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From the 13th through the 15th centuries
women flourished in the area of spirituality. There was, however, a
basic problem at play in this flowering. The ecclesiastical authorities
became very concerned about the orthodoxy and heterodoxy of women’s
spirituality, particularly regarding their views on the Church as an
institution. Did the writings, visions, beliefs, and practices of these
women confirm Catholic dogma? Most especially, did the writings of these
women affirm the Church’s role as mediator between heaven and
In this particular part of the website, we learn of three medieval women
and their spiritual path: Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe and Marguerite
de Porete. Julian in her visions and writings remains strictly orthodox.
As an anchoress, she has the support of the Church.
Margery Kempe, in her struggle as a married woman to find her spiritual
path with God, expresses a highly personal approach to God. Her visions
are filled with sensual experiences, such as sounds, smells, and other
sensations. This approach led to suspicion of Margery and her practices.
A number of times, Margery is accused of heresy and stands trial in
ecclesiastical courts. Fortunately, Margery emerges successfully from
each trial. But clearly, Margery is concerned about the authenticity
of her visions. She visits Julian of Norwich to find out whether her
(Margery’s) visions and revelations are genuine or not.
Marguerite de Porete’s spiritual path was not acceptable to the
Church. She makes clear in her writings (Mirror of Simple Souls) that
she rejects the Church as sole mediator between heaven and earth. For
her, union with God can occur outside the Church’s sacramental
ministry. Eventually, this led to Marguerite being condemned as a heretic
and being burned to death in 1310.
As you wander through this part of the website, you will therefore see
how every different could be the fate of a medieval woman as she followed
her spiritual path.