Beguines supporters gallery

In this section are listed the biographies of the most famous admirers, and therefore also supporters, of the beguines. As for the portraits of the beguines, here too the list will be always incomplete and unachieved. The names of the both are generally written in the original language.

Let’s start by recalling that it was thanks to these men, sometimes anonymous, that we were able to know the “vitae” of the following beguines with their associated biographer:

Beguine                                                    Biographer
Marie d’Oignies (+1213)                    Jaques de Vitry  and  Thomas de Cantimpré
Odilia di Liegi (+1220)                       Anonymous priest of St Lambert of Liège
Juetta di Huy (+1228)                        Hugo di Floreffe, Premostratensian
Christine de Saint trond (+1228)   Thomas de Cantimpré
Christine de Stommeln (+1312)      Pierre de Dacie
Ida di Nivelles (+1231)                       Goswin di  Bossut, Cistercian
Ida di Leuven (+dopo il 1231)          Anonymous Cistercian
Margherita d’Ypres (+1234)            Thomas de Cantimpré
Julienne de Mont –Cornillon (+1259) Anonynous priest of St Martin of Liège
Ida di Gorsleeuw (+after 1262)        Anonymous Cistercian
Beatrice di Nazareth (+1268)            Anonymous Cistercian

Here is a first list  of their admirers-protectors. Every name is linked with a short biography below :

Adolphe de la MARCK (1288-1344)

Cesarius de HEISTERBACH (1180-1240)

Dieudonné DUFRASNE(1938-2017)

ECKHART Master (ca 1260-1328)

Foulque de TOULOUSE (or de MARSEILLE) (c.1155-1231)

Geert GROTE (or GROOTE) (1340-1384)

Goswin de BOSSUT (XIII°)

Guiard de CRESSONESSART ( XIII- XIV°)

Guido de NIVELLES (+1227)

Hugues de PIERREPONT (+ 1229)

Jacques PANTALÉON (1195-1264)

Jacques de VITRY (1170-1240)

Jan van RUUSBROEC (1293-1281) (also RUYBBROECK ou RUESBROEC)

Jean de NIVELLES (+ shortly after 1219)

Lambert LE BEGUE (1131 – 1180 or 1187)

Louis IX (saint) (1214-1270)

Louis MASSIGNON (1883-1962)

Mario (don) SENSI (1939-2015)

Pierre de DACIE (between 1230-40 – 1289)

Robert de SORBON(1201-1274)

Thomas de CANTIMPRÉ (+1272)

Adolphe de la MARCK (1288-1344)
Bishop of Liège, he protects the beguines by convincing Pope John XXII and by his initiatives in their favour in his diocese. On August 13, 1318, under the pressure of generous protectors (including Bishop Adolphe de La Marck himself), John XXII by his bull “Ratio recta” deletes  the sentence promulgated six years ago against the beguines of the Netherlands and the region of Liège.

Cesarius of HEISTERBACH (1180-1240)
He was a German abbot and a writer, prior of the former Cistercian abbey of Heisterbac. Césarius spoke about the beguines in very laudatory terms, as the Walter Simons reported in his book  Cities of Ladies  (p.35) :  “Cesarius of Heisterbach, a Cistercian monk living in the region of Cologne and well informed about goings-on in Low Countries, affirmed that “Although those [holy] women, whom we known to be very numerous in the diocese of Liège, live among the people wearing lay clothes, they still surpass many of cloister in the love of God. They live the eremitical life among the crowds, spiritual among the worldly and virginal among those who seek pleasure. As their battle is greater, so is their grace, and a greater crown will await them”.

Dieudonné DUFRASNE (1938-2017)
Dieudonné Dufrasne was born in 1938 in Cuesmes in the Belgian coalfield Borinage. Became a Benedictine monk in 1959 and then ordained priest in 1963, Dieudonné was one of the founders of the monastery of Clerlande where his funeral was celebrated on 27 October 2017. There, he was above all interested in liturgical renewal, but also in the animation of groups and the generous personal welcome that I also received during my research on the beguines. His name will remain linked at the publication in 2007 of Libres et folles d’amour (Free and love’s crazy), one of the first popular works on the beguinal movement, later translated into Italian with the beautiful title “Donne moderne del Medioevo” (Modern Women of the Middle Ages). The book reveals his deep admiration for the loving boldness of the beguines and features three of them: Mechthild of Magdebourg, Hadewijch and Marguerite Porete.
Dieudonné was “A man of God close to the people. His sweetness, his intelligence, his right word express how much he care to be a witness of a God who has become flesh for our joys and our pains” writes Marcela Lobo in one of the 52 commemorative texts.

