Prof. Sara Jane BOSS


  • Theologian, and international authority on the theology and cult of the Virgin Mary.  Director and principal founder of the Centre for Marian Studies, which, since its foundation in 1995, has promoted the multidisciplinary study of  this subject at all academic levels.

  • Current academic interests: Deification in Mariology; the theology of Ramon Llull; the theology of creation and ecology; Marxism and religion.

  • Former Vice-President of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain.

  • Author of books, articles and academic papers.

  • Experienced in editing journals.

  • Experienced organiser of conferences and study days.

  • Proof reader.

  • Occasional contributor to the broadcast and print media, both religious and secular.

  • Good negotiating skills, learnt during five years as a trade union officer.



Higher Educational Qualifications


BA (Hons.) Theology and Sociology, class II1  (University of Bristol, 1983)


PhD Sociology (University of Bristol, 1994), thesis title: Marian Doctrine and Devotion in the Light of the Critical Theory of Domination


STB (Katholiek Universiteit Leuven, 2016)


[Currently studying for the STL (St Patrick’s College, Maynooth)]





2011-              Self-employed writer and lecturer.  Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Roehampton.  Director of the Centre for Marian Studies (educational charity).  Recent and current work includes: supervision of research students; teaching for Oxford University Department of Continuing Education and St. Mary’s College, Oscott; occasional invited lectures; proof-reading for academic publishers.  Clerk to the Governors of the Rosary Primary School, Stroud (2016-17); Membership Secretary of the Alister Hardy Trust (2016-17).


2010-2011      Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies, Roehampton University.


2002-2009      Lecturer in Christian Theology, University of Wales Lampeter.                      


1993-2002       Self-employed lecturer and writer.

From 1995:  Director of the Centre for Marian Studies.

Other work included:  Editor of Maria: A journal of Marian Studies, 1999-2003;  Executive Editor of The Way (journal of spirituality), 2000-2001;  teaching university courses in Theology, Sociology and contributing to courses in the History of Art;  teaching on the Peace Preaching Course (training lay Christians to preach, under the auspices of the Dominican order), 1989-1995;  acting as religious books adviser to The Tablet, 1994;  proof-reading for The Tablet and Cassell publishers.


1989-1992            Lay Chaplain at the West London Catholic Chaplaincy.


1985-1989             Tutor in Biblical Studies (Old Testament) at St. Stephen’s House, Oxford.



Other professional activities


Invited papers presented to Llull Year conferences, 2016, in Barcelona (November 17th-18th) and Oxford (November 24th);  PhD examiner: Edinburgh (2001, external), Lampeter (2006 and 2007, internal), Leuven (2010, external), Roehampton (2010, internal), Durham (2011, external), Birmingham (2011, external); External examiner for several universities and all levels of degree;  External validator for the University of Winchester Postgraduate Diploma in Theology, 2012-13;  President of the Lampeter Association of the University and College Union, 2007-9;  Lampeter UCU Pay and Grading Officer (for the implementation of the Framework Agreement), 2007-8;  Secretary of Lampeter UCU, 2004-2007;  occasional contributor to BBC religious broadcasts, 1995- (including Radio 4 Lent talk, April 2004; World Service ‘In Praise of God’, June 2004;  Radio 4 ‘Beyond Belief’, March 2016);  member of the working group on religion and the environment for the Malvern Conference, 1991;  member of the Board of SCM Press, 1983-85.




Sarah Jane Boss:  Publications



Monographs and edited volumes


[As editor]  Mary: A resource book for study  London: Continuum, and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007 (hbk) and 2009 (pbk)


Mary [in the series ‘New Century Theology’]  London: Continuum, 2004


Empress and Handmaid: On nature and gender in the cult of the Virgin Mary  London: Cassell, 2000



Book in preparation


The Spirit of Mary  New Haven and London: Yale University Press



Academic Papers


‘Original Holiness: The Blessed Virgin Mary in the Catholic Theology of Nineteenth-Century Europe’, in Chris Maunder (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Virgin Mary  Oxford: OUP [forthcoming].


‘Mary’s virginity in the work of Ramon Llull’, in Lesley Twomey, et al. (eds.), Christ, Mary and the Saints: Theorizing our spiritual past  Martlesham (Suffolk): Boydell and Brewer [forthcoming].

