“In the midst of the Trinity”: Angela of Foligno's Trinitarian theology of communion

Diane V Tomkinson, Fordham University


Angela of Foligno (d. 1309) was a Franciscan lay penitent and mystic who articulated a distinctive Trinitarian theology of communion. This dissertation seeks to identify Angela's theological voice and contribution by engaging the mediated nature of the Memorial and Instructions , which she composed in collaboration with various anonymous Franciscan friars. An analysis of the manuscript tradition, redactional diversity and theological content of these texts demonstrates that Angela's theological voice remains recognizably consistent in both the Memorial and the majority of the Instructions, while the primary elements of theological divergence can be traced back to the editorial influence of a few of her scribes. Angela of Foligno thus takes her place as a vernacular theologian within the medieval Franciscan tradition, who articulated a Trinitarian theology characterized by a distinctive spiral pattern, linguistic strategy and understanding of communion. A close reading of the Memorial indicates that Angela's theology of the Trinity reflected the spiral pattern of her own mystical experiences. She described a spiraling path of mystical communion that moved in the Holy Spirit, through profound identification with the Crucified Christ, into the midst of the Trinity. She developed a distinctive linguistic strategy of using the personal titles of Father, Son and Holy Spirit to speak about the Triune God as revealed in salvation history, while employing symbolic language such as “All Good” and “abyss” to point to the ineffable Triune Mystery in which she was immersed in the depths of mystical communion. This spiral pattern and linguistic strategy functioned to affirm the simultaneous unity and distinction of the Trinity, as constituted by relationships of dynamic intimacy and mutuality that Angela insisted could never be adequately expressed in finite terms. Angela imaged divine and created reality in spiraling patterns of dynamic mutual relationship, rather than in hierarchical patterns of ascent to an originating divine person or absorption into a primordial divine unity. The concluding chapter of this study argues that Angela's Trinitarian theology of communion can be a resource for feminist theologians, who seek to articulate a contemporary Trinitarian theology that contributes to the flourishing of women, men and all God's creatures.

Subject Area

Theology|Middle Ages|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Tomkinson, Diane V, "“In the midst of the Trinity”: Angela of Foligno's Trinitarian theology of communion" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3125029.