The Beguines

by Elizabeth T. Knuth

December, 1992

In the late twelfth century, women began to experiment with the possibility of a way of life outside of the socially endorsed alternatives of wife or cloistered nun. Social conditions were ripe for this new idea, and the Beguine movement flourished, reaching its peak in the latter half of the following century.[1] My interest in the Beguines was piqued when I learned that "they were not bound by vows, were not subject to papal enclosure, and did not totally renounce the possibility of marriage; [and that] their piety seems to have centered on the eucharist and the humanity of Jesus."[2] I also vaguely recalled that the Beguines had been charged with heresy. In my research, I have become convinced that the Beguine movement is very important indeed. There are many fascinating connections between the Beguines and other movements, figures, and events. In this short essay I will attempt to sketch the early history of the Beguines, describe their spirituality, and briefly discuss some implications for today.

A Note on Etymology

Originally, "Beguine" was a pejorative term. It seems to have almost always had heretical undertones (McDonnell 430). Early defenders preferred to speak of "holy women" or "religious women." Others used such circumlocutions as mulieres vulgariter dictae beguinae. This reluctance to use the word "Beguine" without further qualification continued until the latter half of the thirteenth century (McDonnell 4-5, 445). As to the derivation of this name, several explanations have been proposed. The most persistent idea is that they are named after Lambert le Begue,[3] and his name is sometimes taken as an indication that he was either a heretic or a stammerer (Bowie 12; Cox 86). Others have suggested that "Beguine" is a derivative of "Albigensian",[4] a reference to mendicancy,[5] or to St. Begga (Bowie 13; Hart 3; McDonnell 431), or to the characteristic gray color of the Beguine habit (Hart 3; cf. Bowie 10). None of these is conclusive.[6]

Social Context

On the eve of the Beguine movement, the independence and authority of women were severely limited. Particularly in monastic circles, some women had hitherto had considerable authority, but now ecclesiastical and civil officials were determined to put a stop to all that (Bowie 5). Women were said to be dangerously carnal and lustful creatures, far removed from the male realms of spirit and intellect (Bowie 9). Women might engage in commercial life and manage their husbands' financial affairs, but "there was a general acceptance of the notion that formal authority was inconsistent with femininity" (Bowie 5-7). Accordingly, double monasteries were suppressed (Southern 310, 313; McDonnell 103), religious orders closed their doors to women,[7] and the power of abbesses was curtailed.[8] Married women were to be submissive, and wife-beating was countenanced (Bowie 6). Although women were active in many trades, men made the decisions in even predominantly female guilds (Bowie 7; McDonnell 85).

The two options presented to women of the nobility were marriage or the cloister; women of lower social classes might enter a trade, and possibly remain single. This sort of choice was highly inadequate to the social reality. In France, Germany, and the Low Countries there were more marriageable women than men, "due to local wars, feuds, crusades, . . . the large number of celibate secular and regular clergy" (Bowie 14), and guild regulations which restricted marriage to masters (McDonnell 84). In at least some regions, women may have been in the majority in absolute numbers as well (Southern 323). Suitable marriages could not be arranged for all the daughters of the nobility, yet it was considered disreputable for these women to earn their own livelihood through labor of any sort.[9]

And what of a life of "religion"? Demand exceeded supply; the number of female convents was small (Southern 310, 323). Many women found the monastic reforms and the new mendicant orders very attractive, but the men considered women dangerous distractions and did little to encourage them (Bowie 9-11; Southern 310-17; McDonnell 103-05, 116-19, 189-96). Furthermore, whatever their original intent, monastic communities had become the preserve of the nobility and the rich. Europe was in transition from rural feudalism to a money economy centered in towns, and monastic communities demanded high entrance fees, despite repeated protests against this practice (Bowie 10; Southern 315; McDonnell 63, 85, 89-94, 96-97). In short, neither marriage nor cloister was attainable for many women.

