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Latest revision as of 09:42, 3 December 2014

Ève de Saint-Martin
Title(s) Bienheureuse Ève de Saint-Martin, Ève de Liège
Death died after 1264
Biographical entries in old dictionaries

Entry by Marie-Elisabeth Henneau, 2013

Eve of Saint-Martin’s fame is very much linked to that of Julienne de Cornillon –or Juliana of Cornillon (who died in 1258), whose Vita provides the few pieces of information we know about Eve. Not only her place at the side of the instigator of the Feast of Corpus Christi from Liege, but also her closeness to the Beguine movement and the Cistercian nuns of the diocese of Liege, serve as evidence of the continuing relationships that the female representatives from these different religious orders had in the 13th Century. Many of these women shared the same propensity to beginning their search for the divine by way of a conversion to a rigorous way of life and through the adoption of trying penitential practices. This was the option chosen by Eve, who, at a very young age, dreamt of the most absolute seclusion. Confinement to a cell built right up against the walls of a church allowed women to choose a hermitic life, while living under the protection and watch of the Church. This way of life proved to be very popular, particularly in Italy. Encouraged by Juliana, Eve continued down this path and isolated herself close to the collegiate Saint-Martin of Liege, but she had made her friend promise she would visit her regularly. As for Julienne, who was now a nun working in the leprosarium of Mont-Cornillon in Liege, she had her first mystic experiences which led her to wish that a specific Saint’s Day be created in the liturgical calendar of the Church to honour the Blessed Sacrament. At a time when the community dimension of the Eucharist was tending to disappear, and when the faithful were attending the celebration of this sacrament as silent witnesses, none of them, including several women, felt the need to see and to worship the consecrated host, for lack of being able to receive communion on a regular basis. So, crossing the Meuse River that separated them, Juliana came to pray in Eve’s cell several times, and to confide in her about her wish to see the body of Christ preserved and venerated, before and after Mass. So it was that, in spite of (or thanks to) her special status, Eve exerted a marked influence on the religious scene of Liège. In her Vita, Juliana highlighted the fact that Eve mediated on her friend’s behalf, speaking to influential ecclesiastics, whom she invited to wholeheartedly welcome Juliana’s proposals (1230-1235). Eve’s room, to which Juliana had easy access, was the stage for some of her raptures. It was also the stage for Eve’s ‘miraculous’ recovery: she once again found health in body and peace of mind thanks to her friend’s prayers. Juliana again took shelter there when confronted by her male counterpart, the Prior of Mont-Cornillon, about the temporal management of the leprosarium. While controversial accounts pitted supporters of the Feast of Corpus Christi against its opponents (as the feast day was deemed to be superficial by some, and essential by others), Eve offered tremendous support to her friend Juliana. Besides, she gave her the chance to meet the Beguine Isabelle de Huy, a kind interlocutor and a visionary herself. In the collective memory, all three women have been associated with the history of the Feast of Corpus Christi, introduced to the diocese of Liege in 1246. After the hurried departure of Juliana, who fled Liege to take refuge in Namur, Eve continued to be an authority who was listened to by the clergy, who were in favour of the establishment of the new worship of Corpus Christi. In 1264, Pope Urban IV, the former Archdeacon of Liege himself, told her that the Feast had been extended to the Universal Church. This was a distinguished privilege. As a privileged witness to the time which Juliana of Cornillon spent in Liege, Eve was reported to have shared her memories with the biographer, who mentions Eve fourteen times in his account. At the end of the 19th Century, local historians noted that she was the first female author to write in the Walloon language. She was said to have written the original text of Juliana’s biography, which was later translated into Latin.

In spite of the fact that there had been no mention of Eve having had any mystical experiences, this woman was in such intellectual harmony with Juliana and Isabelle that posterity was to perpetuate the image of all three women as united in having had the same ecstatic vision of Corpus Christi. Her spectacular withdrawal from society, which by no means prevented her from being involved in Church life, her relationship with the clergy, as well as with other active women in the Church, and her support of an initiative intended to promote devotion to the Eucharist make her one of the most representative forerunners of female piety of the 13th Century.

(translated by Dominique Mason)

==manuscript sources

  • Bulle du pape Urbain IV à Ève de Saint-Martin, 9 septembre 1264 [original perdu], Liège, Bibliothèque du Grand Séminaire, Ms des Croisiers de Huy, 6 L 21, p. 250 (277), copie par Christian de Sittard, 1479.

printed sources

  • Bertholet, Jean, Histoire de l’institution de la Fête-Dieu, avec la vie des bienheureuses Julienne et Ève, toutes deux originaires de Liège, Liège, F. A. Barchon, 1746, 14 f°, 316 p., 112 p.
  • Précis de la vie édifiante de la Bienheureuse Ève, recluse de Saint-Martin..., Liège, Vve S. Bourguignon, 1775, 43 p.

published sources

  • Vie de sainte Julienne de Cornillon, éd. Jean-Pierre Delville, Fête-Dieu (1246-1996), t. II, Louvain-la-Neuve, Pub. de l’Institut d’études médiévales. Textes, études, congrès, 19/2), 1999.

Selected bibliography

  • Cottiaux, Jean et Jean-Pierre Delville, « Ève, Julienne et la Fête-Dieu à Saint-Martin », in Saint-Martin. Mémoire de Liège, Liège, Éd. Du Perron, 1990, p. 31-46.
  • Demarteau, Joseph, Ève de Saint-Martin, la première auteur wallonne, Liège, Demarteau, 1896.
  • Lambot, Cyrille,"La bulle d’Urbain IV à Ève de Saint-Martin", in Revue bénédictine, t. 79, 1969, p. 261-270.
  • Mulder-Bakker, Anneke B., Lives of the Anchoresses. The rise of the Urban Recluse in Medieval Europe, University of Pennsylvannia Press, 2005.
  • Roisin, Simone, « Ève de Saint-Martin », in Dictionnaire d’Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastique, t. XVI, 1967, col. 114-117.

