Book Series Sanctimoniales, vol. 1

Labels and Libels

Naming Beguines in Northern Medieval Europe

Letha Böhringer, Jennifer Kolpacoff Deane, Hildo van Engen (eds)

  • Pages: xii + 235 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:4 tables b/w., 2 Maps
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2014

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-55135-7
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-55203-3
  • E-book
  • Available

Offers the first internationally comparative study of beguines, investigating the shifting nomenclature both applied to and adopted by lay religious women in northern Europe between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries to reveal new facets of medieval social, gender, and religious culture.


"All of the contributions in this collection are very informative and as a whole form an indispensable resource on the topic of beguines and the issues related to labelling them. I fully recommend the publication to anyone interested in the topic. From a technical viewpoint, it needs to be added that the book is equipped with statistical tables, maps, and an index." (Mariusz Bęcławski, in: Parergon 32.2, 2015, p. 266-268)

« (…) on ne peut donc que se féliciter de la fécondité de la recherche historique sur les femmes religieuses proposant des analyses toujours plus innovantes sur la question de l’Eglise et des femmes dans l’Occident médiéval. » (Anne-Laure Meril-Bellini delle Stelle, dans Le Moyen Age, 122/2, 2016, p. 505)

"Ein Register beschließt den substantiellen Band, der nicht nur den Forschungsstand aufarbeitet, sondern eine Fülle von Einzelbeobachtungen zu sprachlichen Phänomenen und damit verbundenen Vorstellungen und Wahrnehmungen der mulieres religiosae enthält, an die die zukünftige Forschung gut anknüpfen kann." (Amalie Fößel, in: Francia-Recensio 2017/1

Mittelalter - Moyen Âge (500-1500)

ISSN: 2425-3510

"Insgesamt liegt ein überzeugender Band vor, der den Stand der aktuellen internationalen Forschung zu Beginen wiedergibt und durch den Zugriff über eine Leitffrage eine große Kohärenz der Beiträge aufweist. Dem Band sind viele Leserinnen und Leser zu wünschen." (Christine Kleinjung, in Rheinische Vierteljahrsblätter 81, 2017, p. 316-318)


This volume investigates the diverse meanings assigned to and adopted by lay religious women in northern Europe between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. While many outstanding studies have unearthed the local or regional significance of such women, little comparative or transregional scholarship exists to date. Moreover, traditional emphasis on medieval ecclesiastical condemnation of beguines has obscured the extent to which their communities were intertwined with supportive local social structures.

Exploring the multiplicity of contemporary perspectives in the Belgian, Dutch, French, and German contexts over time, the volume traces not only the women’s relationships to various authorities and institutions, but also the specific terms used to represent and respond to ‘beguines’. Illuminating the kaleidoscopic ways in which medieval people categorized, described, and engaged with such women, the collected essays also underscore the extent to which simple dualities of ‘clerical’ and ‘lay’, ‘elite’ and ‘popular’, and ‘orthodox’ and ‘heretical’ are insufficient constructs with which to map intersections of medieval gender, lay religiosity, and society. In doing so, they propose new avenues and coordinates for exploring the sociospiritual topography of medieval Europe.



Introduction — GILES CONSTABLE

WALTER SIMONS: Beginnings: Naming Beguines in the Southern Low Countries, 1200 – 1250

Würzburg Beguines and the Vienne Decrees: Case Studies and Comparative Models of German Beguine History — JENNIFER KOLPACOFF DEANE

When is a Beguine Not a Beguine? Names, Norms, and Nuance in Canonical Literature — ELIZABETH MAKOWSKI

Dangerous Heretics or Silly Fools? The Name ‘Beguine’ as a Label for Lay Religious Women of Early Thirteenth-Century Brabant — VERA VON DER OSTEN-SACKEN

On Being a Beguine in France, c.1300 — SEAN FIELD

‘Love is Beguine’: Labeling Lay Religiosity in Thirteenth-Century Paris — TANYA STABLER MILLER

Merging into Clergy: Beguine Self-Promotion in Cologne in the 13th and 14th Centuries — LETHA BÖHRINGER

Beguines and the Devotio Moderna at the Turn of the Fifteenth Century — KOEN GOUDRIAAN

Epilogue: The View Ahead