The age of which the Beguines were but one manifestation was a time of widespread religious ferment. Some of the religious groups which sprang up at about the same time as the Beguines were the Waldensians, Lollards, Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit, Spiritual Franciscans, Apostolici, Albigensians, Joachimites, and flagellants. If anything, these protest movements grew more apocalyptic and extreme as the thirteenth century wore on. Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose provides a good picture of the confusion in the mid-fourteenth century, and the Inquisitor Bernard Gui, who appears in Eco's book, persecuted Beguines. The common thread running through these new religious groups, and to some extent also in monastic reform and the mendicant orders, was the tremendous appeal of the vita apostolica. "Liberty" and "poverty" were watchwords.[10] The vita apostolica was conceived of as a return to primitive Christianity, with zeal for souls, and a simple life in common (McDonnell 141). Ecclesiastical and secular authorities quite rightly saw these ragtag groups as indictments against them. In particular, the ideal of voluntary poverty was held up as a stark contrast to greed, simony, the corruption of the clergy, and the wealth of the Church (Brunn xvi; McDonnell 73, 142, 150-51). Though sharing in horror at the wealth of the Church, these various protest movements took different paths. Some were orthodox; others were heretical. Some wanted only to purify the institutional Church; others would have preferred to raze the entire structure (Brunn xvi; McDonnell 141-42).

The Rise (and Fall) of the Beguines

The Beguines were a spontaneous women's movement, not an adjunct to any male figure or group. There was no founder, no Rule, no constitution. Each Beguine community was autonomous; there was no one who supervised or regulated Beguine houses scattered throughout Northern Europe. They did not advocate any particularly odd doctrine. They were engaged in a number of occupations. All of this makes it difficult to describe the history of the Beguines; since there was room for local variation, one cannot say that on a certain date a particular event occurred which affected all Beguines alike. It is a gross distortion to suggest, for example, that Lambert le Begue established a convent in Liège for rich widows so that they might practice charity towards the poor and ill.[11] There is some confusion even today as to who should be counted as Beguines.[12] There was, however, a sort of Beguine ethos, which I will describe below, under the heading of spirituality. In addition, although there is no universally applicable timetable, at least in Belgium there is a discernible pattern in the evolution of Beguine communities.

The Beguine movement began in the diocese of Liège in Brabant (now Belgium), though there has been debate over which town--Liège itself or Nivelles--was the birthplace (Bowie 14-15; McDonnell 7). Lambert le Begue, who was a priest of Liège, certainly encouraged women who wished to "live religiously." The group of women with which he was associated, and who were later recognized as Beguines, appeared between 1170 and 1175 (Bowie 14). On the other hand, the first prominent woman to be identified as a Beguine was Mary of Oignies (d. 1213), who was a conversa of the (male) Augustinian priory of St. Nicholas, near Nivelles (McDonnell 10).

"While Germany was noted for the proliferation of scattered women and even small convents" (Ziegler 352), it was in Belgium that the beguinage developed. The end product of the evolution of Beguine communities, the beguinage was a city within a city. "The full-blown beguinage comprised a church, cemetery, hospital, public square, and streets and walks lined with convents for the younger sisters and pupils and individual houses for the older and well-to-do inhabitants. In the Great Beguinage at Ghent, with its walls and moats, there were at the beginning of the fourteenth century two churches, eighteen convents, over a hundred houses, a brewery, and an infirmary" (McDonnell 479).

How did the Beguines become so institutionalized and complex? L.M.J. Philippen outlined a four-stage evolution. The first stage consisted of individual women living as conversae, or in their own or their parents' homes. At this point, they were not bound by vows, nor did they renounce property or abandon their trades. The second stage, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, was marked by disciplined associations. A grand mistress, along with a council of other mistresses, presided over each group. There was some clerical influence as well. The third stage came with the beguinae clausae. At this point, the Beguines acquired (or built) infirmaries, and settled near them. This was often a natural development as community members grew older, or poorer members needed care (McDonnell 67, 159). Furthermore, that women were encouraging each other to good works pleased the hierarchy. The drawback is that this development was sometimes later seen as the raison d'être for Beguines: either that Beguine communities were to aid single women who could not gain admittance to monastic orders, or the idea that we have seen earlier, that Beguines were to be a charitable organization to nurse the sick (McDonnell 6). The fourth stage was reached in the late thirteenth century with the creation of the beguinage. In this stage, large Beguine communities were designated as parishes, and sometimes given land in "a more favorable location" (McDonnell 6). Philippen characterized this pattern as "an evolution from isolation to claustration" (Ziegler 353). Well, certainly Church authorities urged claustration, but I am not so sure the early Beguines were all that isolated, even if they didn't see the need for an organizational superstructure.[13] One could also see this as a transition from independence to co-optation, or from flexibility to institutionalization, or from self-direction to clerical control.

