Anthony Bale
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A women’s network in fifteenth-century Rome
Margery Kempe encounters ‘Margaret Florentyne’
in Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe
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This chapter concerns Margery Kempe’s encounter with one of her key female interlocutors and supporters, referred to by Kempe as ‘Margaret Florentyne’ or ‘Dame Margarete Florentyn’. Kempe first meets this lady in the Italian city of Assisi and is then supported by her in Rome. In this chapter we posit the identity of Margaret Florentine, who has not previously been identified. Whilst the details given by Kempe are scant, we suggest that ‘Margaret Florentyne’ was the heiress, widow, and businesswoman Margherita degli Alberti (d. after 1417), a member of the wealthy Alberti banking family of Florence and Rome. This identification leads us to explore the Alberti family's deep devotion to, and patronage of, the cult of St Bridget of Sweden, their civic piety, their involvement with the Knights Hospitaller, and their exile in Rome: all aspects that are retrievable from Kempe's account. Margherita degli Alberti's religious circle – based around Dominican-Briggitine devotional culture – also provides a context for one of the most important moments in Kempe's life in the development of her spirituality, as she married the Godhead in Rome and made herself voluntarily poor. By identifying 'Margaret Florentyne', we can thus place Margery Kempe in the context of Renaissance Rome, leading to a new understanding of Kempe's devotional and cultural milieux.

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