Ancrene Wisse: From Pastoral Literature to Vernacular by Cate Gunn

By Cate Gunn

Ancrene Wisse and Vernacular Spirituality within the center a long time is an advent to the Ancrene Wisse—an vital thirteenth-century consultant for recluses who, for spiritual purposes, withdrew from secularity with the intention to lead an ascetic and  prayer-oriented existence. This quantity considers the extensive non secular context during which the Ancrene Wisse was once written and broadens that context via addressing problems with readership, drawing comparisons among lay piety and sermons, and hard the various 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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Even given the vagaries of the survival of records, the increase in the number of anchoresses cannot be denied. 51 Little is known about these sisters for whom Ancrene Wisse was originally written; there is some reference to their personal circumstances in the version found in the Nero manuscript, where the author reminds them that they have little need of support against the temptations brought about by hardship, since they have one friend who supplies all their needs. 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.

While early beguines had been largely autonomous, living out their religious vocation in their own homes and small communities rather than in a nunnery or reclusiorum, and so largely beyond the control of the male ecclesiastical authorities, legislation was passed during the course of the thirteenth century to control and protect beguines, following complaints of abuse. ’33 Whatever the chronological story of the development of formal beguinages from the early ad hoc associations of women, the picture that emerges is one of fluid, experimental forms of organization that provided a vocation for religious women.

4 The Fourth Lateran Council stated as a matter of faith that the bread and wine were transformed into the blood and wine of 30 02Wisse Pt 1 13/12/07 9:49 Page 31 EUCHARISTIC THEOLOGY Christ without defining how this transformation took place. Philosophical and theological discussions on the nature of the transformation continued over the next three centuries; it was Aquinas’ definition of transubstantiation, based on Aristotelian notions of substance and accident, that was authorized by the Council of Trent in 1551.

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