Whether they are famous or not, in this repertoire all the beguines I have encountered are here mentioned. We want to pay tribute to all these weavers of the beguinal movement.
Sometimes the traits of their vocation are inaccurate or may change with time, because life itself is modifiable and the beguinal choice offers multiple ways of living. In addition, lay and religious elements intertwine in beguinal life, and ecclesiastical pressures are not absent.
A short biography of each of them is (will be) presented and whenever possible a blue link refers to a wider description of their life. If a doute could exist, I have written in red the traits that allow us to include them among the beguines or near the beguinal movement.
Both traditional and modern beguines, but only the dead ones, are remembered, because they all belong to the same history. The list will always be incomplete because the memory is still being reconstructed, but with the women whom we find here, we are really in good company.
Here they are:
Agnès d’ANTHÉE (XIVth) (see Joan d’ANTHÉE )
Agnes BLANNBEKIN (c.1244-1315)
Agnès d’ORCHIES (XIIIth)
Aleydis VAN KAMERIJK ( CAMBRAI ) (+1235 or 1236)
Alyt BAKE ( 1415-1455 )
Angela da FOLIGNO (1248-1309)
Angelica BONFANTINI (+1244)
Angelina di MONTEGIOVE (1357-1435) (or MARSCIANO)
Angioletta da RIGNANO (XVIth)
Anna CORDEYS (Dienst and Leuven, +1720)
Anna VAN SCHRIECK (Antwerp, + 1688)
Béatrice of NAZARETH(+/-1200-1268)
Catalina GUIERA (XVth)
Caterina da BOLOGNA (1413-1463)
Cecilia FERRAZZI(1609 – 1684)
Chiara da MONTEFALCO(1268-1308)
Chiara da RIMINI(1282-1346)
Christina EBNER (1277-1356)
Christine of SINT-TRUIDEN (+/- 1160-1224)
Christine of STOMMELN (1242-1312)
Clusin ou Claesinne NIEUWLANTF (Gent, + 1611)
Colette BOYLET (+/- 1381-1447)
Colette di CORBIE (1381-1447)
Cornelia Catherina FRIJTERS (+1990)
Criste TSFLPGHELEERE (15th)
Cristina of MARKYATE(1096-1115)
Dorothée de MONTAU (1347-1394)
Douceline de DIGNE (+/-1214/15 et 1274)
Elisabeth of HUNGARY or THURINGIA (1207-1231)
Elisabeth of SPALBEEK(1246–1304)
Elizabeth of BERG (13th)
Eve de SAINT MARTIN (1190-1265)
Francesca ROMANA in the world Ceccolella Bussi (+1440)
Gertrude van HELFTA (+ 1302)
Gertrude van OOSTEN(+ 1358)
Gertrude RICKELDEY of ORTENBERG (+ 1335) and Heilke of STAUFENBERG (+ after 1335)
HADEWIJCH (+1250 ca)
HEILBIG or HELWIG (XIVth)
Ida van LEEUW or GORSLEEUW (+ after 1260)
Ida de NIVELLES (1197-1232)
Ingrid di SKÄNNINGE(1220-1282)
Isabelle DEWIT (XVIIIth)
Ivana CERESA (1942-2009)
Ivette ou Jutta de HUY (1157-1228)
Jeanne d’ARC (1412-1431)
Joan d’ANTHÉE (XIVe)
Julienne de CORNILLON (1193-1258)
Julian of NORWICH (1342 – 1413)
Jutta de LOOZF (or from Huy) (+ 1227)
Katherina VANDER HULST (15th)
KATREI Sister (14th)
Linke DOBBE (16th)
Lutgarde de TREVES (+1231)
Lydwine de SCHIEDAM (1380-1433)
MARCELLINA Sister (in the world Carolina SOLIMANDO) (XXth)
Margherita di CORTONA (1247-1297)
Marì DIAZ (circa 1490-1572)
Maria di AJOFRIN (XV)
Maria DAVILA (+ 1511)
Maria GARCÍA (1340-1426)
Maria LEPORINI (1951-2015)
Maria de TOLEDO (1437- after 1484)
Maria di OSTERWIJK (+ 1574)
Maria VAN HOUT (+1547)
Maria Bendetta di CARIGNANO and Maria Angela CANAL (14th)
Marie di GREZ(+1271)
Marie d’OIGNIES (1177-1213)
Marie PETYT (1623-1677)
Marcella PATTIJN (1920- 2013)
Marcella van HOECKE(1908-2008)
Marguerite d’ARLON (+1414)
Marguerite PORETE (+1310)
Marguerite d’YPRES (+1234 or 37)
Mechthild von MAGDEBURG (1208/10 – 1282)
Odile de LIÈGE (+1220)
Philippinne de PORCELLET (13th)
Rita da CASCIA (1381-1457)
Romana GUARNIERI (1913-2004)
Sofia del fu BARTOLO (13th)
Uda (o Oda) da THORENBAIS (13th)
Umiliana DEI CERCHI (1219-1246)
Umiltà di FAENZA (1226-1310)
Ysabiaus de WARLAING (14th)
She was the daughter of farmers, probably from the village of Plambach (near Vienna). She could read but not write. She went to live in Vienna, a city of many beguines. Like other free-spirited beguines, Agnès moved freely about Vienna, pausing several times a day to pray in shrines and attend mass at different churches. One of her devotional practices was to approach an altar after she has attended mass (and the priest had departed) and kiss the altar with a great display of emotion, sometimes, even dancing around the altar, an act forbidden to woman in medieval times.
Agnes was ridiculed for her apparently odd behaviour. For exemple, one day witness saw her bowing to a basement window as she passes by. Her detractors later discovered that a stolen consecrated host has been kept in the basement room. Her biographer attributed her behaviour to divine knowledge : Agnes had sensed that Christ was present in the consecrated host. Agnes’s Life and Revelations were compiled by an anonymous confessor before being transcribed by the monk Ermenrich and later published in 1731 as Venerabilis Agnetis Blannbekin.
She was ardent in chastising fellow beguines whose religious observance she deemed lax, as well as nuns and priests she found wanting. Her confessor acknowledge her as one of his own teachers, both for her spiritual insights and for her theological sophistication.
Many of her visions include monks, women and Jesus in their nakedness and are characterized by a strong eroticism.
“Modern scholars are splintered over the themes and messages of Blannbekin. Most accounts take a gynocentric viewpoint, e.g. analyzing the erotic images of Christ in terms of feminist criticism; this presents a patterned shift in her reception: as third-wave feminism of the early 1990s reintroduced sex-positivity and Blannbekin’s Life and Revelations came back into the medievalist spotlight, her work garnered a remarkable amount of support. Before this, eroticism intermingled with Christian revelations were treated disdainfully. Additionally, modern critics are increasingly more concerned with explicating the prejudice (albeit standard) in her work toward homosexuals, lepers, Jews, and people of color. While this is a mar on the universality of Blannbekin’s work, it is still an opportunity for scholars of women’s spirituality to peer into the life of an “odd” beguine who emblemizes common topics of interests in Medieval mysticism “ (Wiki.en)
(sources : Laura Swam, The winsdom of beguines, p.42 and Wikipedia)
Agnès d’ORCHIES (XIII)
“In 1255, King Louis IX of France (Saint Louis) visited the court beguinage St. Elizabeth in Ghent. Impressed with what he witnessed, the king established the court beguinage St. Catherine in Paris around 1260. Its first grand mistress was Agnès d’Orchies from Flanderen”(Source : Laura Swam, The winsdom of the begines, p.32)
Aleydis VAN KAMERIJK ( CAMBRAI ) (+1235 or 1236)
She is perhaps the friend of whom Hadewijch speaks and by her included in the list of the 107 Perfects (Lijst der volmaakten), as an appendage to her XIIIth Vision. Already elderly, Aleydis was one of the first beguines to be burned (in 1235 or 1236) by the inquisitor Robert Le Bougre, in Cambrai, because of her “right love” (“om hare gerechte minne“). She was accused of following pantheistic and spiritualistic doctrines. Her execution touched a lot of people as this woman was considered a saint by many, even among high society people.
Alyt BAKE ( 1415-1455 )
She was prioress of the convent Galilee of the Canonesses of St. Agustin in Gent. Alyt describes “the path of the cross” in four ways that leads to a participation in suffering and identification with Christ.
We actually know very little about Angela. She was a woman who lived in Foligno in the second half of the thirteenth century. The only source to reconstruct her life is the Liber, definitely one of the most important texts of Christian mysticism, a true literary masterpiece, which she dictated in the vernacular to her confessor, the frater scriptor, traditionally indicated – but without any evidence – with friar Arnaldo, friar minor of the local convent, her relative, who transcribed in a simple Latin and easy to understand, since she could read, but not write.
Angela was born around 1248, in Foligno where she lives a normal life as bride and mother, with a rather mundane lifestyle that she will later disavow radically. After the death of her mother, husband and children in the course of a few months, around 1285, she lives a profound conversion: just as St. Francis, Angela sells her properties, distributes the proceeds among the poor, becomes a voluntary penitent and, in 1291, she joins the Third Order Franciscan and wants to maintain her lay status. Her great penances and deprivations (among which a fasting of 12 years is also mentioned) quickly led her to the heights of the spiritual path and of the experience of God, especially of the Trinity. The end of the spiritual path for Angela is the loss of one’s identity, of one’s name, of one’s will to hide oneself in God. The identification of one’s will with God’s will occurs through charity and penance which are the two pillars of Angela’s spirituality.
In Foligno, a crossroad of routes and spirituality, many convents and monasteries had been founded in the meantime following the pauperistic spiritual choice. However, Angela avoids entering into a regularly constituted Franciscan community and instead becomes a “prisoner” of her house that transforms into a jail “ad poenitentiam peragendam“, where she lives with another woman, named Masazuola. Perhaps this is one of the elements that allow Romana Guarnieri and Father Massimo Vedova to consider Angela a beguine later passed, as often happened in central Italy, to the Franciscan Third Order. After 1294, probable year of the composition of her Memorial, around Angela a cenacle becomes constituted of spiritual life and social action, which we know through her Instructions and the letters. In this cenacle we find the major exponents of the rigorist current of the Franciscan movement. Angela, surrounded by her disciples, whom she blesses “with all her heart (…) present and absent“, dies in Foligno on 4 January 1309, praying with the words of Christ on the cross (Instructions, XXXVI, 66sg, 136sg).
This great mystic, recently canonized by Pope Francis in 2013, stands out for the intellectual knowledge of the Divine Being and approaches other contemporaries of the northern mysticism: Mechthild of Magdebourg, Mechthild of Hackeborn, Gertrude of Helfta, Marguerite Porete.
Source: Information obtained mainly from the works by don Mario Sensi, Domenico Sebastiani, Alessandra Bartolomei Romagnoli, Romana Guarnieri and Massimo Vedova, ofc.
