The medieval perception was based on a consideration of reality different from the current one, made of invisible immaterial truths. The reality of equality with materiality is a modern mental habit, far from medieval practices; both the natural and the supernatural were for the Middle Ages part of their daily reality, because they represented in themselves signs of a higher truth, of a sacred universe.
In the biographies of saints as a genre, which is not seen is not perceived as unreal; On the contrary, it sometimes has a more real character and even a distinctive materiality and that reinforces its condition as true.
According to the parameters of medieval holiness, each thing is not what it seems, but a sign of something else; in this way, material reality can oppose spiritual reality, which is ultimately constituted as true. This is explicit in many lives of medieval saints women in which the outer beauty must be lost to acquire the interior, which only it sees through corporal punishment, asceticism and penance as purifying and revealing processes of the most true of realities: the miracle as a sign of divine intervention in earthly affairs.
What undoubtedly characterized the medieval mentality was an inclusive awareness of simultaneous realities; realities that converged on the logic of the miracle as a point of contact between a natural world and a supernatural world perceived as part of divine creation, as concurrent manifestations of all harmonious.
The miracle intertwined simultaneous realities making the invisible visible, clarifying the hidden form of truth and revealing, in its narrative logic, a more inclusive concept of reality.
This medieval perception of simultaneous realities undoubtedly also determined the postulation of often contradictory models, as is the case with the vision of women held by narrators, poets or preachers in the period. The woman as a tempter and / or as a virgin introduce in many medieval tales. The model of repentant prostitutes represents a paradigm that fascinated the medieval.
The cult of repentant prostitutes carried out in Europe during the twelfth century in parallel to the increase in Marian devotion and undoubtedly proposed female models closer to the faithful. Faced with the impossible ideal of femininity that the Virgin Mary embodied, devotion parallel to the penitents was the possible response, although equally difficult to achieve, contributed to the development and advancement of feminine spirituality.
What repentant prostitutes represented the process of transformation from sin to visible grace in the opposing figures of Eve and the Virgin, dramatizing holiness as an arduous and complex process but possible for any sinner, beyond the seriousness of their sin . The dramatization of this conversion process will be a privileged vehicle in Europe for the exposition of Christian doctrine, since in developing acts of conversion, repentance and penance the legends of holy prostitutes communicated Christian doctrine to readers or listeners not as abstract concepts but as concrete experiences to be shared.
The miracle is the superposition, in the same scenario, of two distant worlds, the sensible and the supernatural, which manifests itself as an extraordinary phenomenon. If that scenario is the body of the saint, especially in the case of a holy woman, the identification of her whole life as a miraculous reality implies the loss of all femininity to make possible the spiritual growth that conveys the miracle.
Faced with the ambiguity of human language, the divine word assumes a character of truth related to the knowledge of those who remain hidden and with the know what will happen and be able to announce it even though it has not yet had. This divine knowledge, related to the power of the word, whether spoken or written, extends the essence of the miracle to the text itself as a possible divine intermediation, capable of calling holiness by its name and thus becoming its main testimony.