‘Deification: The Mariology of the ordinary faithful’, in New Blackfriars, vol.98:1074 (March 2017), 188-202 [paper invited by the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain].


‘The nature of Nature in Ramon Llull’, in Penelope Dransart (ed.): Living Beings  Oxford: Berg (for the Association of Social Anthropologists), 2013.


‘Llull’s Llibre de Santa Maria: Theodicy, ontology and initiation’, Studia Lulliana, 51 (2011), pp.25-51.


‘Wisdom’s House:  Abbott David’s commissioning of the Elder Lady Chapel’, in Jon Cannon and Elizabeth Williamson (eds.):  An Enigma Explored: The Medieval Art, Architecture and History of Bristol Cathedral, 2  Woodbridge: Boydell, 2011, pp.61-68.  [Invited paper given to conference at the University of Bristol]


‘ “Black but beautiful”:  The black madonnas of Western Europe and the biblical commentaries of St. Bernard of Clairvaux’, in Christine E.Joynes and Christopher C.Rowland (eds.):  From the Margins II: Women of the New Testament and their Afterlives  Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2009


‘Alcuin of York on Wisdom and Mary: Texts and buildings’, in Zoë Devlin and Caroline N.J. Holas-Clark:  Approaching Interdisciplinarity: Archaeology, History and the Study of Early Medieval Britain, c.400-1100,  BAR British Series 486, 2009, pp.62-71.


‘Francisco Suárez and modern Mariology’, in Mary: A resource book for study [above]


‘Modern images of the Virgin Mary in Welsh churches’, in Martin O’Kane (ed.):  The Bible and the Visual Imagination  London: SPCK, 2007


‘The body of the Virgin Mary in Catholic imagination’, in Trivium (journal of the University of Wales, Lampeter), 2007


‘The Cult of the Immaculate Heart: Catholicism in modernity’, in R.N. Swanson (ed.):  The Virgin Mary (Ecclesiastical History Society: Studies in Church History)  Woodbridge: Boydell, 2004  [Main paper given to the summer conference of the Ecclesiastical History Society]


‘Does the creation hide or reveal its Creator?  A conversation with Ramon Llull’ [paper invited by the conference of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain, 2003], in New Blackfriars 85; 996 (March 2004), pp.170-185


‘Union with God: The Mother of God as a sign of creation’s destiny’, in Maria: A journal of Marian studies, 2.1 (August 2001), pp.58-74


‘The Virgin Mary and Other Women:  A short appraisal of the situation in Northern European Catholicism’, in Lawrence Osborn and Andrew Walker (eds.):  Harmful Religion:  An exploration of religious abuse  London: SPCK, 1997, pp.122-143


‘Mary at the Margins:  Christology and ecclesiology in modernity’, in Geoffrey Turner and John Sullivan (eds.):  Explorations in Catholic Theology:  Papers from the Catholic Theological Association  Dublin: Lindisfarne Books, 1999, pp.47-77  [paper given in 1996]


‘On Discerning the Body and Acknowledging the Head:  Notes on 1 Corinthians 11’, in The Way Supplement 67, 1990, pp.44-61


‘Anthropic or Androcentric?  Design principles in theology and science’, in Japke Huisman and Saskia de Jong (eds.):  Overgrenzen: Vrouwen en Wetenschappelijke Innovaties  Vol: Theologie: Immanentie / Transcendentie  Groningen: RU Groningen, 1989, pp.25-60


‘The Weakness of Women’ [invited paper presented to the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain], in The Month, November 1988, pp.978-985



Papers in preparation


‘Axis Mundi: The Virgin Mary at the heart of Christian life’, in Rachel Fulton Brown (ed.), The Brill Companion to Medieval Marian Devotion


‘Mariology from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Centuries’ [in preparation for The Oxford Handbook of the Virgin Mary, ed. Chris Maunder]


‘Marian Devotion as an Expression of Catholic Self-Understanding’ [in preparation for publication; paper invited by the Theology Faculty of the Catholic University of Leuven, June 2018]





‘Mary’, in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Biblical Theology,  Oxford University Press, 2015


