Agnes BLANNBEKIN (c.1244-1315)

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 Vita and Revelationes (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 “ (Wikipedia)

(sources : Laura Swam, The winsdom of beguines, p.42 and Wikipedia)

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