Three Women, Three Spiritual Paths,
and Their Impact


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 earth?

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.