Department of History

Dr. Marita von Weissenberg

Associate Professor


Medieval European history, history of saints/sanctity and popular religion, history of gender, marriage and the family.

Signature courses:

Francis: The Making of Saint


Saints: Origins to the Internet

Marriage: Crisis & Renewal (First Year Seminar)

About me:

Teaching the future about the past, the living about the dead, students about history—this is the best career I could ever have imagined: I love people. How people lived, believed, and left records of their lives in a time so distant from ours ignites wonder and endless curiosity in me. Introducing students to history, the kinds of questions historians ask, and research skills so they can reliably discover for themselves is my passion and vocation.

I build my courses around discovering the past and discerning the sources we have for examining it. For example, my introductory level course on Saint Francis of Assisi is a gateway to examine the long twelfth century—my favorite century—and thinking about how we know what we think we know about this famous Catholic Saint. In the intermediate class Vikings! we examine how and why the study of Vikings has changed over time, challenging many myths, but also considering how these myths came to be in the first place. The seminar I teach on saints and sanctity (Origins to the Internet) investigates how changing views on holiness, and changing needs of the Catholic Church, are represented in who gained reputations of sanctity, and what kinds of sources we can use to discover this. The First Year Seminar I teach about marriage, focusing on questions of evidence, change, and differing perspectives between disciplines, time-periods, and individuals: once group’s crisis in changes to marriage can be another’s renewal!

Outside the classroom (and often in it) my research focuses on intersections of masculinity and late medieval religion. Essentially, I ask how did late medieval men understand and present their gender identities. I examine how biographers of late medieval married saints used concepts of masculinity in constructing narratives of holiness to understand how piety affected laymen’s gender ideation. How did a wife’s refusal to have sex (and procreate) due to a religious vocation to chastity impact her husband or his family? What about a young man who would rather imitate the masculinity of Christ than that of knights and kings? How could imitation of Christ make an artisan or a count more manly in the eyes of his peers? My recent publications include ”Saints and the Sacrament: Marriage in Late Medieval Biographies of Saints” in Sacramentum magnum: The Sacrament of Marriage in the Middle Ages (Münster, 2018) and ”Generations of Men and Masculinity in Two Late Medieval Biographies of Saints,” Gender & History, 27, 3 (2015).

Undergraduate Research

I relish advising students in the Xavier University Summer Undergraduate Research program. So far, students’ research has examined biographies of medieval saint to understand gender, marriage, and power relationships.


First Year at Xavier



  • Ph.D. Yale University (2013)