Clerical attitudes towards the Beguines were ambivalent. The women's dedication to chastity and charity was greatly admired (McDonnell 6, 137), but their proximity to clerics or male monastics was regarded as dangerous for both parties (Bowie 16-17; McDonnell 60, 103). The Cistercians were willing to take charge of convents, but not to provide pastoral care. The Liber Usuum Conversorum of 1235 made the granges off-limits for Cistercian conversae and "entailed a denial of ordinary monastic hospitality to women and even to male escorts" (McDonnell 112-17). The Dominicans were repeatedly warned against associating with Beguines, and reminded that their mission was the intellectual battle against heresy rather than pastoral work. But on the local level, this was largely ignored, and in fact Beguines in the north were often associated with Dominican friars (McDonnell 187-204). When the Beguines were pressed to adopt an approved Rule, this sometimes meant that a Beguine house would become a Cistercian convent with Cistercian spirituality, following the Augustinian Rule, but working closely with Dominican men! Those who resented the mendicant orders also hated the Beguines.

The Beguines never did become an approved religious order, although they were granted some privileges and exemptions customary for approved orders, such as indulgences, permission to carry on religious services during interdict, and so on (McDonnell 132, 236-45). Their status in Rome fluctuated for a time, but the tide turned against the Beguines in the fourteenth century. As is well-known, the Fourth Lateran Council prohibited the establishment of any new religious orders. However, Jacques of Vitry managed to get permission for some Beguine communities to continue (Bowie 17; Corpus Dictionary 82; McDonnell 30). The papal bull Gloriam virginalem of 1233 seemed to endorse the Beguines (Bowie 18; McDonnell 6). Aleydis, a Beguine, was executed as a heretic in 1236; this stirred up vehement public protest (Bowie 34; Hart 22). The Council of Lyons in 1274 reiterated the ban on new orders. The Council of Vienne, 1311-12, explicitly named Beguines as heretical, though the same document also claimed there was nothing wrong with women penitents forming communities, even without vows (Bowie 35-36; Southern 330). In the years following, Beguines had their property confiscated, and were forced to marry (Bowie 36). In 1318 the bishop of Cologne called for "the dissolution of all Beguine associations and their integration into Orders approved by the pope" (Southern 330-31). On the other hand, Pope John XXII distinguished between "beghini" who truly were heretical, located mainly in Italy, and the northern Beguines living unobjectionable lives. In August of the same year, John issued the bull Racio recta, which stated that these latter Beguines should not be hindered, but permitted to "pursue their way of life without diminution of property or rights."[14] In 1421 Pope Martin V "ordered the archbishop of Cologne to search out and destroy any small convents of persons living under the cloak of religion without a definite Rule" (Southern 331). Martin need not have worried; by this time beguinages were essentially poorhouses, not busying themselves with theological concerns (McDonnell 573). Such beguinages as remained were dissolved by the Reformation and Napoleonic Wars. The beguinages in Belgium had something of a revival in the seventeenth century. In 1969, there were eleven beguinages in Belgium and two in Holland (Bowie 20; Corpus Dictionary 82).

Beguine Spirituality

As mentioned earlier, the Beguines, like many of their contemporaries, were drawn by the ideal of the vita apostolica. Partly through choice and partly through coercion by the hierarchy, the Beguines did have a communal life. But the Beguines sought to live with a minimum of bureaucratic complications. The goals were simplicity and freedom. This applies as well to their understanding of evangelical poverty. Jacques of Vitry, an ardent supporter of the early "holy women," charged that financial success had vitiated the monastic ideal (McDonnell 90). For the first hundred years or so, the Beguine movement drew many members from the wealthier classes; these women, for religious and political reasons, found voluntary poverty very attractive (McDonnell 96-98). However, the Beguines did not obligate their members to poverty (McDonnell 129-30). Manual labor was valued as the way to humility, apostolic poverty, and the ability to serve the needy (McDonnell 143-46). Thus criticisms of the Beguines as lazy and opportunistic beggars are inaccurate. The Beguines were "expected to live modestly, and an annual visitation by the grand mistress to each of the houses and convents determined that its inhabitants lived neither too luxuriously nor, interestingly, too simply. While reacting against the wealth and ostentation of secular society, the beguines did not see poverty as an end in itself" (Bowie 24). Another component of the vita apostolica was zeal for souls, the defeat of heresy (McDonnell 414). So, for example, Mary of Oignies wholeheartedly supported the Crusade against the Albigensians, and the Beguines in Belgium were regarded as a bulwark against heresy (Brunn xviii; McDonnell 415-16; Mitchell 173-75). Critics faulted Beguines for daring to preach, and it may be true that some did preach, though they themselves would have seen this as apostolic zeal for imparting true doctrine (McDonnell 343-44, 412). One especially touchy practice was the use of the vernacular. New vernacular languages had arisen in Europe in the ninth and tenth centuries, and Latin had become unintelligible to the common people (Mitchell 69-70). Adherents of the vita apostolica therefore endeavored to provide devotional literature in a language that people could understand. Ecclesiastical officials feared that this played into the hands of heretics and infidels.