Around the year 1190, Angelica decides to leave her wealthy family (Father Caicle of Bonfantino and her mother Bologna) and retires as a hermit on a land of the Colle della Guardia offered by her family. In the succeeding years a community is formed and in 1194, the bishop of Bologna, Gerardo Ghisla, on the order of Celestine III, places the first stone of the Church of San Luca.
Can we consider Angelica like a beguine ? In my opinion, yes.
In fact, in “101 donne che hanno fatto grande Bologna ( 101 women who have done Bologna great) ” (Newton Comptoir Editori, 2012), Serena Bersani says : “It is not clear in which area of religious institutions Angelica has been placed. Certainly she did not make vows for a certain rule, but she was a woman who had converted to religious life, voted to hermitage and after to the constitution of a coenobitic community form. Even though she did not belong to an institutionalized religious structure, she always had the approval of the apostolic office and of the Bishop of Bologna. “(P.25) It is also reported that after received the land donated by her mother, two years later Angelica decided to give it to the canons of Santa Maria di Reno “to reserve the usufruct to life in exchange they helped to build the church and the monastery where they would then host later.” The act was formalized in front of a notary on July 30, 1192. However, litigations started with the canons and so Angelica managed to get them started thanks to a papal Bull. The possessions passed under the jurisdiction of the Holy See. After her father died, her mother bought other land on the hill and her example was imitated by other Bologna’s benefactors. At the death of Angelica, quite old, in 1244, the church and the monastery were already well-established and ready to transform from a hermitic community to a monastic community.
Blessed Angelina da Montegiove is a woman from the region of Umbria, who lived between the century 14th and 15th, known as the founder of the Third Cloistered Franciscan Order. In reality she believed in the possibility of living a form of consecrated alternative to the monastic life. She believed in it and she obtained an official recognition, allowing not only herself and her companions but also many women to come out of illegality, which had been the condition of many for decades. This paved the way for other women who could not be set off on a path of consecration, due to the limited number of entrances to monasteries. The latter ones are largely women of Umbria who lived a similar experience of Angelina, in Foligno, Assisi and Todi, while supporting each other. In the following decades, groups of women from other cities of central Italy – Florence, Ascoli, Viterbo and later Perugia and L’Aquila – will join them and their relationship will become more intense to the point of deciding to found a congregation in 1428, the Congregation of Foligno. Angelina becomes the general minister with the authority to visit, exhort, transfer the sisters from one sorority to another. We are faced with a reality of women who wish to live intensely their spiritual life, similar to that found in the beguinages of Flemish Europe. Their experience in Italy, after a few decades from the approval, was repeatedly hindered because it was considered in contrast with the attempt of reform carried out by the second generation of Franciscan Observers and it took the humble tenacity of Angelina and her sisters not to succumb and keep faith with the happy intuition they were bearers of.
We know of the beguine Angioletta and of a “squad of pious women (pie bizzoche)” because of a vile trial that took place on “die 15 mensis martis AD 1597“. The trial began following the discovery of the body of a newborn not far from the hermitage of Sant ‘Agostino. Angioletta, daughter of a farmer from Rignano Garganico (Foggia), and the other “pie bizzoche” monthly went to pray in a nearby cave, near Stignano, and they had to be very close to the minor friars of Stignano. It was a common presumption that Angioletta was pregnant without being married. “The civil power not being able to strike the minor friars has unjustly blamed one of these “bizzoche” more easily guilty and accusing of witchcraft … Unfortunately Angioletta suffers a summary justice and is walled alive in a cave“. (Source : Gabriele Tardio, Donne eremite, bizzocche e monache di casa, Edizione SMiL, maggio 2007. p.13)
She was born in Tinen (Tirlemont) around the year 1200. There is no agreement on the social origin of her parents, but the hypothesis proposed by Roger De Ganck, who has written most about her, considers them from the middle class. Beatrice is the youngest of six children. She receives her first education from her mother, who unfortunately dies when she is only seven years old. This is why the father takes her to the nearby city of Zoutleeuw (Léau) to live with a group of beguines. We do not know much of this period except that it was an intensive period of mutual affection. It is for this “beguinal childhood” that Beatrice has her place in this bibliographic gallery. When she returned home, she expressed her desire to live a monastic life, like her three other sisters. She was taken to the Cistercian monastery of Bloemendael (or Florival) as an oblate at the age of 10. At the age of 15 she is a novice, although in general 18 years were required. In April 2016, she made her monastic profession and spent her entire life as a nun in the Cistercian community, becoming in 1237 the abbess of the monastery of Nazareth, founded the previous year by his father. She will remain there until her death, which occurred on 29 August 1268.
Beatrice is intellectually brilliant, gifted with an artistic sense and exceptional memory, applied in the study, a scholar of Latin and familiar with theological treatises (from Augustine to her days). Immediately after her monastic profession, she is sent to the convent of Ramée to learn the art of writing and miniature in order to write and illustrate the books necessary for her church. But it is in Nazareth, at the boarders of Lierre, in the abbey of Notre-Dame where she was sent, that she writes her mystical experience in “The Seven Manners of Loving God” (“Seuen manieren van Heilige“), text published in 1926. In this work written in the Brabant dialect, Béatrice relates her experience of God by tracing a path that summarizes the highest form, through love, of union between God and the creature. The seven “manners” constitute, as subsequent steps, a unifying path of the soul, which, through the experience of love, understands at the same time that this can be realized for man only if he recognizes that it comes from God and to Him it is oriented. Towards the end of 1267, she fell seriously ill, to the point that on 29 August 1268 she received her extreme unction and died after communion. She is buried in Nazareth. It is probably her own community that entrusts the edition of the “Vitae Beatricis” apparently to Guillaume d’Afflighem in 1297, although it refers to an anonymous author. She enjoys the title of Blessed and is remembered on July 29th.
A short story of her is also found in “Lilia“, written by Crisostomo Henriquez (1594-1632), who also relates the life of Ida di Nivelles.
It is at Beatrice that we owe the expression “to love without why“, used by Maister Eckhart and also by Jacopone da Todi and by Santa Caterina da Genova: to love God without why.
Described by Gaspard de Crayer in the seventeenth century as a pretty healthy young girl, she was so “mortified” by herself that she became a wreck as “she had given herself, especially at the beginning of her religious life, extraordinary penances” (Paul De Jaegher SJ, Anthologie mystique, Desclée De Brouwer, Paris, 1933, p.43)
Other source: ” I sette modi di amare Dio. Via di Beatrice ” (Paoline Editions, 2016), edited by Franco Paris and Elena Tealdi
The historian Lemmens includes her among the great figures of the Free Spirit and so writes about: “Bloemardine (Heilwege Blommaert) of Brussels (+1336). Probably issue from the upper classes, she owned several houses, lived, it is thought, near St. Gudule and would have been the neighbour of Ruusbroeck. She lent money to many clergymen, including canons of the chapter. Some clergymen considered her as “mulier religiosa” but she never lived in a beguinage. Obscure and confused personality, with passionately eloquence, she belonged to the mystical current of the thirteenth century, but she resumed more or less the ideas of Marguerite Porete. She also thought that man could attain a state in which both sin and moral development became impossible, and that in complete passivity before God, he could satisfy all his passions, even the most shameful. She was credited with an abundant literature in which the pantheistic tendencies of the Brothers of the Free Spirit were echoed. She herself seems to have sincerely believed in her theories and did not consider herself a heretic. She had powerful protectors in the upper classes of Brussels and the Duchy of Brabant; many supporters revered her and among them the wife of the duke of Brabant John III, Mary of Evreux, to whom she left as a relic after her death, the silver seat on which she sat to write and teach. She was credited with founding the Trinity Hospital in Brussels, which the St. Gudule Chapter refused to recognize for five years” (pp. 112-113).
Some authors, like Lemmens, recognize her in Heilwige Bloemard, daughter of alderman and pious beguine of Brussels who had founded a hospice in which she even treated the sick. The influence of Bloemardine was considerable. Many of her followers attributed miracles to her. In recognition, they offered her a silver seat, as in the come nella visione di Isaiah (Isaiah VI, I ss). This ceremonial chair was long kept in the treasure of the Court of Brussels.
In Le Monde des Religions of July-August 2017, Audrey Fella writes that she was devoted to the underprivileged and that she founded a home for the elderly, hence her great reputation in the Brussels population. The only confirmed information is the accusation addressed to her by Henri Pomerius, biographer of Ruysbroeck (1293-1381), who reports that she wrote “on the spirit of liberty and on a certain impious and voluptuous love which she called seraphic“. He accused her as “a perverse woman … venerated by a multitude of disciples who followed her opinions, she sat on a silver chair, teaching and writing.” She also had been strongly contrasted by Ruysbroeck himself in the book “The Kingdom of the Divine Lovers“. He was her most virulent opponent. He burned the writings of Bloemardine, much to the displeasure of the inhabitants of Brussels.
But these controversies are not confirmed because no writing of her has reached us. At her death the silver seat was given to the Duchess of Brabant, Mary d’Evreux, and the hospice was taken over in 1371 by the chapter of St. Gudule, for which its founder was “worthy of praise and devoted to Christ“. “An effigy of Bloemardine is in the deambulatory of St. Gudula Church, this time in the form of a small head – symbolizing heresy – crushed by the furious heel of Jan van Ruysbroec.
Around 1900, the Municipal Administration of Brussels undertook to decorate more the facades of the Town Hall. A whole people of statues took their place on the main façade and on those on the side. Among them, the statue of Bloemardine is located at rue de la Tete d’Or, on the 2nd floor, to the right of the central window. On the base are two angels carrying the silver chair.
In 1975, Brussels feminists of the “Open Door” movement celebrated the 640th anniversary of Bloemardine’s death by blooming the foot of the Town Hall wall and affixing a tribute sign, declaring her “the first feminist” of Brussels.” ( Ghislaine Verlacht, A la recherche des dames de jadis…au coeur de Bruxelles, groupe Changeons les livres, p. 33 and following).
Catalina GUIERA (XV)
She was a wealthy widow in Avila who lived as a beata (Spanich term for beguine) since her husband’s death. She dictated her will in 1463 and made detailed arrangements endowing several of her homes for the ongoing support of fellow beatas. (Laura Swam, p.44)
As a child she was educated in Bologna by her mother and relatives, because of many absences of her father, an important lawyer from Ferrara, who wants her to learn Latin too. In 1424, at the age of 11, Caterina enters the Este court as a company damsel of Margherita d’Este, natural daughter of Niccolò III. She received the education of her time: she studied music, painting, dance, she learned to write poetry and became an expert in the art of miniature and copying. In 1427 she left the Este court and joined a group of young ladies of noble families who lived in common, the initial intent being to follow Augustinian spirituality. In 1432 she professed with her companions the rule of St. Clare, approved by Pope Innocent IV, and began the Franciscan cloistered life in the monastery of Corpus Domini. (Source: Wikipedia)
«At 13 she joined the female community of the Corpus Domini of Ferrara just in the period when the bishop tried to impose a normalization by accepting the Augustinian rule. Some time after the arrival of Catherine, however, the community opted for the rule of the Poor Clares. […] In 1456, the superiors of the order decided to open a community similar to that of Ferrara in Bologna, and Caterina was entrusted with the task of founding and directing it […] In Bologna, Caterina resumed the ancient habit of cheering up her sisters with intense verses of religious passion, composed and sung for them, inspired by the poetic production of courtly love … We owe her one of the sweetest and most lyric celebrations of mystical marriage. Catherine recounted in a text, The Seven Spiritual Weapons, delivered to her confessor shortly before her death, her intense mystical experience” (Lucetta Scaraffia, Spose di Dio, in Ruha, Piccola biblioteca mille lire p. 25-26).
