Franciscan nun and reformer. Born at Calcye in Picardy, where her father was a carpenter at Corbie abbey, she was christened Nicolette Boylet. She grew up with a taste for prayer and solitude. Both her parents died in 1398: under the direction of the abbot of Corbie she lived as a hermit close to the abbey church and became a Franciscan tertiary. A reputation for austerity and holiness resulted in numerous visitors seeking her advice. Dreams and visions followed: she believed she was called upon to restore the Rule of Francis and Clare to existing convents of Franciscan nuns. The antipope Benedict XIII (Peter de Luna), recognized by France and some other countries, encouraged her by professing her as a Poor Clare and by placing her in charge of all convents which she might found or reform.
At first she met with rejection in several convents but reformed the nunnery at Besançon in 1410 and eventually founded seventeen new convents as well as reforming several old ones. Perhaps the most famous is that of Le Puy (Haute-Loire), which has enjoyed unbroken continuity. Her convents were established mainly in France, Flanders, and Savoy.
Like Francis she combined a deep devotion to Christ's Passion with appreciation and care for animals. She died at Ghent; under Joseph II her body was translated to Poligny ( Jura). She was canonized in 1807. Feast: 6 March (7 February).
U. d'Alen-Gouldçon, Les vies de sainte Colette Boylet de Corbie (1911);J. Goulven, Rayonnement de Sainte Colette (1952);S. Roisin in D.H.G.E., xiii (1856), 238–46;Life by A. Ravier (1976);a fine illuminated manuscript of her Life, commissioned by Margaret of Burgundy (sister of Edward IV of England) survives in the convent of Poor Clares at Ghent, ed. C. van Corstanje, Vita sanctae Coletae (1981). See also B.L.S., iii. 56–9;Bibl. SS., iv. 76–81.
Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) — Christianity.