Selected bibliography of images

  • v. 1622 : Ève de Saint-Martin, bois sculpté, Ht 104 cm, Liège, Basilique Saint-Martin
  • v. 1625 : Jean Valdor, « Les trois promotrices de la Fête-Dieu en extase devant le Saint-Sacrement », burin 13,7 x 9 cm, Liège, Collections artistiques de l’Université, 22.587.
  • v. 1685 : Hubert Spiez, « Les trois promotrices de la Fête-Dieu en extase devant le Saint-Sacrement », eau-forte, 23,3 x 15, 1 cm – Liège, Collections artistiques de l’Université, 2022.
  • 1765 : Joseph et Jacques Klauber, « Les trois saintes et Jean de Lausanne en adoration devant le Saint-Sacrement », eau-forte, 15, 4 x 8, 4 cm – Liège, Cabinet des Estampes et des Dessins, inv U. C. 1162.


  • « Julienne, la servante du Christ, venait quelque fois chez Eve, recluse du Mont Saint-Martin à Liège, femme d’une vie louable. Elles étaient très proches l’une de l’autre de sorte qu’elles étaient liées entre elles par un lien indissoluble de charité. » (Vie de sainte Julienne de Cornillon, [ca 2e moitié du XIIIe s.], éd. Jean-Pierre Delville, Voir supra Source éditée, chapitre 22)
  • « Ève […] admiroit les desseins de la Providence, l’en glorifioit et révéroit de plus en plus la sainteté de sa bonne amie. Afin de pénétrer ce qu’il y avoit de caché dans [sa] vision, elle la conjura de lui obtenir du Ciel la même piété qu’elle envers le Saint-Sacrement […] La recluse se sentit peu de tems après embrasée d’un saint zèle de la religion et animée d’un si grand désir de la nouvelle Fête qu’il lui tardoit de la voir instituée… » (Jean Bertholet, Histoire de l’institution de la Fête-Dieu, Voir supra Sources imprimées, 1746, p. 64-65)
  • « Urbain IV, pour consommer l’ouvrage de l’institution de la Fête-Dieu, mit tous ses soins et employa toute son autorité pour la faire recevoir universellement dans l’Église. [Il avait appris] qu’Ève, [la] fidèle amie [de Julienne], étoit [encore] en vie et remplissoit la ville et le pays de l’odeur de sa sainteté, qu’elle avoit porté les chanoines de Saint-Martin à obéir les premiers au Décret de l’Évêque, qu’héritière de l’esprit et de la piété de Julienne, elle étoit embrasée du même amour envers le très-saint Sacrement, et qu’elle employoit tout ce qui étoit en elle pour le faire adorer et lui faire rendre les honneurs qu’il méritoit. Au nom d’Eve, le pape qui la connoissoit pour une zélée servante du Seigneur, s’arrêta et persuadé qu’il ranimeroit sa piété et sa dévotion s’il la congratuloit sur l’objet qu’elle avoit le plus à cœur, il lui écrivit le Bref suivant… » (Jean Bertholet, Histoire de l’institution de la Fête-Dieu, Voir supra Sources imprimées, 1746, p. 122)
  • « Peuple liégeois, c’est au milieu de vous qu’est née la bienheureuse Ève : elle est l’honneur de votre Nation, tant par les vertus extraordinaires qu’elle a pratiquées, que par les différentes révélations dont le Ciel l’a favorisée […] Les exemples de vertus qu’elle vous a laissés, le détachement universel dans lequel elle a vécu, les austérités qu’elle a pratiquées, sa singulière dévotion envers le Saint-Sacrement de l’Autel, le choix dont Dieu l’a distinguée, caractérisent la sainteté de sa vie, vous invitent à l’imiter et à rendre vos hommages […] à un Dieu qui faisant éclater sa grâce dans la personne d’une de vos concitoyennes, s’est si singulièrement et si magnifiquement manifesté au milieu de vous. » (Précis de la vie édifiante de la Bienheureuse Ève, Voir supra Sources imprimées, 1775, Préface)
  • « Si l’intérêt pour Ève manifesté par [le chanoine de Liège] Jean de Lausanne, cautionné par l’amitié de Julienne, ne nous apporte aucune lumière sur la personnalité la recluse, l’amitié de Jacques Pantaléon [futur Urbain IV] l’éclaire d’un jour inattendu. Que son aspect gringalet ne donne pas le change ! Son ascendant sur le futur Urbain IV suppose une envergure d’esprit hors du commun. » (Jean Cottiaux et Jean et Jean-Pierre Delville, « Ève, Julienne et la Fête-Dieu à Saint-Martin », Voir supra Choix bibliographique, 1990, p. 35)
  • « As an adult, Juliana often sought help from the anchoress Eve of St. Martin, an ardent supporter of Juliana’s cause to promote the new feast of Corpus Christi but an independent spirit who never joined Mont-Cornillon or any other monastic community and remained enclosed at St. Martin until her death in 1266. Eve’s written or dictated notes in Walloon on Juliana’s life and struggles, now lost, probably served as a basis for Latin vita composed by a canon at St. Martin. » (Walter Simons, Cities of ladies : Beguine Communities in the Medieval Low Countries, 1200-1565, University of Pensylvania Press, 2001, p. 42)

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