders, especially the Franciscan, that is, lay women linked to an order and adopting the spirit or fully join the orders as nuns with all votes. We must bear in mind that Trento established compulsory closure for all female religious communities. Thus, the concept that traditionally had the pious changed radically, that is, that ceased to be regarded as holy and women concerned about the need to be criticized as being superstitious, deceitful, deceptive or lighted if not entered a convent.”
Montagut Eduardo Contreras. Doctor in Modern and Contemporary History @ Montagut5