Mechthild von MAGDEBURG (1208/10 – 1282)

Mechthild von Magdeburg, icon by Martina Bugada

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 his 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, XXVIII, 34-48.

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 her weakness makes her fail a bit,
his mind does not want to make it an illness.

If the demon targets him,
the soul does not care.
She must love and still love
and do not worry about it “

(Mechthild di Magdeburg, La luce fluente della divinità, Ed.Giunti, Firenze, 1991, p. 38, personal translation)

See also: PANCIERA Silvana, Vedere con cuore : Mechthild di Magdeburg-Appunti, in Appunti di viaggio, n.130, gennaio-febbraio 2014


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