The Middle Ages saw a flourishing of mysticism that was astonishing for its richness and distinctiveness. The medieval period was unlike any other period of Christianity in producing people who frequently claimed visions of Christ and Mary, uttered prophecies, gave voice to ecstatic experiences, recited poems and songs said to emanate directly from God and changed their ways of life as a result of these special revelations. Many recipients of these alleged divine gifts were women. Yet the female contribution to western Europe's intellectual and religious development is still not well understood. Popular or lay religion has been overshadowed by academic theology, which was predominantly the theology of men. This timely book rectifies the neglect by examining a number of women whose lives exemplify traditions which were central to medieval theology but whose contributions have tended to be dismissed as 'merely spiritual' by today's scholars.
In their different ways, visionaries like Richeldis de Faverches (founder of the Holy House at Walsingham, or 'England's Nazareth'), the learned Hildegard of Bingen, Hadewijch of Brabant (exemplary voice of the Beguine tradition of love mysticism), charismatic traveller and pilgrim Margery Kempe and anchoress Julian of Norwich all challenged traditional male scholastic theology. Designed for the use of undergraduate student and general reader alike, this attractive survey provides an introduction to thirteen remarkable women and sets their ideas in context.
Andrea Janelle Dickens is Assistant Professor of Ancient and Medieval Church History at United Theological Seminary, Trotwood, Ohio. She has written many essays and articles on medieval theology and spirituality, and is also the author of The I.B. Tauris History of Monasticism: The Western Tradition (forthcoming).