Caterina and her initial community “of young ladies who lived together” were later, like many other female initiatives that wanted to choose a religious path, although secular, forced to choose a formal religious rule and often the clause. The text by Lucetta Scaraffia allows us to glimpse this disagreement that led to the transformation of the Beguinal movement in Italy.
She was a mystique and promoter of welfare activities, condemned by the Inquisition for fiction of sanctity.
Born in Venice as the daughter of a well-to-do craftsman, Cecilia showed early signs of religious inclination. After the birth of a new daughter in 1623, her parents consented to her will of entering the convent, but their death during the great plague of 1630 caused the project to fail. Cecilia therefore lived for some years in the house of lay protectors, continuing to manifest the signs of her vocation, accompanied by ecstasies and visions. Her confessor, the Carmelite father Bonaventura Pinzoni, was convinced that Cecilia was destined for a future of holiness, while the patriarchal vicar Giorgio Polacco was rather of the opinion that she was possessed by the devil. Finally Cecilia found hospitality at the Carmelite house of Santa Teresa (founded by her sister Maria). In the forties she began to dedicate herself to welcoming young women in difficult situations, mostly abandoned and orphaned girls (“putte pericolanti”, girls in danger). The new activity was particularly successful and found protectors and financiers among authoritative members of the nobility: in 1658 the patrician Francesco Vendramin bought a building in Sant’Antonio di Castello for the Ferrazzi Institute and the new house was able to accommodate up to three hundred girls.
Towards the end of 1663, however, Cecilia was reported and in June 1664 arrested by order of the inquisitor Agapito Ugoni. Subjected to trial under the accusation of fiction of sanctity, on the 1st of September 1665 she was sentenced to seven years in prison. In 1667 the sentence was commuted to the forced residence in Padua, guarantor cardinal Gregorio Barbarigo, and in January 1669 she regained full freedom (especially thanks to the pressure of her protectors and an intervention by the doge of Venice Domenico Contarini on the Congregation of the Holy Office). She lived in relative tranquillity the last years of her life, dying in Venice on January 17, 1684.
The house she had founded had been entrusted after her arrest to the Capuchins and it still survives today as a secular institution (Professional Women’s Institute “Vendramin Corner”).
Chiara was born from Damiano and Iacopa in Montefalco, a small Umbrian town that dominates the Spoleto valley. Chiara had a sister and a big brother, Giovanna and Francesco. Giovanna founded, with the financial help of her father, the home for women of San Leonardo, of which she became the first director; women retired there, living in cloister and praying, inspired by the rule (still not fully recognized at the time) of Francis of Assisi. Little Chiara remained marked by the example that the family proposed to her and, at the age of six, she entered Giovanna’s cloister, where she spent the next seven years. The community grew, Giovanna and the women of the cloister moved to the hill of Santa Caterina del Bottaccio, not far from Montefalco, in an incomplete building. But the new settlement, which implied the construction of a real monastery, was not welcomed peacefully in the city. Alongside three more ancient convents, a Franciscan, a second Augustinian and another Benedictine, Giovanna’s women home was considered harmful to Montefalco, because it was added to the other communities that already lived on alms, and then one tried to convince women to desist from their projects. In 1290 Giovanna asked the bishop of Spoleto to facilitate the institutionalization of the community, in which the rule of St. Augustine would be introduced, which, unlike the Franciscan one, was fully recognized. With the new monasteries of the Holy Cross and of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, the intentions of these religious women merged: that of the eremitical vocation, represented by the experience of the reclusive, with the other of the monastic rule. Giovanna became Abbess, remaining the settlement under the direct jurisdiction of the bishop. Chiara grew following the fate of this place; only on the occasion of the great famine of 1283, together with another companion, she left the cloister to live by begging, but after eight times she was prevented from continuing; from this moment, until her death, she remained isolated in seclusion.
According to Romana Guarneri, Chiara started with pauperist impetus, begging “a piece of bread for God’s sake“, but she was soon brought back to better advice, waiting to be completely cloaked (Ruah, p.39).
She belonged to a very wealthy family in Rimini, but was deprived at the tender age of the guidance of her mother and, later, of her husband. She soon fell prey to the dangers to which her youth and beauty exposed her and began to lead a life of sinful dissipation. The father and brother died the same day during the war against the Malatesta, so that all the richness of the Agolanti family were concentrated in the hands of the young widow. At the age of 34 an unusual event took place: while she was attending Mass in the Franciscan Friars Church, she seemed to hear a mysterious voice that ordered her to say a “Our Father” and an “Ave Maria”, at least once with fervour and caution. Chiara obeyed the command, not knowing where it came from, and then began to reflect on her life. She made the decision to enter the Third Order of Saint Francis, in order to atone for his sins with a life of penance. Soon she became a model of every virtue, but above all of charity towards the poor and the afflicted. When the Poor Clares were forced to leave the city because of the war, it was mainly through Chiara’s efforts that they were able to obtain a convent and livelihood in Rimini. Later, Chiara entered the order of the Poor Clares, together with several other pious women; she obtained the blessing of the bishop of Rimini Guido Abasio and became superior of the convent of Our Lady of the Angels in Rimini. She would have performed many miracles and towards the end of her life the Lord would have given her the gift of very high spiritual graces. (Source: Wikipedia)
Once again we find in Chiara a female figure whose collocation could be that of a beguine, at least before her monastic profession.
Christina Ebner is not actually a beguine. However, we report her biography to show the passages between the Beguinal and the monastic world.
Christina was born in the imperial city of Nuremberg, daughter of the patrician Seyfried Ebner and his wife, Elizabeth Kuhdorf. In 1289, at the age of twelve, she entered the monastery of St. John the Baptist in Engelthal, a community of nuns of the second Dominican order outside the city. Founded as a beguinage some fifty years earlier, in the following one hundred years this monastery was to become a very well-known centre of spirituality and learning. According to some, it may have been the first centre of mystical life at the beginning of the fourteenth century in Germany, if not in all of Europe.
Less than a year after her admission, Christina becomes seriously ill. This affliction would reappear up to three times a year for the next decade. Moreover, afterwards, she often suffered from various diseases. She had strong ascetic behaviours, e.g. flagellations with hedgehog quills. At that time, she began to have frequent visions, about which her confessor, Fra Corrado di Füssen, O.P., encouraged her to write. So she began to write her first book, Leben und Offenbarungen (Life and revelations) in 1317. She continued living there at least until 1324. In 1338, she began a correspondence with the priest Henry of Nördlingen, who was an enthusiastic propagator of mystical spirituality and literature. Thanks to him, she begins a correspondence with the Blessed Margareta Ebner, she too a Dominican religious actively involved in the spiritual movement of the period; despite the same family name “Ebner”, Margareta was not related to Christina. Around 1340, Christina began to compile the Book of Sisters (Schwesternbuch), a register of mystical visions and life experiences of other nuns in her monastery, called Von der genaden uberlast (Of the weight of grace). It can be attributed to Christina Ebner, based on a manuscript of 1451. Between 1344 and 1352, Christina wrote a second book of Revelations (Offenbarungen). In it, she deals with historical and political events of the time such as the revolts of Nuremberg in 1348; the earthquake of the same year; the outbreak of the black plague; the procession of the Flagellants of 1349; and the long quarrel between the Holy Roman Empire Louis IV and the Holy See. Christina is not limited to the role of a spectator. Instead, she is deeply interested in events, develops her own opinions about them and also actively tries to influence their course. At that time, her reputation had spread widely across Northern Europe. In 1350, the same emperor Charles IV came to visit her in the monastery, looking for her guide and her prayers.
In 1351 she was finally visited for the first time by her long-standing confidant, Henry of Nördlingen, who spent three weeks visiting the monastery. On that occasion he gave her a copy of the mystical work of Mechthild of Magdeburg Das fließende Licht der Gottheit (The flowing light of divinity), which is reflected in her later works and those of the other nuns in the community. Christina dies in her monastery in Engelthal on December 27, 1356 in her 67th year of monastic life. John Taulerio, a disciple of Eckhart, was her great friend. (Source: Wikipedia)
Christine COUCKE (15th)
Shortly after 1471, this Beguine of Sta. Elisabeth in Kortrijck bequeaths her home to her nephew’s daughter Jaenkin’t Kint Joos, who was then 11 years old and probably lived with her, if she made the promise to become Beguine at the age 24 years old (probably minimum age for admission).
Source: Walter Simons
The Dominican Tommaso di Cantimpré wrote the life of this “extatica” or “admirabilis” born in 1150 or 1160 in Sint-Truiden and died in 1224. Initiated by the family to become a shepherdess or a herdsman, Christina knows her first mystical experiences while grazing. Jesus was constantly near her. Her behavior and abilities, beyond human understanding, arouse repugnance and admiration. It has never been a “socially acceptable” being.
After an illness, from which she miraculously recovered, she began a life of itinerant preaching in the diocese of Liège, but in a discreet way, because she was convinced that preaching was the responsibility of priests only. He lives for 9 years in Borgloon with the anchorite Jutta. We know that in 1259 in Borgloon, near the hospital of Gratem, just outside the city walls, there was a Beguinal presence in the hospital service (Simon, p.42). Christina usually begs door-to-door not for herself, but to support the sins of those who give her food. If she ate food that had been procured illegally, she became ill. Her body to which she had inflicted the worst trials, towards the end of her life is totally submissive to her. Her experience resembles that of a fakir (resistance to fire, boiling water, cold, crushing weight), but also to shamanism for her ability to transform the body (bird, ball, snake-woman) and self-healing in the moments of greater difficulty (milk of her breast, oil produced by the body …). She had the damned souls at heart. Having visited hell and purgatory during an apparent death, she had made the salvation of these souls the meaning of his atonement. She is founded on the scaffold of the hanged man and among the graves of cemeteries. According to her jubilation or her loud cries of anguish, the inhabitants can know the supernatural destination of the dying person. During her ecstasies, a sound that rose from her throat and from her chest causes chills to her listeners. During her first burial, she gets up and flies towards the ceiling of the church. Fear makes all those present escape. She returns to her body after choosing, like a Buddhist bodhisattva, not to leave the earth to atone for the souls in purgatory and thus save them. Later, with her ethereal body, she lives among the trees. She died in 1224 and was buried in the Benedictine monastery where she had been ill for three weeks. Her remains are currently in the sanctuary of the Stennaert Redemptorists.