ECKHART Master (ca 1260-1328)
Perhaps his name was John, he was born in Hochheim, in Thuringia, around 1260, in a family of the little nobility. He entered the Dominican order, held his novitiate in Erfurt, then in 1285 he was sent to the Dominican General Studium in Cologne, where Albertus Magnus (+1280) and Thomas Aquinas (+1274) had worked.
On 18 April 1294 he was in Paris as a reader of the Sentences of Pietro Lombardo, his first teaching position, under which he obtained the license for the doctorate in theology, a condition for a chair. He was also, like Thomas Aquinas, twice magister actu regens, professor at the University of Paris. His last teaching position was in Cologne. He writes in the vernacular language four treaties and about 120 sermons.
Master Eckhart was also a man of government as prior of the convent of Erfurt from 1294 to 1298 and vicar of Thuringia. In 1303, he was provincial prior of the Dominican province of Saxony, then in 1307 of the province of Bohemia. In 1324 in Strasbourg he held the post of vicar general with jurisdiction over the female monasteries of the Order of Preachers.
Himself a great preacher, he was reproached for preaching to the laity the great theological reflections in the German language. Following a challenge to his preaching by two Dominicans, slanderers and intrigues, the Archbishop of Cologne, Henry II of Virneburg, an inquisition process against Master Eckhart was initiated in 1326. For that, he appeals to the Apostolic See of Avignon, where the trial will take place, but he died in 1328 during the trip. On March 27, 1329, Pope John XXII promulgated the Bull In agro dominico, by which he condemned twenty-eight propositions drawn from Master Eckhart’s works.
Great figure of the German mysticism, during the 10 years of his mandate as Vicar General of the Dominican Order in Strasbourg, Master Eckhart protects the beguines and intervenes in their support. Later he will be a frequent visitor to the beguinage in Cologne. As Jacqueline Kelen notes in her book on Hadewijch, Master Eckhart drew many themes from the l béguinal mysticism that he later developed, such as deepening of the inner life, contemplative union without intermediaries, deification, annihilation in the One.

Foulque de TOULOUSE (or MARSEILLE) (c.1155-1231)
He was born from a Genoese family established in Marseille. After being a merchant and poet, he became a Cistercian monk, since his love for Eudoxie de Montpellier is not paid. So, in 1195, he wrote his last poem and entered the Order. He will then be a Bishop of Toulouse and will participate in the crusade against the Albigensians. Looking for refuge in Liège, he discovered the beguines who stroked him very much and who elected them as example. Taking a temporal refuge in Oignies, he insisted with Jacques de Vitry to write Marie d’Oignies’ Life, since he considered her “defensor Dei” and an effective example in the struggle against the Catharses. This is why Jacques will dedicate this work to him.

Geert GROTE (1340-1384)
Canon and notable in the Dutch city of Deventer, Geert Grote knew very well the world of the beguines and most probably he took inspiration for the foundation of the Devotio Moderna, a movement – the brothers and sisters of the common life – for a poor, personal and secular Christianity which was very successful in Belgium, Holland and West Germany, This movement is considered one of the anticipations of the Reformation. The Devotio Sisters had the term beguine as their nickname, but unlike these, they lived in community of goods (Charles Caspers, Breda, 2017).
Grote had great esteem for the beguines who, though not pronouncing their perpetual vows, lived in evangelical simplicity and were certainly not less religious than the clergy.

Goswin de BOSSUT (XIIIth)
Cistercian of the abbey of Villers, he is the alleged author of the Life of Ida of Nivelles and perhaps of other beguines’ biographies. In fact, intense contacts, informal and non-institutional, existed between the monks of Villers and the beguines of the area of Nivelles-Oignies.

Guiard de CRESSONESSART (XIII-XIV)
Cleric of the diocese of Beauvais, he was imprisoned in 1308 and sentenced to life in prison in 1310 for having helped and defended Marguerite Porete. Romana Guarnieri writes about him: “A strenuous defender of ‘apostolic life’, he declares himself sent by Christ to support and save those faithfuls who have given everything and live in perfect poverty, and for this they are persecuted

Guido de NIVELLES (+1227)
Priest, brother-in-law of Marie d’Oignies, Guido was the chaplain of the leper colony of Willambroux, when Marie and her husband were also there. Later he practiced in the chapel of the adjacent beguinal community until his death in 1227.