Many Beguines had a strong devotion to the Eucharist. This could take on dramatic forms, as in the case of Beatrice of Nazareth, whose reception of, or longing for, the sacrament provoked bleeding and physical collapse (Bowie 27; McDonnell 314-15). More often, Beguines had the common medieval desire to see the consecrated elements. But they also had a desire to receive communion frequently, and this was not a widespread attitude, and was unusual enough to elicit notice. In an era when Eucharistic reception once yearly had to be mandated, and members of religious orders might commonly receive communion three times a year, Beguines wanted weekly or even more frequent communion (McDonnell 311, 316-18). It is "no accident that the feast of Corpus Christi had its origins in the diocese of Liège" (McDonnell 313). Juliana of Liège[15] had an intense devotion to the Eucharist, and from 1208 until her death in 1258 tirelessly promoted the institution of a special feast to honor the Eucharist.[16] Jacques Pantaleon, while archdeacon of Liège, wrote a Rule for Beguines; as Pope Urban IV he established Corpus Christi as a feast of the universal Church with his bull Transiturus in 1264 (McDonnell 163, 306-09; Mitchell 175).

Devotion to the Eucharist is in turn a facet of devotion to the humanity of Christ, the Heart of Jesus, and especially the Passion of Christ (Bowie 27; McDonnell 318). The phenomenon of stigmatization first appeared in the thirteenth century, whereupon "it became increasingly common, especially among women" (McDonnell 319). Mary of Oignies may have been the first stigmatist, having received the stigmata twelve years prior to Francis of Assisi's famous experience (McDonnell 318). Women could acquire a reputation for sanctity through the stigmata, as well as visions, trances, levitation, and extreme asceticism. Christine of Stommeln gained a circle of admirers--male and predominantly Dominican--in just this way.[17] These extraordinary experiences were viewed more suspiciously by most of the Beguines themselves. House rules were characterized by moderation and pragmatism (Bowie 28; McDonnell 349). When Christine complained of being tormented by demons, "the claim . . . merely provoked smiles and drew forth from the extra-regulars comments on mental derangement or charges of feigned holiness" (McDonnell 445).

The greatest exponents of Beguine spirituality in its mystical form are Mechthild of Magdeburg (1212?-1282?), Beatrice of Nazareth (1200?-1268), Hadewijch of Brabant,[18] and Marguerite Porete (d. 1310). Like all mystics, they believed that the individual human soul could be directly united to God. As in most genuine Christian mysticism, they stressed love as the way to divine union. What gives Beguine mysticism its special flavor is the sort of love mysticism it is: Minnemystik combined Cistercian teaching with the medieval notions of courtly love (Bowie 40-42; Brunn xxv). Mechthild and Marguerite employ the Augustinian style of autobiography, that is, a dialogue between the soul and God--or sometimes between the soul and Minne (Love). Love is feminine in both Dutch and German, and "Lady Love is also Divine Love" (Brunn 99-100). Thus under the name of Minne the Beguine mystics had a powerful feminine metaphor for God. These authors wrote in the vernacular, and were the first to treat of spiritual matters in these emerging languages--Middle Low German for Mechthild, Middle Dutch for Beatrice, Flemish for Hadewijch, and Old French for Marguerite. Their works are regarded as literary masterpieces (Brunn xxii, xxix, 43, 71, 147).