The Orientalist Louis Massignon (1883-1962) was very impressed by this woman, whose cult was approved by Pius IX in 1857. At the invitation of Father Van Straeten, rector of the Redemptorists who keep the relics of the saint in the sanctuaries or of Steenart , Louis Massignon prepares, on the occasion of the 7th centenary of Christina’s death, a conference to be held July 24 (anniversary date of death) 1924. The text is then published in La cité chrétienne and in a volume in 1950. The figure by Christina hits Massignon at various levels, personal and spiritual. In the Gedenkboek, published in 1950, we read: “Professor M. Massignon of the College of France, who in 1924, at the 7th centenary of the death of Saint Cristina had asked to be able to glorify the saint recognizing the grace of her conversion which she attributes to our Virgin of Saint Truiden “(p.350)
James from Vitry in the prologue to the life of Mary (dated 1115, according to Greven) addresses his friend Bishop Foulque of Toulouse and speaks, without naming her, of Christina’s “resurrection” and her experiences of Purgatory on earth , “and, for a long time she was afflicted by God with extraordinary punishment … she was driving when I saw her, writes Jacques, souls to the threshold of Purgatory, making him even cross, and taking them, without damage, to the supreme kingdom “. This testimony of Jacques de Vitry was taken up by the Cantimpré, which also collects – between 1239 and 1249 – other stories of those who knew her: Count Louis de Looze, Jutta of Loon, his hermit friend, and Thomas of St Truiden, former rector of the church of Santa Maria and then 29th abbot of the Benedictine convent of San Trond. But his work offers a rather caricatural and eager for unnecessary exaggeration, which however remains the only source after the fourteenth century. Over the centuries this text has been revisited and commented.
To return to Massignon, what struck him, just like James of Vitry, is Christina’s reparative role, this perception that we are partly responsible for the mistakes of others and that it suits us to expiate them. It is the mystical substitution, universal and triumphant proof of Jesus’ sacrifice: Christina climbs up the gallows to pray and suffer alongside criminals already strangled, eager to wrest their soul from damnation by joining their physical torture.
Christine was born in 1242 in Stommeln (Köln). The father was a prosperous farmer who worried that his daughter would receive an education; though Christine could not write, she could still read the psaltery. In the brief account of her youth, written by her parish priest, Johannes, under his dictation, Christine states that the Virgin Mary in person at the age of nine appeared to her and taught her the sequence to the Holy Spirit. Moreover, in 1247, at the age of 5 he had a vision of the infant Jesus. At 12 (or 13) years he escapes a marriage arranged by his father and, wanting to participate in a more religious life, she becomes part of the Cologne beguinage. At the age of 15 she receives the stigmata at the hands and feet and the signs of the crown of thorns on her head. She was tempted several times by the devil, even on the brink of suicide. For example, Christine continually lost blood from her mouth and nostrils, the demon scourged her with thorn whips, flooded her with the bed of fleas, forced her to silence for 15 days, and for another 14 deprived her of sleep covering her with pustules every once he tried to fall asleep, he beat her with red-hot hammers, humiliated her by covering her with excrement materialized from nothing. The outward signs of these experiences led her sisters to believe that she was crazy and therefore a few years later they took her away. Christine had to leave the community, which satisfied her so much, because of an illness that had struck her, but above all because she was misunderstood by the others who did not understand her eccentricity.
On December 20, 1267 she met a young Swedish Dominican friar (also a brother of Christine had entered the Order), a student in Cologne, Peter of Dacia († 1289), with whom he entered into spiritual harmony with epistolary prevalence; he himself wrote the “Life” (Vita Christinae Stumbelensis) of the blessed until 1286. Peter, a pupil of Albert the Great, later became her guide with an intense spiritual love which Ernest Renan will call did not hesitate to define “mystic idyll”.
Christine had ecstasies and apparitions and in 1269 she received the stigmata on her hands and feet, which became visible at certain times of the year; she was tried throughout her life by many sufferings, which she endured by always looking at the value of the Cross. In the year of Peter’s death the assaults of the devil ceased and Christine, still wearing the dress of the beguines, lived in peace until 1312, the year of her death in Stommeln. Recognized as blessed, her cult was approved by Saint Pius X (Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, pope from 1903 to 1914) and is remembered on November 6 (the day of his death) in the Roman martyrology, in Lotaringia. In 1342 her relics were transferred to Nideggen; from 1568 they rest in the church of Jülich.
Sources:Antonio Borrelli, in http://www.santiebeati.it/dettaglio/91331
The site www.cristianita.it
Pierre de Dacie, L’Amour et la Dilection. La Vie de Christine de Stommeln suivie de Lettres de Pierre et de Christine, William Blake and Co., 2005 (Vincent Fournier, postface Marie-Fançoise Notz)
Clusin ou Claesinne NIEUWLANT (Gent, + 1611)
Beguine of the sixteenth century, she insists on the dangers of self-destruction that can be produced by the momentum of the spirit. “To go to the Absolute, the human being must be diverted from his mind and led to his non-being”.
Colette BOYLET (+/- 1381-1447)
Living in Gent between 1381 and 1447, she presents many features similar to Saint Rita of Cascia: her birth is miraculous, like that of Rita (late birth, announced in a dream); during her life she meets all the saints who are her contemporaries and after her death she works miracles, above all she helps women on labour through the miraculous “grains” or her mantle.
Lucetta Scaraffia, La santa degli impossibili. Rita da Cascia tra devozione e arte contemporanea”, Vita e pensiero, 2014, Milano, p. 93
At the age of 18 she began her spiritual education among the beguines and then among the Franciscan women tertiary. In 1406 she join the St. Clare congregation that she felt called to reform. For this, she received the mandate from Benedict XIII, who imposed her the veil in Nice. His work, not without obstacles, led to the birth of 17 monasteries. She died in 1447 in Ghent.
(Matteo Liut, https://www.avvenire.it/ du 6 mars 2019)
She was born to elderly parents in Corbie (near Amiens) who died when she was an adolescent. She joined the beguineds of her hometown but eventually yearned for a stricter observance of ascetic practices. She choose the Poor Clare and become a recluse. Visions, however, kept pressing her to take on the reform of the Franciscans. And shi did: she reformed seven communities of Franciscan men and established (or reformed) seventeen women’s communities. Colette lived a quietly austere life even in the mids of her extensive reform work and allegedly continued to have visions, experienced lievitation in prayer, prophesied, and had the ability to read others’ conscience. (Source, Laura Swam, The winsdom…, p.33)
Criste TSFLPGHELEERE (15th )
In 1471, this beguine of the beguinage of St Alexis in Dendermonde (Belgium) left half of her house in the beguinage to each of her brother’s daughters who had expressed the desire to become beguines before their 15 years.
Source: Walter Simons, p. 72
She is married to a rich, pious man, but of bad character, with whom she will give birth to nine children. Having become a widow, she transfers herself to Marienwerder and there she will be guided, until the end of her life, by her spiritual director, and then biographer, the famous Jean de Marienwerder. He will assemble her spiritual communications in three Vita in Latin and one in German, Leben. We also have from her a work in Latin, Septilium, in which are exposed seven grace she has received and the 36 degrees of love summed up in three progressive stages: fervent ardens, magnificus, excellenter magnificus, also expressed by three adjectives: strong, stable, insurmountable. And again the Liber de festis, a collection of her visions, according to the liturgical periods. This work is partly unpublished.
An in-depth doctrinal study of Dorothée’s works and life herself would be desirable and in particular her mystical experiences (invisible stigmata, renewal of the heart, ecstasies, visions), in order to make her known beyond the Germanic world where she is venerated as patroness of Prussia.
(Source: BLASUCCI A., CALATI B., GREGOIRE R., La spiritualità del medievo, volume 4 della Storia della spiritualità, Borla, pp. 483-484)
Native of Digne (South of France), she was born in a pious bourgeois family, then grew up in Barjois. She makes the decision to become a beguine by returning from a stay at the convent of thr Poor Clares of Digne. (Source: Wikipedia).
In the 1240s, Douceline de Digne, sister of the Franciscan Hugues de Digne, founded two beguinages in Provence that espoused charitable works, collectively known as the House of Roubaud. Douceline believed that the role of founder and spiritual mother of lay religious women included a commitment to the ideals of active charity and absolute poverty. The thesis of Kelly Lynn Morris addresses two interrelated issues. Firstly, from Douceline’s vita, we can argue that her expressions of evangelical charity and absolute poverty were an orthodox reflection of a composite of Franciscan, beguinal, and mystic spiritual ideals. The second issue challenges Aviad Kleinberg’s evaluation of Douceline as a conscious agent in the creation and manipulation of her own sanctity by demonstrating that the development of Douceline’s orthodox sanctity was based upon a cooperative commitment by the community to create a lifestyle that embodied active charity.
Kelly Lynn Morris,The vita of Douceline de Digne : (1214-1274): Beguine spirituality and orthodoxy in thirteenth century Marseilles, University of Cagary (Canada), July 2001
Daughter of the King of Hungary Andrew II and Gertrude of Merano, at the age of 14 she is married to Loudovic IV of Thuringia. She is very princely dressed, not to offend her husband, but she keeps her heavenly spouse near her by “penance” (cilice) and serves him by helping widows, children, the sick, prisoners. Mother at 15 years old, at 20 she is already a widow with three children. After the death of her husband in 1227, because of the plague, she refuses to remarry and she retires subsequently in two castles, but in the end she chooses a modest home in Marburg (Germany) where, in 1227, she built a hospital that she maintains with her resources – which impoverished her totally- where she dedicates herself entirely to the care of the poor and the lepers. She accepts the poverty that came and works the wool or even begs alms to help others. Her choice of poverty unleashes the fury of her brothers-in-law who even manage to deprive her of her children. She integrates herself into the Third Franciscan Order, thus dedicating herself to the most destitute, by visiting ill people twice a day and by assuming the most humble tasks. One does not speak of her as a beguine, but we can assume that before she joined the Third Order she had these characteristics.
She was famous for the splendour of her miracles and her charitable works spread throughout the centuries. She dies in Marburg on November 17, 1231 and was canonized by Pope Gregory IX in 1235. Her worship will be fixed on the day of her death.
She is often chosen as patroness of beguinages, as for example by that of Antwerpen (Antwerp-Belgium)
The Vita of Elizabeth of Spalbeek, a thirteenth century mystic and beguine from the diocese of Liège in the Low Countries, was written about 1267 by Philip of Clairvaux, who was then abbot at the Cistercian house and saw in Elisabeth the female replica of St. Francis of Assisi for her stigmata and her imitation of Christ’s Passion. The Vita of Elisabeth exists in only one manuscript: Bodleian Library, Douce 114, a fifteenth-century manuscript written in Middle English. The manuscript also contains the Vita of two other Low Country beguines, Christina Mirabilis and Marie d’Oignies. Of the women whose vitae are represented in this manuscript, Elizabeth’s one was the most popular in England.
Elisabeth was perhaps born in a noble family, and despite being a beguine, she did not live in a beguinage, but at home in the rural Spalbeek (Belgium) with her mother and sister (Simons, p. 135).
