The tomboyism of faith: spiritual tomboyism in the cult of Sainte Foy

J Lesbian Stud. 2011;15(4):412-49. doi: 10.1080/10894160.2011.532028.


This article offers a reading of premodern, spiritual tomboyism as evident in the cult of Sainte Foy in France during the ninth to eleventh centuries. It draws attention to the signs of differently gendered and aged masculinities in the female child saint. Martyred at the cusp of puberty, Sainte Foy remains forever suspended in her gender development. Bernard of Angers, in the Liber miraculorum, portrays Foy as a trickster tomboy whose miracles are known as her "jokes." But beyond the historical Foy and the textual Foy, there is a third Foy who is embodied in a reliquary statue with an adult male head. In times of social upheaval, Sainte Foy, whose earthly presence is manifest in her relics and reliquary statue, functions as a local patronus who protects her monastery, properties, and devotees. Her male-headed reliquary further affirms her identity as a holy warrior of Christ who fights to uphold the Peace of God. As trickster-tomboy and warrior-patronus, Sainte Foy hovers at and crosses over the boundaries of both gender- and age-based identities and practices.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Christianity / history
  • Christianity / psychology*
  • France
  • Gender Identity*
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Masculinity*
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Saints / history*

Personal name as subject

  • Sainte Foy