The courtly love lyric originated in southern France, and was spread by the "troubadours in France, the Minnesanger in Germany and proponents of the dolce stil nuovo in Italy" (Bowie 41-42). A good case can be made that Dante was familiar with Mechthild's works. The Matelda who appears in the Purgatorio might well be Mechthild (see Brunn 49-50). The Beguine authors borrowed the style and imagery of courtly love, and used them to describe the soul's relation to God. On the Cistercian side, Bernard of Clairvaux's commentary on the Song of Songs showed that a perfectly orthodox author could use erotic language in this way. Even more influential for Beguine mysticism was the work of William of St. Thierry. Interestingly, he was from Liège (see Brunn xvii). William was "the most `Greek' of the twelfth century theologians" (Brunn xxvi). Like the Greek Fathers, he spoke of our divinization. Passages such as the following found a receptive audience with the Beguines: "It is well said that we shall see him fully as he is when we are like him, that is when we are what he is. For those who have been enabled to become sons of God have been enabled to become not indeed God, but what God is: holy, and in the future, fully happy as God is."[19] More distinctive to William was his Trinitarian theology: the goal of the Christian is to be found in God, and to love with God's own love, the love of the immanent Trinity (Brunn xxvi). To this mix, the Beguines added their themes of "overpassing" and "the More." Overpassing is expressed in terms of the via negativa. It means that the soul must transcend itself and all things less than God. The "More" is Marguerite's way of expressing God's transcendence; however close we may come to God, something of God is beyond our reach. That God is inexhaustible is a cause for rejoicing (Brunn xxxi-xxxiii, 48).

Were the Beguines heretical? I am inclined to conclude from my research that the vast majority were not. Despite the theory that "Beguine" derives from "Albigensian," they certainly were not that. Albigensians were dualistic, claimed an esoteric doctrine of salvation, preached reincarnation, and spurned the sacraments (Corpus Dictionary 16, 135-36). The Beguines manifestly do not fit this description, and in fact firmly opposed the Albigensians, especially in the diocese of Liège (Bowie 34-35; McDonnell 415-16; Mitchell 173-74). Most often Beguines accused of heresy were said to share in the errors of the Free Spirit sect (Bowie 35). The Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit were alleged[20] to be pantheistic and antinomian, and to reject the Church and sacraments (Bowie 35; Corpus Dictionary 109). They purportedly taught that it is possible for every human soul to "realize its divine nature" (Cox 96), and for the soul that had come to this awareness that it was God, there could be no sin. Beguines, by contrast, were not pantheists. However intimate the union with God, God is always the "More." We may become "not indeed God, but what God is," as William of St. Thierry wrote. Although scandalized by greed and corruption, Beguines did not reject the Church nor its teaching authority. Again, the charge of being antisacramental is very far off the mark. Aside from the Beguines' veneration of the Eucharist, it is interesting to note that Beatrice and Hadewijch's visions always occur in a liturgical setting (see Brunn 77, 103). As for the suggestion that the Beguines recognized no moral law, it appears that the Inquisitors, whether deliberately or not, misunderstood such dramatic language as Marguerite Porete's "farewell to virtues" (Bowie 39). In its original context, this was very like Paul's attitude in Romans towards the Law. Virtues are good, they are given by Love, but we must not be slaves to them as if they were themselves God. We are to overpass the virtues, not abrogate them.[21] Quite likely there were "good Beguines" and "bad Beguines." However, I think it is too simplistic to draw the line between Italy and the north (as did John XXII), or say that the difference depends on whether they lived east or west of the Rhine (Ziegler 347), or to suggest that those who resisted enclaustration were thereby heretical (Bowie 19; McDonnell 6, 412-15). I suppose it is possible that there is a vast mother lode of Beguine heresy that I have yet to uncover. Or it may be that I am unjustified in reading admittedly inflammatory texts as orthodox. But the contention that Beguines were heretical is far from compelling.

Conclusions and Implications for Today

From the start, Beguines combined a life of prayer with direct service to the needy. I think we have them to thank for so-called "mixed" religious orders. The Beguines demonstrated that it was possible for a woman to be dedicated to God without necessarily retiring to a cloister.

I find it encouraging that this was a spontaneous movement on the part of women. It is not so heartening to acknowledge that men in positions of authority still consider female initiative threatening. There was, and is, great difficulty retaining the integrity of a women's movement within a Church which restricts ordination and jurisdiction to men.