Jesse Njus, in his thesis mentioned below, argue that she provides an exceptional example of the spiritual networking described by scholars such as John Coakley and Anneke Mulder-Bakker. As they have shown, medieval holy women—recluses and anchorites included—functioned only within tightly woven spiritual networks that connected other mulieres religiosae, sympathetic clerics, and powerful nobles who provided economic and political support in return for the women’s prayers and spiritual authority. No one has analyzed Elisabeth’s network in this light in part because the chief source for her life—the text written by Abbot Philip of Clairvaux, who visited Elisabeth in 1266/7—omits the proper names of most people surrounding Elisabeth and fails to mention many of the people with whom she must have come in contact. In addition, major documents concerning Elisabeth have, until now, escaped any collective analysis. Through a painstaking review of all the pertinent documents, however, Jesse Njus succeeded in uncovering Elisabeth’s political and spiritual alliances, allowing him to study her in her milieu and to provide a detailed analysis of her possible secular and religious influence. He argues that she was actively engaged in building and extending her own network for this “politics of mysticism”. That has led this scholar to reinterpret her role in the last recorded event of her life, the French court battle between Queen Marie of Brabant and the chamberlain Pierre de la Broce.
Waler Simons and Jesse Njus “The Politics of Mysticism: Elisabeth of Spalbeek in Context, (2008), 77:285-317, Cambridge University Press. (12 May 2008)
Elizabeth de BERG (13th)
After the death of her husband (between 1279-1290), she became beguine at Tongeren and she even offered help to married woman. She had no children of her own. Wealthy, with many properties, Elisabeth owned a house at St. Catherine’s that have five rooms, three of them were occupied by “poor beguines” (Simons, p. 73)
We know little about her life. Eve is close to the beguinal movement fully burgeoning in Liège in the 13th century. She became a recluse near the collegiate church of Saint-Martin de Liège under the Cistercian rule, encouraged by the mystic Julienne de Cornillon, who seems to have played with her the role of confessor. Julienne de Cornillon, fifteen years older than Eva, had indeed encouraged her in her vocation and had promised to see her at least once a year. It is probably under the impetus of these two mystics that the first Corpus Christi Feast is celebrated in 1246 by Robert de Thourotte, the new bishop of Liege. After the death of the latter in 1246, Julienne is faced with strong opposition from the local bourgeois, clergy and the new Prince-Bishop Henri de Gueldre, to the point that she was forced to exile, where she died in 1258. Eve seems to have continued Julienne’s mission: she is in contact with Jacques Pantaleon, archdeacon of Liège from 1230 to 1250, who will become pope under the name of Urban IV. The latter sends her a missive on September 8, 1264 to inform her of the institution of the Corpus Christi Feast by the papal Bull Transiturus of hoc mundo, promulgated on August 11, 1264. Eve de Liege was declared blessed by the Catholic Church, the May 1, 1902. She is commemorated on June 4 (especially in the diocese of Liège).
She was born in 1384 and baptized with the name of Francesca, but in the house and in the circle of friends they call her Franceschella or Ceccolella. She is a wise and precocious child, devoted to the point of building a small hermitage at home, as a place for her personal encounter with God. This natural inclination undergoes a sharp backlash at the age of 12, when she can not escape the custom of the time and is promised to be married to Lorenzo de Ponziani, of a well-to-do family, who trades in cattle and grains.
The unwanted marriage unleashes in her a violent nervous reaction, of a clear psychosomatic nature, to heal which her parents would like to resort to the magical arts, which Franceschella refuses decisively. The right therapy comes through a celestial vision, which gives back serenity to inner peace to face marriage. In the new house she finds help and support in her sister-in-law Vannozza, devout and sensitive, of great charity, together with whom, little by little, she transforms the rich house in Trastevere into a reference point for the many in need of the city. With simplicity, Francesca accepts her married life: the love of the groom, his noble titles, his wealth, the three children born of their union.
The plague arrives and takes away two children, the war unleashed by the antipope John XXIII returns a severely wounded husband, while the only remaining son is taken hostage: family misfortunes that do not bend her soul, supported by the mysterious and effective presence of her guardian angel, whom she almost “feels” walking beside her. Rome, plundered and humiliated, finds in this woman a model of faith and a guide. Her riches are used to treat the sick and the needy and when they become exhausted one can see her as a “poor woman” in Trastevere, walking with her donkey on the streets of hunger to beg for the needy.
She conquered a circle of friends with whom she founded a group of Oblate and to whom she entrusted the assistance of the poor; in a second time she gathered them in a house of Tor de’ Specchi, founding a monastery where she joined them as soon as her husband died in 1436. Four years later, on 9 March, she died, too, but at her home in Trastevere, where with her mother’s affection she went to visit her son and daughter-in-law.
Rome considers her as a saint, the whole city rushes to venerate her body and her fame defies time: in 1608 Francesca Romana is officially enrolled in the register of saints and still today young couples for the celebration of marriage prefer the church of Santa Maria Nova at the Fori Imperiali, where her mortal remains are venerated. Source : Gianpiero Pettiti, www.santiebeati.it
Here are some other biographical elements taken up by Mario Sensi: As widow, she served in Roman hospitals and specialized in treating the sick, using ointments. Founder of the Oblates of Torre de ‘Specchi, ten Roman matrons who refused to be mourned. They lived “in the holy poverty” (p.806), they initially chose the protection of an existing Olivetan abbey, then obtained after several attempts, the exemption from the jurisdiction of the abbot of Monte Oliveto. It allows them to choice their “president”, the spiritual director and also the possibility of begging, beggars who they operated in a penitential spirit, giving the proceeds to the poor. At the beginning it was a secular devotional confraternity. Eight years later their will was to become lay consecrated, “regular” oblates (1432-33) with Benedictine Olivetan rule (73 norms), “keeping their identity as women linked to the city intact“.
Gertrude van der Oosten (or Gertrude of Delft) is a Dutch beguine who probably received the stigmata and is considered a mystic. She was born in Voorburcht, from peasant parents, and then entered domestic service in Delft. Her surname of Van Oosten, or “of the East”, derives from her habit of singing a hymn that begins with: “Het daghet in den Oosten“, i.e. “The light of day breaks into the East”, which is believed to have composed by herself. After having a pious life for many years, Gertrude obtains admission into the beguinage of Delft. Here, she makes use of the ample opportunities for contemplation accorded by life in this community. She had a great devotion to the mysteries of the Incarnation, especially to the Passion of Christ. It is believed that she received the stigmata. She implored God that this grace could be withdrawn, and her prayer was heard to the extent that the blood ceased to flow, but the signs of the stigmata remained. She also showed the gift of prophecy.
Gertrude dies on the day of the feast of the Epiphany on 6 January 1358 and is buried in the church of Saint Hippolyt in Delft, since the beguinage did not have its own church and cemetery. Her name has never been inscribed in the Roman Catholic Martyrology, although it has been commemorated in various others. Her cult is purely local. (Source: Wikipedia).
The historical figure of Hadewijch is still surrounded by uncertainty: her work offers few bibliographical references and there is no “Vita” (biography) dedicated to her. The Brabantine language of her writings places her in the Duchy of Brabant, in Antwerp according to a late tradition or perhaps in Brussels. It is thought she was active around the mid-thirteenth century, but others place her at the beginning of the XIV century. Only her work remains: 31 letters in prose and 16 in rimes, 45 songs and 14 visions. In Dutch literature Hadewijch plays a fundamental role since she is one of the first authors to make prose and mysticism, an exception in this literature. Women-mystic-prose: it has been emphasized that this link is not a coincidence. Hadewijch spoke of God not in Latin but in vulgar Dutch. By a creative and daring operation the language of mysticism came out of the world of clergy and was reformulated into vulgar. Most probably Hadewijich was a beguine, a form of religious life sprung up within the vast women’s religious movement, which experienced an extraordinary flowering in the regions of Brabant and in the diocese of Liège. H. Grundmann has shown that the birth of spiritual literature in the vernacular is directly related to the extension of this feminine movement. From her writings it emerges that Hadewijch was a guide of a group of friends whom she exhorted to live radically for the Minne, the noble Love, the only theme of her life, metaphor of the relationship between lovers, therefore also between a woman and God. So she wrote for these friends letters, songs and visions, works that manifest her familiarity with the Bible, the patristic, the mystics of the twelfth century and the lyrics of the courtly love that she adopted, especially for the songs, the style and the themes and, as recent discovered, the melodies: she spoke of the courtly love to speak about the mystical love. So she addresses a friend: “Try that nothing less than “minne” is enough for you”
HEILBIG or HELWIG (XIV °)
She was “magistra” of the group of nine Beguines from Schwednitz, called by the people “moniales capuciatae“, who for over thirty years lived in a spirit of freedom and voluntary poverty. The community was based on its own statutes. They practiced the profession of guilt and blood scourging. The novices had to practice a very hard asceticism, but once they became “perfect” they could refresh themselves at will. Another mortification practiced by them was the use of lying down on the threshold when they left the house, to allow themselves to be trampled on by each other. Due to their closeness to the Free Spirit movement they were tried in 1332. A head of Schwednitz claims of herself: “Sicut Deus est deus. Ita ipsa est deus cum Deo; et sicut Christus numquam separatus est a Deo. Sic nec ipsa (How God is god. Thus she is god with God; and as Christ is never separated from God, neither is she )”
Source : GUARNIERI Romana (a cura di), Il movimento del Libero Spirito. Testi e documenti, Edizioni di storia e letteratura, Roma, 1965, pp 395-396 e 435).
Ida of LEEUW or GORSLEEUW (+ after 1262)
Ida was born in Gors-Opleeuw (Belgium). Her parents are Giselbert and Ida. She is raised by the beguines of Borgloon and at the age of 13 joint the Cistercian monastery of Rameige (Dutch: Rameien), today Klein-Geten. Ida is a mystic who developed a great devotion to the Eucharist. She has accurately described her spiritual development. One of her sisters was Ida of Nivelles.
Ida thought that her name stimulated a devout life. The letter I meant the right path, D for Deus (God) and A for Amor (love). She dies around 1260.
The feast of Ida van Leeuw is October 29th. In the past it was mistakenly thought that this Ida would come from Zoutleeuw, where there was also a beguinage. It should not be confused with Cistercian Ida of Leuven, also known as Ida van Leeuw. An anonymous Cistercian wrote her Vita (Life).
She was born in Nivelles (now in Belgium) in 1197. At the age of 9 years, to escape a forced marriage, she fled in a small community of beguines in Nivelles, where she remained until the age of 16.
Ida took upon herself the responsibility of begging for her companions and with them she devoted herself to the care of the sick. Sometimes, in 1213, she went to the Cistercian community of Kerkom, near Tienen (Tienen) which a year later will transfer to La Ramee. A year later, Ida did her monastic profession and shortly thereafter came Beatrice (from Nazareth). Ida was a gifted mystic and her Vita, most probably written by a certain Goswin de Villers, offers many examples of her mystical experiences. Another important source on Ida’s life is the text Quinques prudent Virgines written by the Cistercian chronicler Crisostomo Henriquez (1594-1632).
