Book Series Brepols Collected Essays in European Culture, vol. 7

Spiritual Literature in the Late Medieval Low Countries

Essays by Thom Mertens

John Arblaster, Patricia Stoop, Daniël Ermens, Veerle Fraeters, Kees Schepers (eds)

  • Pages: 472 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:1 b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2024

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58100-2
  • Hardback
  • Available


Thom Mertens has been a professor at the Ruusbroec Institute since 1985. He has published extensively on late-medieval spiritual literature of the Low Countries, with a specific focus on literary genres in the vernacular. He has produced numerous editions of Middle Dutch texts, among which the monumental edition of John of Ruusbroec’s Vanden gheesteliken tabernakel, as well as the equally monumental two-volume compact edition (Eng/Dutch) of the entire oeuvre of Ruusbroec (both with Brepols).


This volume brings together fifteen seminal essays by Thom Mertens, a professor at the Ruusbroec Institute (Ruusbroecgenootschap) at Antwerp University since 1985, and a pioneer in the study of the late medieval spiritual literature of the Low Countries, a field that had previously been neglected in favour of the study of belles lettres. This volume is therefore also a celebration of the paradigm shift that Mertens led, as he demonstrated that most of the late medieval texts produced in the Low Countries actually qualify as spiritual literature, and that these understudied literary works are of prime importance within late medieval textual culture.

Of the essays gathered here, nine have been translated into English for the first time, while six have been re-edited, forming a collection that bears witness to the importance of Dutch literature as a broader part of the vernacular literatures of Western Europe, and of the societies that gave rise to these works. It is in large part thanks to Mertens’ efforts that serious scholarly engagement with these spiritual texts, their characteristics, and their function has become a field of research in its own right that continues to flourish.


Preface: Pioneering Middle Dutch Spiritual Literature

Publications by Thom Mertens

Thom Mertens: A Tribute by John van Engen

I. Spiritual Literature in the Late Medieval Low Countries - An Overview

Chapter 1: Books for Eternity

Chapter 2: Mystical Culture and Literature in the Late Middle Ages

Chapter 3: The Monastery as a Literary Institution in the Low Countries (13th–16th Century)

II. Middle Dutch Sermons

Chapter 4: The Middle Dutch Sermon. A Premature Synthesis

Chapter 5: Collatio and Codex in the Context of the Devotio Moderna

Chapter 6: Ghostwriting Sisters. The Preservation of Dutch Sermons of Father Confessors in the Fifteenth and the Early Sixteenth Century

Chapter 7: The Sermons of Johannes Brugman OFM († 1473). Preservation and Form

Chapter 8: Private Revelation and Public Relevance in the Middle Dutch Sermon Cycle Jhesus collacien

III. Aspects of Genre in Middle Dutch Spiritual Literature

Chapter 9: Reading with a Pen. Developments in Late Medieval Spiritual Prose

Chapter 10: Consolation in Late Medieval Dutch Literature

Chapter 11: Spiritual Testaments in the Late Medieval Low Countries. An Exploration of the Genre

Chapter 12: Die gheestelicke melody. A Program for the Spiritual Life in a Middle Dutch Song Cycle

Chapter 13: Voices without Words. Hendrik Mande’s Spiritual ‘Love Complaint’ as a Mystical Dialogue

Chapter 14: Hendrik Mande’s Apocalypse