Medieval Mystics

Mystics are those who feel a communion or identity with a higher being or ultimate reality or spiritual truth. These mystical experiences are like an epiphany, are emotional, and ecstatic, and often result in a dramatic conversion and total commitment to religion. The experience is different from knowing God through the intellect.

The medieval mystical movement evolved out of the formation of the Dominican Order of the Catholic church. It was formed as the Order of Preachers by Saint Dominic in 13th century France. As the order expanded there was less emphasis on doctrinal activity and more on the ascetic and contemplative life.

Key fourteenth century figures of the mystical movement in Germany were Meister Eckhart, Heinrich Suso, Johannes Tauler, and St. Catherine of Siena, Albertus Magnus (1193-1282). There were also female mystics Hildegard of Bingen and Mechthild of Magdeburg.

Hildegard and Mechthild were members of the Beguines, a group lay religious communities that were affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. They were active in the 13th and 14th century, living in a semi-monastic community. In 1312, the Council of Vienna formally condemned both the Heresy of the Free Spirit and the Beguine way of life. Pope Clement V's issued a decree that censured women "commonly known as Beguines" who took no vows of obedience nor followed an approved rule. In the decree's words, these women wore a special habit, and acted "as if insane".

Albertus Magnus (1193-1282)

Angela of Foligno

Beatrice of Nazareth (1200-1268)

Constance de Rabastens

Hadewijch of Antwerp (ca. early to mid-thirteenth century)

Heinrich Suso

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Jean Gerson (1363-1429)

Jeanne-Marie Maille

Joan of Arc

Johannes Tauler

Julian of Norwich (1342-1412)

Margaret Ebner (c. 1291-1351)

Margaret Porete (13th Century)—burned at the stake in 1310, wrote Mirror of the simple souls.

Margery Kempe (1373-1439)

Marie Robine

Mary d'Oignies (1177-1213),

Mechthild of Magdeburg (1207-1282)

Meister Eckhart (1260-1327)

Raymond of Capua

St. Birgitta (1303-1373)

St. Bridget of Sweden

St. Catherine of Siena

St. Catherine of Sienna

St. Colette

St. Gertrude the Great.

St. Mechthild of Hackeborn (1240-1298)

Theresa of Avila

For further information on the mystics, see:

Barstow, Anne (1985). Joan of Arc and female mysticism. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 1, 2, 29-42. (JSTOR)

Stoner, Abby (2010) Sisters between: Gender and the medieval Beguines.

Retrieved on April 3, 2010.

Szarmach, P. (Ed.). (1984). An introduction to the medieval mystics of Europe. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.