HADEWIJCH (+1250 ca)

by Alessia VALLARSA

Hadewijch by Christine Daine, Poor Clare of Belgium

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

See also: PANCIERA Silvana, Hadewijch o la lirica cortese nella mistica , in Appunti di viaggio, n. 132, maggio-agosto 2014