Cities of Ladies: Beguine Communities in the Medieval Low by Walter Simons

By Walter Simons

Chosen via selection journal as a great educational name for 2002In the early 13th century, semireligious groups of girls started to shape within the towns and cities of the Low international locations. those beguines, because the ladies got here to be identified, led lives of contemplation and prayer and earned their livings as workers or teachers.In towns of girls, the 1st heritage of the beguines to seem in English in fifty years, Walter Simons lines the transformation of casual clusters of unmarried ladies to massive beguinages. those veritable single-sex towns provided decrease- and middle-class girls a substitute for either marriage and convent existence. whereas the region's increasing city economies in the beginning valued the groups for his or her affordable exertions provide, serious financial crises through the fourteenth century limited women's possibilities for paintings. Church experts had additionally grown much less tolerant of non secular experimentation, hailing as subversive a few elements of beguine mysticism. To Simons, even though, such accusations of heresy opposed to the beguines have been mostly generated from a profound anxiousness approximately their highbrow goals and their claims to a chaste existence outdoors the cloister. less than ecclesiastical and fiscal strain, beguine groups faded in dimension and impact, surviving merely via adopting a posture of restraint and submission to church gurus.

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Additional resources for Cities of Ladies: Beguine Communities in the Medieval Low Countries, 1200-1565 (The Middle Ages Series)

Example text

The final goal of voluntary poverty was to open one’s mind to the life of perfection, heeding Christ’s advice: ‘‘If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast and give to the poor and thou shalt have treasure in heaven. And come follow me’’ (Matt. :). Yet the definition of voluntary poverty always contained a relative component. It demanded outwardly recognizable acts of austerity and works of charity, but to many of its adherents its main rewards were purely spiritual: it protected the individual from vanity and undue reliance on temporal values.

91 Shortly afterward, we find the full range of accusations later made against the Cathars—radical dualism, use of the consolamentum, rejection of the Eucharist and other sacraments—in a sermon preached at Arras between  and about . 92 Incomplete and hauntingly laconic as they may be, these sources nonetheless lead to a convincing conclusion. By the s, the southern Low Countries had a certain reputation for religious dissent that spilled over into neighboring regions. By all accounts, a local tradition of reformist outspokenness against abuses in the Church had grafted itself onto a variety of Cathar teachings that had reached the area, at the junction of pan-European trading routes, some time around .

These ideas also obeyed a certain internal logic: since procreation necessarily resulted in trapping human spirits in evil matter, those who were capable of bearing children also bore the larger responsibility. ’’ 104 Cathar belief thus appears to have pressed the long-standing association in western thought between women and matter toward its radical conclusion. ’’ 105 Yet the tenets of Cathar belief could also receive a wholly different interpretation that possibly dominated the early stages of the movement.

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