Hugues de PIERREPONT (+1229)
Prince bishop of Liege from 1200 to 1229, he welcomes and promotes in his diocese the female penitential movement, of which Marie d’Oignies is one of the best known figures.

Jacques PANTALÉON (1195-1264)
Archdeacon of Liège, he was a great admirer of Julienne, the beguine-recluse of Mont-Cornillon, and later Augustinian nun, who, following a vision, promoted the Corpus Christi Feast. He will support her with Robert de Thourotte, the Bishop of Liège. When then he became Pope himself, Urban IV (1261-64), with his 1264 Bull “Transiturus de hoc mundo“, will officially formalize this feast and set it aside for the whole Church.

Jacques de VITRY (1170-1240)
A native of Vitry-sur-Seine (Reims), parish priest d’Argentueil, «magister parisiensis», canonical regular in Saint Nicolas d’Oignies, Archbishop of Acre (1216), auxiliary of the Bishop-Prince of Liège, Cardinal Bishop of Frascati (1228), he died in Rome in 1240. He accompanied the Crusaders in the siege of Damietta (1218).
A great defender of the beguines, he helped to support them and to make them recognized by ecclesiastical authority. Jacques de Vitry was struck by the figure of Marie d’Oignies, about whom he wrote a “Vita” in view of her beatification. He left Paris, where he was a teacher of theology: “Tired of dry studies and worldliness and thirsty for inner life, he ended up settling near her (Marie) as a canon of the small and poor Augustinian priory” (Romana Guarnieri, Donne e chiesa tra mistica e istituzioni,, p.76). Deeply struck by her wisdom, he gave up teaching to become a humble itinerant preacher. From now on Marie will be the inspirer of all his sermons. For Jacques, women like Marie could save Christianity from heresy.

Jan van RUUSBROEC or RUYSBROEC or RUYSBROECK (1293-1381)
He frequented the beguinal environment very closely, as his mother spent the last few years in the Brussels beguinage, after leaving the village of Ruysbroeck in order to be close to her son who was becoming a priest at the St. Gudule Cathedral in Brussels. Ruusbroec himself assumes the spiritual guidance of a community of beguines in Brussels. After 20 years of parish service, he retired to Groenendal with two other companions to live a more contemplative life. “When we refer to those times, the foundation of Goenendal may appear as something else from the desire for a spiritual life away from parochial concerns and assignments. It was to take the right path between the corruption of the clergy and the unruliness of the madmen of love breaking with the Church “(Claude-Henri Rocquet, p.45)
In fact, as Ruusbroec expresses himself in his Del tabernacolo spirituale: “Look at the princes of the Church and tell me if they are good shepherds. Their palaces are full of servants. From them greatness and power abound, wealth of the world. Their table collapses with dishes and nectar, their closets and their trunks are full of precious clothes and jewels, they have in abundance all the most magnificent is offered by the earth. But they never get enough and the more they receive, the more they want. They are similar to the miserable world hungry for earthly goods because it does not have the taste of God “.
Many traits of his spirituality are of beguinal origin. Paul Verdeyen affirms that “he had to be greatly influenced by the writings of the beguine Hadewijch and we can even say that Ruusbroec and his brothers have “saved” the literary posterity of Hadewijch. In fact, anyone who knows the history of women’s writings of this era, knows that the beguine Hadewijch had to cope with numerous problems“. Sweet, humble, luminous, solitary, in the fifteenth century the Carthusian Denys nicknamed him the Admirable for the depth and quantity of his works written in the mother tongue, the thiois, the old Flemish.
A very different view of  Ruusbroec is given by Jacqueline Kelen who reproaches him for having “expropriated” Hadewijch without having mentioned her even once.
(Sources: Les activités de Ruusbroec à Bruxelles, Paul VERDEYN sj lecture on 14 February 1998 – Claude-Henri ROQUET, Petite vie de Ruysbrouck, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 2003 – Jacqueline KELEN, Hadewijch d’Anvers ou la voie glorieuse, Albin Michel, 2011).

