Anchoress depicts the life of a young Anchoress and the life of the medieval farming village in which she grew up. In medieval Western Europe, where everyone is expected to support the Catholic Church and adhere to orthodoxy therein, Christine is considered suspect by the Church for having a mother with a chip on her shoulder against the church, reputed initially of selling love potions and the like, and later accused of more serious acts of witchcraft. Christine herself doesn’t take the same oppositional position with regard to the ecclesiastical authorities and the Church’s belief system that her mother does, but individuation in lower-class, medieval Europe is darn near impossible, and for a relatively powerless peasant girl like Christine to accomplish a measure of it, requires drastic action on her part and a massive exception on the part of the larger society. When Christine believes she has been in contact with the Virgin Mary, and satisfies the ecclesiastical authorities that she is sincere, because of her newly exalted status in the eyes of the Church, they present her with the opportunity to become an anchoress.
When Christine decided to become an anchoress, it was not without opposition from her mother, who had other plans for her: namely an advantageous arranged marriage to the reeve, a much older man who oversaw the manor upon which they were tenant farmers, and was likely to treat her with contempt because he could. Ironically, being walled up in the parish church offers Christine more personal autonomy if much smaller living space. Though an anchoress is expected to see a steady stream of visitors, have periodic visits from a spiritual advisor/church official, and, of course, the secular authority figures, she also has the ability to close her window coverings to them, a prerogative which Christine exercises early in the movie.
Though she does not become as sought-after as Julian of Norwich, she nevertheless takes on a new and more exalted role in the community, as people come to the window of her anchorage (a small cell built onto the side of the church) for advice.
As an anchoress, she is apparently regarded as a Christianized, Church-sanctioned version of the oracle of Delphi, for the village people even expect her to advise upon situations which the modern observer considers clearly out of the depth of a 14-year old girl “pledged to eternal chastity”, as in the case of the middle-aged couple who asked her why they couldn’t have children. Luckily, she seems sometimes to speak with spiritual inspiration and to try to give good advice.

“The film tells the true life story of Christine Carpenter (or as faithfully as the story could be reproduced given the incomplete historical records surrounding her life), a 14th century peasant, who at at the age of 14 began experiencing visions of Mary. Rather than live the life that her mother had chosen for her, Christine agrees to become her church’s anchoress, a chasten woman who lives the rest of her life entombed in a wall of the church, with a window being her only contact to the outside world. What follows is a lesson on the role of faith, bureaucracy, greed, and women in the church and has more to say on any of those subjects than most that would focus on a single one.”

-from DVD Beaver.
It is while Christine is living in the anchorage that the anti-witchcraft hysteria against her mother gets whipped up, and her mother becomes a fugitive.
In the meantime, her own relationship with ecclesiastical establishment is taking a turn for the worse as she and her spiritual advisor and Catholic Church superior disagree upon the color of the Virgin’s robes when only she can allegedly “see” the Virgin. (She had what are termed in the Church as “private revelations”.)
To a modern person, such a thing may seem trivial, but in the Catholic Church, of such stuff schisms and even heresies are made. Her purity is considered questionable when she creates an embroidery depicting a situation of female sexuality and her spiritual advisor commands her to unknit it. Of course, the larger issues of potential sexual predation by the reeve and the heterodox sexuality in the peasant culture in which she lives remain unaddressed by the responsible adults in Christine’s life. The movie ends with an implicit break with both the church and the anchorite lifestyle on Christine’s part, because of these struggles in conjunction with the public persecution initiated against her mother. However, historical record shows that Christine successfully petitioned the ecclesiastical authorities to return to living as an anchoress. It is unknown what became of her mother, siblings, and the reeve.

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