We can see in the history of the Beguines a transition from a spontaneous women's movement, which broke the molds and was marked by freedom and simplicity, to an institution which better fit the established model. But even as the Beguines "made it" with the beguinage, they were co-opted and the movement's original vitality was sapped. Much as I hate to admit it, I think it was their very autonomy that aided their downfall. Because the Beguines did not have any organizational support structure, they were sitting ducks for persecution and co-optation. This does not necessarily mean that they ought to have adopted a hierarchical structure. The Beguines related well to the various approved orders, so it is disappointing that they did not have a better communications network between their own scattered membership. Barring that, even a simple statement of purpose or Rule could have helped them maintain their identity without sacrificing too much freedom. This history could serve as a warning to groups within the Church today, whether seeking canonical recognition or not, to be clear on what constitutes success from their perspective.


1. Ernest W. McDonnell, The Beguines and Beghards in Medieval Culture: With Special Emphasis on the Belgian Scene (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1954) 409.

2. Nathan Mitchell, Cult and Controversy: The Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass (N.Y.: Pueblo, 1982) 174.

3. Corpus Dictionary of Western Churches, ed. T.C. O'Brien (Washington: Corpus, 1970) 81; Michael Cox, Handbook of Christian Spirituality, rev. ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985) 86; Lucy Menzies, The Revelations of Mechthild of Magdeburg (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1953) xviii; Columba Hart, introduction, Hadewijch: The Complete Works (N.Y.: Paulist, 1980) 3; Fiona Bowie, introduction, Beguine Spirituality: Mystical Writings of Mechthild of Magdeburg, Beatrice of Nazareth, and Hadewijch of Brabant, trans. Oliver Davies (N.Y.: Crossroad, 1990) 12; McDonnell 431.

4. Richard William Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages (London: Penguin, 1970) 321; Bowie 12; McDonnell 435.

5. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, ed. William Morris (N.Y.: American Heritage, 1975).

6. For a critique of proposed explanations, see McDonnell 430-38.

7. E. Ann Matter, "Innocent III and the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven," Women Priests: A Catholic Commentary on the Vatican Declaration, ed. Leonard Swidler and Arlene Swidler (N.Y.: Paulist, 1977) 150; Southern 313; McDonnell 189-90.

8. Bowie 10. Matter (145-47) points out this may have been a papal/monastic power struggle as well as a male/female issue.

9. McDonnell 85. This reminds me of Luke 16:3, "I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed."

10. Emilie Zum Brunn and Georgette Epiney-Burgard, Women Mystics in Medieval Europe, trans. Sheila Hughes (N.Y.: Paragon House, 1989) xvi.

11. W.K. Fleming, Mysticism in Christianity (London: Robert Scott, 1913) perpetuates this and other myths. Menzies (xviii) also supports this "lady bountiful" notion.

12. Joanna Ziegler, "Some Questions Regarding the Beguines and Devotional Art," Vox Benedictina, October 1986, 345.

13. See Bowie 33.

14. McDonnell 536. This ruling was reissued by Benedict XIII in 1336.

15. Also known as Juliana of Cornillon. See McDonnell 299 ff.

16. McDonnell 98, 305-08; Mitchell 175. For Juliana's Beguine connections, see McDonnell 300-04. Juliana is also our link to the cult of relics. She visited Cologne, and later parceled out relics from five hundred bodies to her friends in various monasteries and convents. See McDonnell 295-98.

17. Bowie 28, 33-34; McDonnell 344-55. For an account of Sibyl, a woman who claimed to be a Beguine and traded on credulity and the hunger for miracles, see McDonnell 452-53.

18. We don't know Hadewijch's dates, but her works were written between 1221 and 1240, according to Bowie 96. Some think the "New Poems" are by another hand, also a Beguine, of the late thirteenth or early fourteenth centuries. This later author is more scholastic and apophatic in tone. See Brunn 129-30.

19. William of St. Thierry, The Golden Epistle: A Letter to the Brethren of Mont Dieu, II:XV, 257, 258.

20. Some scholars doubt there was an organized group meeting the Inquisition's description of the Free Spirit. See Bowie 39.

21. Brunn xxviii-xxix, 110, 122-26, 152, 156, 158-59. The provocative phrase "farewell to virtues" comes from the sixth chapter of A Mirror for Simple Souls.

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