‘Jerusalem, dwelling of the Lord: Marian pilgrimage and its destination’, in Philip North (ed.):  Sacred Space: House of God, Gate of Heaven  London: Continuum, 2007


‘The tabernacle of creation’, in R.K. Samy (ed.):  Mary in our Search for Fullness of Life  Bangalore: NBCLC, 2006, pp.196-206


‘The Cosmic Womb: Labyrinth and rebirth in Christian symbolism’, in The Way 41 (October 2001), pp.301-314


‘Telling the Beads: The practice and symbolism of the rosary’, in The Way Supplement 100 (Spring 2001), pp.64-75


‘Mary’, in A. Hastings, et al. (eds.):  The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp.414-416


‘Guardians of the Way:  The mystery of the Incarnation in the cults of Black Madonnas’, in Martin Warner (ed.):  Mary and the revealing of the Word made flesh  London: Tufton Press, 1999, pp.95-122


‘Immaculate Conception’, ‘Saints’ and ‘Virginity’: entries in L. Isherwood and D. McEwan:  An A to Z of Feminist Theology  Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996  [articles altered by the editors without the author’s permission]



Other publications


Translated (with Philip Endean) Karl Rahner: ‘The Fundamental Principle of Marian Theology’, in Maria: A journal of Marian studies 1 (August 2000), pp.86-122


Articles and book reviews in The American Historical Review, The Heythrop Journal, Religion, Theology Today, The Way, The Tablet, Priests and People


[Children’s book]  Mary’s Story  Bath: Barefoot Books, 1999



The Centre for Marian Studies

(Registered Charity 1066253)


The Centre for Marian Studies is a registered charity whose object is the advancement of the education of the public in all matters regarding the Virgin Mary.  It has no religious affiliation, and is open to members of any religious tradition or none.  It is housed in the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Roehampton.

            The Centre was established in 1995, and, since its foundation, the has been building up a library and picture collection, running educational courses, supporting research, providing lecturers for outside organisations, providing help and supervision for students, and giving information to the mass media and general public.

            Oversight of the CMS is carried out by the Consultative Committee.  The Consultative Committee members are: Kevin Alban (Carmelite Provincial), Sarah Boss (Director), Simon Coleman (Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto), Philip Endean, SJ (Centre Sèvres, Paris), Andrew Louth (Durham University and Institute of Orthodox Studies, Free University of Amsterdam), Chris Maunder (Department of Theology and Religious Studies, York St. John University), Catherine Oakes (Kellogg College, Oxford), Eileen Rubery (Girton College, Cambridge), Catherine O’Brien (Department of Media Studies, University of Kingston) and Paul Williams (Tewkesbury Abbey).



Responsibilities of the Director


Sarah Jane Boss has been the director of the Centre for Marian Studies since its foundation.  This has entailed a variety of tasks, which she undertakes in co-operation with the Consultative Committee:


1 / Designing and administering educational courses and conferences:


  • MA in Theology (Marian Studies);

  • One-day conferences:  The Virgin Mary: Representation and devotion in Britain (1996), Holy Wisdom in Christian tradition (1997), Mary in modern Catholic theology (1998), Miracles of the Virgin (1999), Mary and Islam (hosted jointly with the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, 2000), Black Madonnas: Discerning the meaning in the mystery (2001), Nature and the Virgin Mary: Perspectives from theology and human ecology (2002), The Immaculate Conception (hosted jointly with the Franciscan Study Centre, Canterbury, 2004), Holy Wisdom (2006), The Origins of the Cult of the Virgin Mary (2006), The Cult of the Virgin Mary in Early Roman and Byzantine Christianity (2010), The Continuing Temple (2012), The Virgin Mary and Women in Christianity and Islam (2013), and Unwedded Bride: Hymns in honour of the Mother of God in the Eastern and Oriental Churches (2015).

  • Lectures, day schools, evening classes and summer schools for the general public.


2   /Teaching on courses, and giving talks and lectures to outside organisations.


3   /General administration (including maintaining accounts), organising conferences and study courses, editing the newsletter, fund-raising, designing and distributing publicity, supervising the library, supervising volunteers and acting as clerk to the Trustees.