Jean de NIVELLES (+ shortly after 1219)
An important figure in the ecclesiastical environment of Liège, he later retired to the monastery of Oignies, between 1215 and 1219. He had considerable influence on the development of the first nucleus of beguines in Liège, without being the founder. Jacques de Vitry said of him that he was light, teacher and spiritual father of the entire diocese.

Lambert LE BÈGUE (1131 – 1180 or 1187)
He was a priest of Liege from which some have erroneously derived the name of “beguine”, while it would be more correct to suppose that the epithet “Le Bègue” was attributed for his protection towards the beguines. He was also considered the founder of the beguinal movement following an idea emerged in the clerical environment around 1250 to assert the male prominence. According to Professor D’Haenens, the epithet Bègue would be written Bège and would allude to the rough wool dress brought by Lambert and his disciples. He was arrested, mistreated and imprisoned in the castle of Revogne-lez-Rochefort, then taken to prison in Rome because his preaching against the scandals and simony of the Church of Liege. It seems that he had sent a critical text to Pope Callistus III – the Antigraphum Petri (the defence of Peter) – in which he denounced the laxity of the priests. At that time, many clerics lived openly with their spouses.
The vernacular translation of the Acts of the Apostles (translated in rhyme so that the illiterate people could memorize them more easily), of some texts of the New Testament and of Lives of Saints, among them that of Saint Agnes, caused him a sentence and prison. But rehabilitated by Pope Callistus III to whom he had sent an apology in his defence, he returned to Liège where he died a short time later (in 1180 or 1187 according to the sources). Shortly before his death, he would have built a church in Saint Christophe at his own expense and some small houses to welcome women who wanted to live under his direction, away from the world or, as others say, a retreat house for single women, widows of the crusaders. (Sources: J.Delmelle, Lemmens, pp. 103-105, Simons)

Louis IX (saint) (1214-1270)
He became king of France at the age of 12. He lead two crusades (VII and VIII). In 1260 he founded the great Beguinage of Paris, which he placed directly under his protection and entrusted the first direction to a Flemish «Magistra», Agnès de Orchies. This beguinage, which will be closed in 1471, could host about 400 women, widows or unmarried young ladies.

Louis MASSIGNON (1883-1962)
Orientalist and French theologian, great scholar of Islam and in particular of its mysticism, he was very impressed by the beguine Christine of Sint Truiden (+1224). He considers her as a saint while Pius IX (in 1857) institutes her like Blessed. At the invitation of Fr.Van Straeten, rector of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, that preserves the relics of Saint Chistine and serve in the sanctuary of Steenart, Louis Massignon prepares a study and a conference for Thursday 24 July (the day of her death) 1924, in the 7th centenary of her death. This text will then be published in La Cité chrétienne and in 1950 in a tribute volume. The figure of Christine hits Massignon on different levels, personal and spiritual. In Gedenkboek published in 1950 we read: “L.Massignon professor at the Collège de France, who in 1924, on the occasion of the 7th centenary of the death of St. Christine, had asked to be able to glorify the saint in gratitude for the grace of his conversion which he attributes to our virgin of Sint Truiden “(p.350). On the scientific and spiritual level, the text presents the Massignon’s reflection on the themes of substitution, the reparative oblation of “special victims” and allows him to “argue” on the themes of miracles and supernatural phenomena. (Source: MASSIGNON Louis, Ecrits mémorables, Tome I, Laffont, Paris, 2009)

Mario SENSI (1939 – 2015)
Born in Assisi in 1939, he was ordained a priest in 1963 and soon after was appointed parish priest of Colfiorito. Doctor of theology (1967) and then Doctor of Philosophy (1970), in October 1988, he was appointed professor of Church History at the Pontifical Lateran University, becoming, in 2002, professor of History of the ancient and medieval Church. Since October 2009 he has been professor emeritus. It has brought out in the history many beguinal communities of Central Italy with a meticulous expertise. To him we owe the most complete monographs of these experiences, arose from “ a solitary, slow, silent and tireless study” as Romana Guarnieri, his great friend, had to say. The work, in two volumes, which sums it up is “Mulieres in Ecclesia. Storie di monache e bizzzoche”, Italian Center of Studies on the High Middle Ages, Spoleto, 2010
Since the 1960s, Mario Sensi, then a twenty-year-old seminarian, came across the beguines of the thirteenth century and explored various parish and diocesan archives, “bringing out a dense landscape from the thick fog, inhabited by a crowd of minor female figures … all these linked by a moving “gender” solidarity, attested by countless wills, left by wealthy women in favour of other women poorer than them, both of then being pious“(Guarnieri, p.408). In Umbria they were many. Don Sensi was also a dynamic animator of the ecclesiastical archival association.

