Ancrene Wisse: From Pastoral Literature to Vernacular by Cate Gunn

By Cate Gunn

Ancrene Wisse and Vernacular Spirituality within the center a while is an creation to the Ancrene Wisse—an vital thirteenth-century advisor for recluses who, for spiritual purposes, withdrew from secularity to be able to lead an ascetic and  prayer-oriented existence. This quantity considers the large spiritual context within which the Ancrene Wisse used to be written and broadens that context through addressing problems with readership, drawing comparisons among lay piety and sermons, and demanding a number of the long-held perspectives on Ancrene Wisse’s particularly girl readership, articulating a spot for the monastic vintage within the constructing literature of vernacular spirituality.

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22 Christina of Markyate, an anchoress in the twelfth century, is recorded as being fearful of what she should say at her consecration as a virgin since, although she ‘was not conscious of having fallen either in deed or in desire, she was chary of asserting that she had escaped unscathed’. 23 This fear may have been due to the debate on intention going on in the schools;24 certainly, there is a concern with the mental state that accompanied sins, and whether one could be responsible for involuntary bodily sensations.

The essential difference between the life of the beguines and that of the anchoresses was the strict enclosure of the anchoresses. It was within the physical confines of the anchorhold that the spiritual life of the anchoresses was constructed. The author of Ancrene Wisse was writing of the ideal of the anchoritic life, which, like that of the beguines, was chaste, ascetic and orthodox, but he was also aware of the opportunities for laxness. The anchoresses, unlike the beguines, were not expected to support themselves by their own work, but neither were they expected to be idle; theirs was a life filled with prayer, reading and meditation.

52 It is clear that they were lay anchoresses; that is, they entered the anchorhold, not as professed nuns seeking a more austere form of life, but from the world – for them, the anchorhold was an alternative to the convent. 53 It had been traditional for anchorites – male and female – to be professed religious who were seeking a harsher life. 55 The opening paragraph of De 46 02Wisse Pt 1 13/12/07 9:49 Page 47 ANCHORITES AND BEGUINES Institutione Inclusarum does, however, refer to a Benedictine model of anchoritism: ‘You must first understand the reasons that motivated the monks of old when they instituted and adopted this form of life .

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