dr. M.E.S. (Marlena) Whiting

  • Faculty of Humanities
    Capaciteitsgroep Geschiedenis
  • Visiting address
    Oost-Indisch Huis
    Kloveniersburgwal 48  Room number: D 0.07
  • Postal address:
    Kloveniersburgwal  48
    1012 CX  Amsterdam
  • M.E.S.Whiting@uva.nl

Gendering Sacred Space: Female Networks, Patronage, and Ritual Experience in Early Christian Pilgrimage

From 324 CE to the seventh century, we can identify, by name, a dozen women who travelled across Christendom in pursuit of spiritual encounters. While these women are central to the discussion of early Christian pilgrimage (a practice that prompted key developments in art, communications, and the economy), it has primarily been in terms of what they can tell us about pilgrimage in general, without reference to their gender. My project will shift the focus onto them specifically as female pilgrims, and how being female made their experiences unique, rather than paradigmatic of pilgrimage as a whole.
In this project I employ textual sources and archaeology to analyse three aspects of female pilgrimage: networks, patronage, and the ‘lived’ experience of women on pilgrimage both as travellers and as worshippers. This will significantly change our understanding of pilgrimage as a gendered act, and shed light on how women experienced moving through both geographic and social space in this most quintessential of early Christian devotional acts.

This project is funded by a Veni Grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)

‘Monastery Hostels in Late Antique Syria, Palestine and Transjordan’ in  Z.T. Fiema, J. Frösén and M. Holappa, eds, Petra – The Mountain of Aaron II: The Nabataean Sanctuary and the Byzantine Monastery (Helsinki, 2016), 108-13.

‘Catalog of Selected Registered and Other Finds’ with A. Lehtinen in Z. T. Fiema, J. Frösén and M. Holappa (eds), Petra – The Mountain of Aaron II: The Nabataean Sanctuary and the Byzantine Monastery (Helsinki, 2016), 369-79.

‘Asceticism and Hospitality as Patronage in the Late Antique Holy Land: the examples of Paula and Melania the Elder’ in M.E. Mullett, M. Grünbart, G. Fingarova, M. Savage, L. Theis, eds, Female Founders in Byzantium and Beyond (Vienna, 2013), pp. 73-83.

'Mount Nebo’ in R. Bagnall and K. Brodersen, eds, The Encyclopedia of Ancient History (2012).

‘The Metal Objects from the Church and Chapel’ with S. Pouta in J. Frösén and Z. Fiema, eds, Petra – The Monastery of Aaron. Volume 1: The Church and Chapel (Helsinki, 2008), pp. 393-404.

Khirbet et-Tannur was a religious sanctuary of the Nabataeans, ancient Arabs whose capital was the rose-red rock-cut city of Petra in Jordan. Excavated in 1937, the temple sculptures from Khirbet et-Tannur are in important public collections fo the Jordan Museum and the Cincinnati Art Museum. Nelson Glueck's fascinating scientific finds from the dig were buried deeply in the Harvard Semitic Museum until they were unearthed by scholars decades later in 2002. New research on his discoveries and the site's sculpture by a team of experts illuminates the religious practices and art of the Nabataeans. This "gem of a small Nabataean temple" has a fascinating story that is now being brought to new light.

ISBN-13: 978-0995494619

Available for purchase via Amazon.


  • Whiting, M. E. S. (2016). Monastery Hostels in Late Antique Syria, Palestine and Transjordan. In Z. T. Fiema, J. Frösén, & M. Holappa (Eds.), Petra – The Mountain of Aaron II: The Nabataean Sanctuary and the Byzantine Monastery . (pp. 108-13). Helsinki.
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