One also talks about it in the following works:
A. d’Haenens, Femmes excédentaires et vocation religieuse dans l’ancien diocèse de Liège lors de l’essort urbain. Le cas d’Ide de Nivelles, dans Hommages à la Wallonie. Mélanges offerts à Maurice A.Arnould et P.Ruelle, édit. Université de Bruxelles, 1981, pp. 217-235.
R.Hanon de Louvet, L’origine nivelloise de l’institution béguinale, Annales de société archéologique et folklorique de Nivelles et du Braban Wallon, XVII, première partie, 1952, pp. 1-77.
Dufrasne Dieudonné, Libres et folles d’amour, éd. Thomas Mols, Bierges, 2007, p 89-90
“A beguine from Anderlecht [a suburb of Brussels] is known for her independence of spirit: Isabelle Dewit, who lived in the late eighteenth century. She held a school for the poor of the parish from 1783, which earned her troubles with her superiors and the schoolmaster of the parish. She will be forced to exercise her educational activity to receive the children out of the beguinal enclosure “. Source: Pascal Majérus, Ces femmes qu’on dit béguines… (pp. 164-165
Ivana Ceresa was born in 1942 in the province of Mantua (Italy), where she will then live until her death in 2009. Since her high school, she wanted to be a theologian, but she must wait after the Second Vatican Council to access the theological faculty, inaccessible to women until the 1970s. She became then a literary teacher and only later a theologian. Her book “Dire Dio al femminile” (Saying God in the Women way) was for many women a stimulus to become conscious of gender issues and of the need for an exit from the patriarchate. Ivana called herself a beguine and said, “I’m the beguine of every age, because I’m in a way in incognito … I love in the manner of beguines, in a non conformist and a bit transgressive” (Ivana Ceresa, L’utopia e la conserva, Tre Lune Edizioni, Mantova, 2011). Her friendship with Romana Guarneri, the historian who identified in 1946 the book of Marguerite Porete, and with Luisa Muraro, a great scholar of the beguinal movement, reinforced this identification that led her to say “to be a beguine today is to continue the choice of these women, that is to live in the world without being in the world“. In 1996, Ivana achieved her most important realization: the foundation of the Order of Sorority of Mary SS. Coronation, recognized by the Bishop of Mantua, Egidio Caporello, in March 18, 2002. In the introduction to the Rule of Order of Sorority, Ivana refers to the beguines of the North and how they expressed strong female freedom with their autonomy and independence towards ecclesiastical and secular control. For the same raison, also Sorority states: “We are women called by the Holy Spirit to make visible the presence of women in the Church and in the world“.
Born into a wealthy family, she was promised to marriage at the age of 13. She did not want to get married, but she consented to it because the pressure from family and friends. In 1181, at age 23, after 5 years of marriage, after the death of her husband, she distributes her goods and leaves the house and her three sons to serve in a leprosarium in Huy, then known as the hospital for the very sick. She stays there for 10 years with a small community of men and women following her. Then, in 1190, she decides to be immured by the Abbot of Orval in a cell near the leprosarium. Her father, property manager of the Principality of Liège and other men follow her example as lay without having an approved rule. The Premonstratensian Hugo de Floreffe wrote her Vita.
“She lived according to the principles of proto-beguines in companies of pious sisters, to then cloister for decades in a real cell where she expired in 1228” (Van Aerschot, p. 23).
She was in touch with Julienne de Cornillon. (Lemmens, p. 107) and although she still was an anchorite, she instructed her companions, as written in her Vita (Simons, p. 81). She called herself a beguine.
Jeanne d’ARC (1412-1431)
One thesis defines her as a tertiary Franciscan, but another also a beguine, based on a contemporary document, Cronaca Morosini, 1429, which expressly declares it as such.
Jacqueline Kelen writes : “During her painful trial, Jeanne d’Arc was treated either as a beguine or a witch” (Hadewijch, p. 20)
Orphaned at a young age, she and her sister Agnès are entrusted to the house of Cornillon, at the entrance to Liège. This house was opened next to the Premonstratensian abbey. Julienne will be part of a community of beguines caring for lepers in the leprosarium of Mount Cornillon. This leprosarium has four parts, two of which are for healthy brothers and sisters caring for the sick in the other two parts. The double intervention, municipal and ecclesiastical, on this institution will provoke conflicts and tension especially when Julienne will exercise the functions of prioress. This period is very hard for her who would have humbly wanted to stay on the farm of the community, to meditate the Scriptures in French and Latin, to turn to the books of St. Augustine and St. Bernard. The conflict reaches the point that she must even go away with two other companions in a Cistercian monastery at Fosses, near Namur, where she will live as a recluse until her death in 1258.
Following a vision, she promotes the feast of the Corpus Christi. She involves in this project Isabelle de Huy, beguine of a great reputation for holiness, and Eve of Saint Martin. There is a first mention of it in 1246, on the occasion of the first celebration of this feast in Liege by the new bishop Robert de Thourotte. The Corpus Christi feast will then be prescribed, in 1264, to the whole church by Urban IV (the former archdeacon of Liège, Jacques Pantaléon) in his papal Bull Transiturus de hoc mundo. The first texts of the celebration had originally been dictated by Julienne herself, but the task was then entrusted to the more famous Thomas Aquinas. The symposium organized in Breda in 2014 on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of the Bull by the Guilde of the Holy Sacreemnt of Niervaert has revealed an important information. American scholars have recently discovered that the texts of the Office of the famous theologian are largely taken from Julienne ‘s works.
An anonymous author, in whom some recognize her friend recluse Eve of Saint Martin, wrote, the “Vita beatae Julianae“. From there we learn that she enjoyed the gift of healing and prophecy and that she could “see” what is obscure to the intelligence of ordinary mortals.
Source: Delhez Charles (sous la directon de), Julienne de Cornillon, éd. Fidélité, Namur, 1996.
She lives as a recluse in a cell adjacent to St. Julian’s Church in Conisford, Norwich, the capital of Norfolk, England. Norwich is a powerful and prosperous city, which in the 14th century is second only to London, because of its collocation on the “wool route” linking Yorkshire to the Flanders. On Friday, May 13th (others say May 8th) 1373, she receives 16 Revelations about the Passion of Christ and the Trinity that she bequeathed to us in English in Revelations of Divine Love. This text is a meditation halfway between a spiritual autobiography and a theological treatise. It took to her 20 years to write, rewrite and refine it, without even mentioning her own name, in the concern that the revelations are only for the benefit of all brothers and sisters in the faith.
“During her life she had asked for three graces: a grave illness to be able to detach herself from all earthly attachment, a bodily vision of the suffering Christ to better sense her passion and three spiritual “wounds”: the true repentant of her sins, the cum-passion with Christ, the desire “with good will” of God ” (Giovanna Della Croce, I mistici del Nord, Ed. Studium, Roma, 1981, p. 57).
It is precisely in the most acute phase of the illness that she receives the “revelations” on which she will even bring her discernment, thus reassuring us of their non-pathological nature. At the centre of her message is the mercy of God, from which the optimism that emerges from its spiritual edifice: All shall be well (Ch 27) is the message that seems to characterize it at best and that is so often recalled in the book of Revelations. Julienne’s mysticism is fundamentally Christocentric. Through this relation of Love (“Christ is for this woman the great lover always ready to sacrifice himself” joyously “for the redemption of the world”, writes Domenico Pezzini) she accesses the Trinitarian vision. This allows her to overcome the spiritual climate of his time of the “man in pain” to access the light of the resurrection because in the passion of Jesus shines the immense love of God who penetrates the whole universe and who pushes back, destroys and mocks the forces of evil. And in the end “all shall be well“, as she is used to say. According to her, we are creatures that need to be reassured by the maternity of God that does not deprive us of the milk of supernatural life. The realization of the motherhood of God entrusted to the Son, the second figure of the Trinity, is one of her most original affirmations in harmony with some contemporary theological currents. “The dear and kind word Mother is so sweet and good that it can not really be said of anyone and by anyone except through him and to him who is the true Mother of life and everything” (ch. .60). But this should not be understood as a claim of maternity against paternity, rather a more rich and balanced vision of God. “And just as in His courtesy God forgets our sins as long as we repent of them, so He also wants us to forget our sins and worries. For God wants us to be always confident in love and peaceful and quiet, as He is to us”. The discovery of a God so familiar opens us to confidence and joy, feelings of which her book overflows.
A great mistress of discernment, balanced and lucid, she combines affective piety with a robust theological basis. We speak of her today as of a possible “doctor of the Church” besides a woman having for the style of her prose an important place in the English literature. We will also find in her a genial woman and, taking up the beautiful image of P. Renaudin, a smiling face that gives the world her inner joy.
” His mission is to save us and his glory is to do it and his will is that we know it: he wants us to love him gently and to trust him in a sweet and strong way at the same time. And this he revealed by these kind words “I keep you with absolute protection” (ch. 61)
Daughter of Bouden Vedelaer, she was violently torn from the beguinage Wijngard of Bruges (in 1344 or 45) by three people to make her marry against her will. Warned by the other beguines, the judicial officer of Bruges prosecuted the three men, proving that the matter was taken seriously into account . Kateline could then return to the beguinage. (Simons, p. 71)
“This is the story of Sister Katrei, (spiritual, ndt) daughter of Meister Eckhart in Strasbourg” (p.11). With this enigmatic incipit, it opens a text of the fourteenth century, written in medium-high German, included by Franz Pfeiffer in the volume dedicated to Master Eckhart. But who is sister Katrei ? Marco Vannini, editor of the Italian edition, assumes that most likely Katrei was a beguine, very inspired by the thought of Eckhart. Even such a humble girl, she eventually surpassed the Master for the radicality of her conclusions. Perhaps because he was more than her “worried about saving compatibility of his tought with the ecclesiastical institution” (p.11) Vannini argues.
Katrei is considered a beguine because she could operate her choices freely, move her residence and be independent of any authority. The name sister perhaps intervenes to indicate her belonging to the Free Spirit movement, with which Eckhart also had contacts. For this he was accused of heresy and called to a trial, but he died during the journey to go and justify himself to the pope.
At that time there were 85 houses of beguines in Strasbourg and 169 in Cologne. These places were well known and frequented by Master Eckhart, especially during his position as Vicar General of the Order from 1314 in Strasbourg, but also in Cologne where he tought in the Dominican Studium perhaps starting from 1324.
In her profound spiritual experience, collected in the above mentioned manuscript, Katrei arrives at the conclusion of being able to achieve a stable condition of grace (bewerung in German), of permanent union with God. Not the God (gotten) determined in the ways of the various religions, but the unnamed Deity (gotheit), bottomless bottom, which no one can not appropriate. This happens through “that complete disappearance … or that complete annihilation that necessarily involves the bonds and religious contents” (p.17).
