The Beguines

Essay by EricasebbyUniversity, Master'sA+, March 2005

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"There are among us women whom we have no idea what to call, ordinary women or nuns, because they live neither in the world nor out of it. Franciscan Friar Gilbert of Tournai, 1274." During the late twelfth century there was a turn that established a woman's role in her religious society. They began teasing the idea of living outside of the normal societal sphere and create one of their own. Many women were open to this idea of a relationship with themselves and not with exclusively a husband or exclusively God. Because of this new fetish the Beguine movement flourished. The first woman that was recognized as a Beguine was Mary d'Oignies (1177-1213). Mary had a great deal of support from Jacques de Virty (1170-1240). Jacques supported the ideology that many men of the time feared so much. He was able to recognize that women were also able to live independently and worship as if they were men, but he still held the belief that women were too easily overcome by demons.

The reason that this new type of culture for women inspired me is because "they were not bound by vows, were not subject to papal enclosure, and did not totally renounce the possibility of marriage; [and that] their piety seems to have centered on the Eucharist and the humanity of Jesus." This society played a large role in a woman's way of life as well as a role in many following social movements. Looking at the history of the Movement it is better understood the struggles that these women had to overcome.

The history of the Beguines goes back to two medieval religious movements. The first movement was the monastic mysticism and the second was the vita apostolica, defined as: preaching humility, but above all, poverty. The...