Pierre de DACIE (between 1230/40 – 1289)
He is one of the most important writers in the Latin language of Swedish literature. Pierre was born in Visby (Island of Gotteland) between 1230-1240. Around 1250, he entered as a novice in the convent of the friar preachers of his hometown (the term “Dominicans” will be in use only from the sixteenth century), where he pronounced his vows. He is of a neurasthenic temperament, with a personality dedicated to the rigor of the Dominican discipline. The meeting with the beguine Christine de Stommeln in 1267 in Cologne, where he finished his studies at the Studium founded by Alberto Magno, will upset his spiritual life.
On December 20, 1267, introduced by his brother Walter, he went to visit this beguine who knows ecstasy, hallucinations and stigmata. Between 1267 and 1269, Pierre meets Christine 13 times and then goes to study in Paris near Thomas Aquinas, where he will stay more than a year and from there he will begin a correspondence that will end only at his death. On his return from Paris he meets Christine for the 14th time on 29 of September 1270. He returns to Sweden where he teaches philosophy and theology and will be prior in various monasteries. Taking advantage of a trip to Cologne, where he went for his heart problems, he will make a 15th visit to Christine and will try to take her to Sweden on three occasions.
A final visit will take place in 1287 on his return from the general chapter of Bordeaux. In 1288 his health diminishes. He dies during Lent in 1289. Christine survived him for 23 years. Peter wrote Christine’s Life, made reports of his visits and collected 38 of their letters (those of Christine are dictated to her confessors).
The relationship with Christine helped him to overcome his natural melancholy and to express a form of lyricism, more inspired by the psalms than by the poetry. Ernest Renan was interested in this “monastic idyll”, a jewel of spiritual friendship.

Robert de SORBON (1201-1274)
He was born in a peasant family in a small Ardennes village. He studied to become a priest, was promoted a doctor and provided a rectory in the church of Cambrai. His sermons and lectures earned him a good reputation and King (Saint) Louis IX chose him as chaplain and perhaps as a confessor. He is the founder of the Sorbonne where laymen who study theology can be relieved of material difficulties. The Aline Kiner’s novel La nuit des beguines tells us that Robert de Sorbon kept sermons in the great beguinage in Paris and defended the beguines. The historian Grundmann writes that “In the middle of the 13th century, at the University of Paris, two theologians were teaching close to each other: one, Robert de Sorbon, saw the Beguines and the Papelards as particularly pious people, who for their authentic and fervent piety they were despised and mocked by the supporters of a worldly life; the other William of Saint Amour, fanatical opponent of the whole poverty movement, hurled his vehement insults and his insinuations full of mockery against the Beguines and the Papelards “(Grundmann, Religious Movements in the Middle Ages, Il Mulino, 1974 p.339 )

Thomas de CANTIMPRE (+1272)
Younger of one generation of Jacques de Vitry, Thomas de Cantimpré was born in Bellingen in the Flemish Brabant (south of Brussels) around 1200. Son of a noble family, destined to become a priest, at 6 he was sent to the Abbey of Cantimpré where he attended up to his 17 years
the courses of the capitular school of the cathedral. He will be officially integrated into this community of regular canons and will receive priestly ordination in 1223. The entry of Thomas among the Dominicans in 1232 marks a new stage: he takes the habit in the convent of Leuven where he will almost always live, except for short stays in Paris, Trier and Cologne. Following the Dominican spirit, he immediately resumed his studies: in Cologne with St. Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great, in Paris in the convent of Saint-Jacques. In 1246 he returned to Leuven where he served as a sub-prior and as a reader, then as a general preacher for a large region covering part of Germany, Belgium and France. Bilingual preacher, he travels Flanders from east to west and also France to preach against the Albigensians. He died on May 15, no doubt around 1270-1272. To him we owe various hagiographies of beguines (Béatrice de Nazareth, Christine de St Trond, Marguerite d’Ypres, le supplément à la Vie de Marie d’Oignies …). But his most famous work is The Book of Bees, a treatise on religion and practical morality in the framework of an allegory on bees. There are elements of anthropology, zoology, botany, mineralogy, astronomy, astrology and meteorology.