From : Pseudo Master Eckhart, Diventare Dio. L’insegnamento di sorella Katrei, a cura di Marco Vannini, Adelphi edizioni, Milano, 2006
Linke DOBBE (16th)
In 1579 the estate of the Great Beguinage of Brussels was sacked. The first church is occupied by Lutherans for 5 years. In this period some beguines organize a clandestine Catholic cult. The beghina Linke reads old sermons she copied; she is expelled from the city after being bodily punished.
Lydwine, also known as Liduina, Lidwina, Ludwina or Liedewij is a Dutch mystic; her cult as a saint was confirmed in 1890 by Pope Leo XIII. She is one of the most venerated Dutch saints.
Lydwine was the only female daughter of Peter, a night watchman, and Petronella, who had eight other sons. Following a fall on the ice, at the age of 15, Lydwine remains paralyzed and spends the rest of her life in bed. Disability progressively increases, and in the last years of life she could only use her left hand. From the historical documents concerning Lydwine ‘s disease a clinical picture emerges that reminds one of multiple sclerosis. In fact, she began to suffer from a debilitating disease from the age of 15, shortly after her fall, and later her motor skills decreased and began to suffer from severe headaches and toothaches. At the age of 19, she was paralyzed on both legs and had vision problems. During the next 34 years, her condition worsened even though there were periods of stability. According to other authors, she presented the symptoms of anorexia.
For her strength of mind, many contemporaries, especially chronic sick people, went to visit her to receive advice and comfort.
She died at the age of 53. According to some hagiographies Lydwine would have had the stigmata. After her death, her tomb became a destination for pilgrimages.
Thomas of Kempis wrote a biography. Another famous hagiography of the saint was written, in two different versions, by the Franciscan preacher Johannes Brugman between 1433 and 1456. A statue and the relics of the saint are kept in the “Church of Saint Lydwine” in Schiedam.
Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1987, p. 124.
She is part of the Secular Franciscan Third Order, of which some even attribute an important role in its expansion. Her story could also be that of a beguine who sought an institutional refuge in the Third Order in harmony with her penitent and poor life choices, considering the then impossibility of having another religious and secular status at the same time. Of humble origins, she soon lost her mother and from the age of seventeen she lived more uxorio (in concubinage) with a rich merchant from Montepulciano, Arsenio (identified with Raniero del Pecora, of the lords of Valiano), from whom she also has a son. The couple spent much time in a hunting lodge, belonging to the Pecora family, on the hills on the border between Umbria and Tuscany. In 1273, during a hunt, Arsenio was attacked and assassinated because of the Guelphs and the Ghibellines feuds of the time. Margherita, according to legend, finds her lover’s body by following her dog on foot. Driven off with her son by Arsenio’s family, rejected by her father and his new wife, she approaches the Franciscans of Cortona, in particular the friars Giovanni da Castiglione and Giunta Bevegnati, her spiritual directors and then biographers. She entrusted the care of her son to the minor friars of Arezzo and in 1277 she became a Franciscan tertiary, dedicating herself exclusively to prayer and works of charity.
Her spirituality pays particular attention to the Passion of Christ, in line with what Francis of Assisi and Angela of Foligno lived. Margherita had many mystical crises and visions. She gave life to a congregation of tertiaries, called Poverelle; founded a hospital in 1278 in the church of San Basilio and formed the Confraternity of Santa Maria della Misericordia, for the ladies who intended to assist the poor and the sick. Mystical woman, but also of action, courageous, sought for her advice, she was attentive to public life and, in the disputes between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, she was a peacemaker. The biography written by her confessor Frà Giunta Bevegnati, with the stories of the numerous ecstasies and visions of Margherita, has contributed to making her one of the most popular saints of central Italy. Her body is preserved in Cortona, in the basilica dedicated to her, in an urn placed above the high altar. Honoured as blessed since her death, Innocent X approved the cult on March 17, 1653, but she was only canonized in May 16, 1728 by Benedict XIII with the title of Nova Magdalena.
Last of six children, Maria is born in a poor family that she liked to describe “capable of serene affections and joy“. At 14 she decided to be part of the Stigmatines Congregation, founded by Anna Fiorelli Lapini (1809-1860), when in 1850 she created the Institute of the Poor Daughters of the Sacred Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi. Maria will deepen the life of the foundress thanks to her degree thesis in theology (1989). In 1986, together with other sisters, she decided to go and live in the Roman neighbourhood of Tor Bella Monaca, in the degraded outskirts of the capital, There, together with Tilde and the local persons, she started a path of “self-training”. Support teacher, in 1995 she entered the elementary school where she will carry out his mission of “educational work in the neighborhood”. Since 1998 she is trained in Bach flower therapy and various other therapeutic addresses thanks to which she could help many people. In 2009 she takes leave of the Stigmatines “for fidelity to her conscience and her vocation” and continues her fearless commitment to transform the world, as always on the side of the poorest. Since then she has defined herself as “new beguine“.
Source: Adriana Sbrogiò, Tilde Silvestri, Maria Cristiana Solari, Fa che non si perda tutto questo amore! In memoria di Maria Leporini, Identità e differenza, Spinea, 2015
Adriana Sbrogiò e Marco Cazzaniga, Può accadere il meglio con amore e libertà femminile. Le nuove beghine, Identità e differenza, Spinea, 2014
Maria Benedetta di CARIGNANO and Maria Angela CANAL (15th secolo)
They are two noblewomen of Venice who in 1495 founded the begging of Saint Elizabeth, affiliated with the minor friars of the Observance with the Supra montem Rule (Sensi, p.795).
Marie de GREZ(+1271)
Beguine of Nivelles, she was buried in the abbey of Villers-la-ville in 1271, in the prestigious space behind the altar where already lay Julienne of Cornillon, Heledwis, the anchorite of St. Syr in Nivelles and Marquina, an anchorite of Willambroux. (Source: Simons, p. 46).
Marie was born in Nivelles (Belgium) in 1177 by wealthy parents, who became later disappointed for her indifference towards rich clothes and ornaments. Although she well knows the Cistercian world, she does not want to become a monastic nun. At 14, her parents forced her to marry Jean, also from a wealthy family of Nivelles. Immediately after marriage, finally out of parental control, she initiates intense ascetic practices of fasting, prayer and charity. After a few months from the marriage, Jean lives a conversion that brings him closer to God. Together they decide for an “apostolic life” that also involved a conjugal relationship as brother and sister, without sexual relations. Then, they leave their home in Nivelles and join an informal community of apostolic life not far away, in Willambroux, near a leper colony. They will remain there for 12 (or maybe 15) years. Jean’s brother, Guido, is chaplain of the local church and spiritual director of this community.
Together with the other members of the community, Marie and Jean nurture and care for lepers, but also for others ill or poor, instruct children, offer religious education and pray together.
Mary becomes a “living saint”; many people talk about her and want to see her. She has a reputation for effective prayers, she can read in people’s souls, recognizing also the state of salvation or sin and invites people to repent. Too disturbed by these crowds coming from the city and surroundings, in 1207 she moved to Oignies near the priory of St Nicolas, living as a recluse in a cell next to the choir of the church. It was a life of fasts and prayers, but also offering spiritual advices. In 1208, she meets Jacques de Vitry, a canon coming from Paris to visit her and eventually become her disciple. Marie urges him to return to Paris, where he is ordained in 1210, and then to come back to Oignies to serve the lepers and the needy. Mary becomes his “magistra”, inaugurating a deep spiritual friendship, in which they were mutual guides to each other. Marie is also remembered for her preaching, a practice adopted by the beguines, at least before the prohibition of Gregory IX in 1228, and for her gift of prophecy. She is known for her incredible fasts, the last of which lasts for 53 days. At her death at the age of 36 she weighed 33kg. However, contrary to what is sometimes read, she did not receive the stigmata. She is so honored that she is considered the “first beguine”, given that around her the first historically established beguinal community was formed. She died on 23 June 1213, the day when she is commemorated as a Blessed in the Roman Martyrology. Each year, on the first Sunday after June 23, a procession with the urn of her relics leaves from the church of Notre Dame d’Oignies
After her death there was much talk about her: it seems that even Francis of Assisi was one of his admirers and that pope Gregory IX (1227-1241), “stopped cursing only by wearing the finger of Maria d’Oignies around his neck“, as curiously reported by Chiara Frugoni (Vita di un uomo: Francesco d’Assisi (Life of a man: Francis of Assisi), Einaudi, p.44).
The last beguine in the world dies during her sleep on Sunday, April 14, 2013 in Kortrijck in the home Sint-Jozef who had welcomed her after she lived in the beguinage of Kortrijck (Courtrai) from 1960 to 2005. With her integrating into the community of Mont-Saint-Amand (Gent) Marcella starts her 71-year-old history as a beguine. Her life, along with that of other beguines, has been described by Claude Bouckaert, in De Laatste der Begijnen, Uitgeverij Groeninghe, 2000. Almost blind she played the piano, the organ, the accordion and had a good sense of humor. In 2012 the communal authorities had celebrated her magnificently.
Source : http://www.lavenir.net/article/detail.aspx?articleid=DMF20130414_00296052 and personale information.
The last Gent’s beguine, Marcella Van Hoecke, died Wednesday, May 21st, 2008 in a Gent rest home. Marcella Van Hoecke was going to be 100 years old. Her death marks the end of 800 years of beguinal presence in Gent. Marcella Van Hoecke was born on July 28, 1908 in Kalken and entered the Beguinage Onze Lieve Vrouw Ter Hoyen in 1935. From 1956 to 1988, she was the Mother Superior of the Onze Lieve Vrouw ter Bloemen Convent. From 1968 to 1994, she also took the helm of Ter Hoyen Beguinage. In 1994, Marcella had retired to Avondvrede Nursing Home, where she died. Her funeral is scheduled for May 31 at the beguinage church.
Source: La libre Belgique, Posted on 23/05/2008
Born in Hainaut around 1250, this mystic of great intellectual formation wrote in 1290 “Le miroir des âmes simples et anéanties et qui seulement demeurent en vouloir et désir d’Amour“ (The mirror of souls simple and annihilated and who only remain in want and desire for Love). This text circulates rapidly among the contemplatives in France. The Mirror is condemned the first time between 1300 and 1306 by Gui de Colmieu, bishop of Cambrai, it is burned in the public square of Valenciennes and forbidden to read under pain of excommunication. The next bishop, Philippe de Marigny, made her life even more difficult: he sued her for a second trial and then turned her over to the Inquisition Court. Always hunted by hierarchies, Marguerite is imprisoned for more than a year (the time allowed for reflection by the Inquisition). She does not dodge the conflict and remains consistent until death. Marguerite refuses to swear an oath of “truth” before the Inquisition, considering that she can not give her guarantee to an unfair institution. She also refuses to receive sacramental absolution for faults that she considers not to have committed. Marguerite is burned in Paris at the Place de Greve – today Place de l’Hotel de Ville – on June 1, 1310, after a spectacular trial with 21 other theologians gathered under the direction of Guillaume de Paris. This same Guillaume is the confessor of Philip the Fair, monarch despot who also crushed the Knights Templar. A huge crowd and the highest civil and ecclesiastical authorities attend her martyrdom. The common people are deeply shaken by the nobility of this woman who goes to the stake “by honesty of love“.
The mirror of the simple souls was the reason of its condemnation by a troop of worried theologians who only based themselves on some sentences (15 “male sonantes” propositions) extracted from their context and considered as heretical. The book is conceived as a dialogue between Love and Reason, the latter being always in default. The original text in the Piccard language is lost; the extant text in a vernacular French version of the XV century was used for translations into English, Italian and Latin.
Luc Richir quotes: “Marguerite’s genius was to apply the spirit of Provencal eroticism to the realm of spirituality. Successful transfer when the relation between soul and God rests on “pure love” and not on the obedience to virtues. God is Love and Love is God, is it written in the Mirror. Love desires nothing but the effacement, the annihilation of the will of the soul in favour of the divine will. The theme is not original. What is more, it is the path followed towards the infinite will: the wanting nothing“. (Luc Richir, supplement to La Vie, March 4, 2004).
For centuries, we have believed this work lost. It is the historian Romana Guarnieri who finds it in 1946 in a fund of the Vatican Library and publishes it for the first time in 1962 with her critical comments. Father Paul Verdeyen published in Latin this treatise by taking over the translation made by the Inquisition and the Corpus Christianorum into Flemish.
“I rest in peace completely, alone, reduced to nothing, all to the courtesy of the only goodness of God, without a single will to make me move, whatever its richness. The accomplishment of my work is always wanting nothing. For as long as I do not want anything, I am alone in him, without me, and all liberated; while wanting something, I am with me, and so I lose my freedom. And if I do not want anything, if I have lost all my will, I miss nothing: free is my conduct, and I want nothing from anyone. When I want nothing, and have lost everything out of my will, then I miss nothing; free is my maintenance. I do not want anything from anyone ” (Mirror of the simple souls)
The historian Lemmens points out the divergences that exist between specialists on the figure of Marguerite, who, probably a beguines, was nonetheless an atypical beguine. It is proved by the text of the Mirror where she writes:
“Friend, what will say the beguines and the people of religion
when will they hear the excellence of our divine song?
The beguines say that I am mistaken, and priests, clerics and preachers,
Augustinians, Carmelitanes and the Friars Minor
for what I write about the state of ennobled Love” (chapter 122, 88-89)
Was she an isolated, wandering beguine, or did she live in the beguinage of Valenciennes at the Service of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital? We know that she worked in Valenciennes, in Lorraine and in the bishopric of Reims and even in Paris. Her book was even introduced to the London Charterhouse by the following of the Queen. Sometimes considered belonging to the Brothers and Sisters of Free Spirit; it seems however that she was never part of it (Lemmens, p. 112).
Simone Weil in her Cahiers quotes some extras from the Mirror, without yet knowing who the author was, as for a long time one thought to be a man.
Thomas de Cantimpré is the author of her Vita. He tells that Margherita lived piously with her mother and sisters, under the guidance of a Dominican friar, Zeger of Lille, from the age of 18 until her death in 1237. This confessor tried to stop her alms that she did for lepers. Her visions gained fame in all of Flanders. It is not known, however, if she was part of a beguinal community, attested hoever starting from 1240 (Simons, p. 44). She belongs to the ecstatic movement.
Beguine of the Great Beguinage of Ghent, she had around 1470 a vision with Christ crucified by means of a crucifix called “cross of Matteken”, heart craft of the 2nd quarter of the 14th century, which explains the devotion granted to this cross.
She was born in 1208 or 1210 in an aristocratic family of Saxony. From the very young age of 12, she received her first mystical experience, which she recounts in her work The flowing Light of the Godhead (IV, 26). This event makes her leave the paternal home very young. To the convent for high lineage girls, she prefers a community of beguines in Magdeburg, where she leads a life dedicated to prayer, penance and her extraordinary encounters with God. For about 30 years she did not speak about her experiences; it was only in 1250, under the advice of her confessor, the Dominican Heinrich von Halle, that she began to write her experiences on scattered leaves, then collected by Heinrich himself. Thus, around the age of 40, she composes in Low German a “visionary” treatise (the vision being considered one of the forms of divine communication) in prose and verses whose title is The flowing Light of God, a text that Eckhart himself will later know. She could finish it at the end of her life. This work will bring her admirers, but also many opponents, especially among the high ranking clergy (including the pope), whom she did not hesitate to criticise. This hostility forces her to leave the community of Magdeburg at the age of 60 to find protection first in her family and then in the Cistercian convent of Hefta, with the abbess Gertrude von Hackerbon. Here, aged and exhausted by her voluntary deprivations, she finds a very favourable environment and a high place of spirituality. In the peace of this convent she completes her work and dies, as a Cistercian, in 1282.
Most literary critics believe that her work, already well known, would have inspired Dante Alighieri the fascinating character of Matelda, whom he presents to us in Purgatory, XXVII, 40-42.
Machtheld diffuses the devotion to the Sacred Heart and this does not surprise us when one thinks that she is one of the most representative mystics of the “bridal mysticism” (Minniemystik in Flemish and Brautmystik in German).
“I, 10 – By loving God we win over three things.
The man who wins over the world
and deprives his body of any harmful will
and win on the demon
is the soul that loves God.
If the world hits him,
his pain is not great.
If his weakness makes him fail a bit,
his mind does not want to make it an illness.
If the demon targets him,
the soul does not care.
He must love and still love
And do not worry about it “
(Mechthild di Magdeburg, La fluente luce della divinità, Ed.Giunti, Firenze, 1991, p. 40, personal translation)
Metza von WESTENHOVE (+ 1366)
Judged being “relapsa” (felt again in the heresy) almost half a century after the first sentence, this old beguine was burned in Strasbourg in 1366
Source : GUARNIERI Romana (a cura di), Il movimento del Libero Spirito. Testi e documenti, Edizioni di storia e letteratura, Roma, 1965, p.451)
Her parents promised her in marriage to a man when she was 7 years old and 8 years later forced her to marry him, but for 5 years they still avoided sexual relations. She gave birth to John, who later became the parish priest of St. Lambert in Liege, but after 5 years his husband died. In 1203 she had an ecstatic vision of Christ’s passion, followed by other visions during the Eucharist in the guise of a child. She then chose the life of celibacy, even if her vow was occasionally betrayed by lascivious priests, as her hagiographer refers (Simons, p. 69-70). A little before her death, she assigned an endowment to a convent of 24 beguines in her house near the church of Saint Mary Magdalene, but it is not known how long they lived there.
Her Life was written by an anonymous Canon of Liege (Simons p. 38). It refers that the beguines lived in various parts of the city, serving churches or as anchorites.
Philippinne de PORCELLET (13th)
Originally from Arles, she is a disciple of Douceline de Digne and takes part of the community that settled around her, outside the city of Hyères, where ladies of Provence, eager to devote themselves to God, live without imposing a common rule. They are dedicated to the poor and the sick. In 1297, Philippine writes in Occitan La Vida Beneaurada Sancta Douceline. Source: Wikipedia.
Wife, mother, then widow and finally Augustinian nun: these are the successive stages that have been used to describe the life of Saint Rita da Cascia. However, the careful study of the scholar Lucetta Scaraffia advances a new hypothesis on the fact that the Monastery of Saint Mary Magdalen, where Rita found hospitality, was firstly rather a beguinal house. She writes “Even the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalen, probably, was a house of “bizzoche” [Italian word for beguines in that region] then passed under the control of the Augustinians. The very name that refers to a life of penance rather than withdrawal from the world, and the presence of a female confraternity of the Santissima Annunziata in the church of the same name, formerly linked to the monastery, seem to confirm this hypothesis”. Also, the historian Lucetta states that “Although the visitors to the Monastery in 1465 refer of a Augustinian rule, we know that, in many cases, such a reference constituted a mere regularity clause, necessary for the bishop’s approval, but did not correspond to a real dependence on this institution. Similar cases have been found in the Spoleto valley, where, out of thirteen female foundations built at the end of the 13th century, only seven were institutionalized by the bishops, six of which declared themselves to have assumed the Augustinian rule, but even after the Council of Trento the apostolic visitors denounced the beguinal state of the women who were part of them“. (From Lucetta Scaraffia, La santa degli impossibili, Vita e pensiero, Milano, 2014, p.108-109).
Romana was a passionate and very generous scholar, as all those who approached her recognize. Speaking with her I realized almost immediately that she was the depositary of the richness of the mystical feminine theology which I had just glimpsed. That is the richness of an admirable season of European civilization, between the Low Middle Ages and the dawn of modernity. Romana had accumulated them over the years, assimilated with intimate participation and now placed them at my disposal.
Ours have been a long relation, marked by regular stays in her house, by long conversations and by some extra moenia excursions. Everything was beautiful, nothing was easy, just as it should have be.
At first Romana told me of her friendship with Don Giuseppe De Luca, of her conversion to the Catholic Church and of their intense collaboration in the publishing house that they had founded together, until his death, arrived too early. I learned to know her. She did not appraise from conventional courtesy or from other exteriorities, but from the interiority. She did so, however, remaining connected to her counter part, as proof of a strength and a calm that nourished each other. Romana had a special gift, she loved souls. Out of the subjects of study, if she was not solicited, she did not speak about religion but always had a wide window open to the sky. At the centre of her conversion and her faith, Romana put the friendship and love of Jesus, just as she called it. When questioned by me, she said that they were superior to the friendship and love that bound her to Don Giuseppe De Luca, the man who made her meet with her Jesus. Without any doubt she had proved her superior fidelity to this supernatural love, in the friendship itself that bound her to the man without ever becoming an attachment nor, much less, an addiction. Yes, she was a free woman and so she was thanks to God. She was a Beguine.
To read the full Italian text sent to us by Luisa Muraro click the following link: Romana Guarnieri testo completo.
A recluse woman of Trevi (Umbria), we know Sofia of the late Bartolo di Bernardo for her deposition during the process of canonization of the blessed Simone da Collazzone. Sofia became a recluse around 1232. “After five years she contracted an arthrosis such that she could not move anymore” but she was able to stay in her place thanks to the help of a sister who maintained contact with the world as Sofia was observing a severe enclosure. She received in her “prison” various recluses ad tempora, for example Illuminata of Pietro from Montefalco for the time of Lent, but a community did not develop around her.
Source: Mario Sensi, Stories of bizzoche between Umbria and Marche, p. 12.
Beguine of Aix-en-Provence, she is mentioned in the list of “Beghine, Begardi, Beghinaggi”, edited by A. Mens in the Italian Dictionnary of Institutes of Perfection, pp. 1166-1180. Also Sparrone was part of the community of the Dames of Roubaud grown around Douceline de Digne.
Cesarius of Heisterbach (1180-1240) speaks of her in his Dialogus magnus visionum et miraculorum as a religious and visionary woman with an intense devotion to the Eucharist. From 1267 she shared her house with at least another religious woman giving life to a small community of beguines lasting until the eighteenth century (Simons, p. 44).