By Student Elizabeth Cobb
“I in no way fear to gain the height.”
Burned in 1310 shortly after her widely read book was likewise burnt by the Inquisition, this accused heretic refused to give testimony at her trial.
Marguerite De Porete: A woman who was not bound by vows but dedicated her life to charity and paid the price with her own life.(pg 1)
Porete was a Beguine. Beguine woman sought to fill a spiritual void without putting their lives entirely under the control of a religious order. These women who were apart of the movement were prime targets for the Church’s interrogation for they were seen as outside the Church’s control. These woman, along with Marguerite, were sometimes seen as taking their spirituality outside the clerical world and its Latin language, and therefore beyond the power of the ecclesiastical authorities.
The Mirror of Simple Souls
Marguerite felt so strongly about what she believed in, she wanted to share it all with others. Porete was the author of a work of mystical literature titled The Mirror of Simple Souls. In her writings, she states that when in the state of contemplative love of God the soul has no need of masses or prayers or of anything else. Rather, like other mystics, she claims an immediate relationship with God which gives her authority. The title of Porete’s book refers to the simple soul which is united with God and has no will other than God’s own. The book discusses when a soul is first birthed from God. Some souls resonate more easily to God’s Love than others. Marguerite discusses annihilation, referring to the death of the soul’s own-willing, own-having, and own-knowing — to be replaced by God’s-willing, God’s-having, and God’s knowing. A noble soul sees this death and resurrection as her natural place in God. Her book can be looked at as a kind of handbook for people seeking God. Marguerite wrote her book in vernacular French, rather than in Latin.
The church was not happy with Marguerite’s book. After disobeying an order to withdraw her book, she was imprisoned for approximately a year and a half. During her year and a half imprisonment she was silent and answered no one. Marguerite was brought forward to face interrogation and trial. What upset the church more than the content of Marguerite’s book was her assumption of an independent, public, and active image. She refused to acknowledge the Church’s authority over her spiritual path. Marguerite was deemed a heretic and burned at the stake on June 1, 1310.
I have a link here that takes you to the Trials of Marguerite de Porete.
I have also attached a YouTube video in Spanish about Porete’s life:
The Mirror of Simple Souls
An in-depth examination of the work of Marguerite de Porete
Review of Nobility and Annihilation in Marguerite Porete’s Mirror of Simple Souls
Annotated Bibliography of The Mirror of Simple Souls
If interested in buying The Mirror of Simple Souls, you can purchase it here
(A drawing of a Beguine from Des dodes dantz, printed in Lübeck in 1489.)
Here I have listed some helpful links to better understand the life of a Beguine woman:
YouTube video of a Beguine woman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toJp9c-LXys
“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)
Field, Sean L. The Beguine, The Angel, and the Inquisitor. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 2012. Print
J, Marlet, J, Grant. “Marguerite Porete The Mirror of Simple Souls.” Dhushara. Notre Damed, 1999. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.
Panciera, Silvana. “The Beguines.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 24 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Apr. 2014
Stoner, Abby. “Sisters Between: Gender and the Medieval Beguines.” Beguines. San Francisco State University. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
Warren, Martin. “Marguerite De Porete 1250-1310.” Virtual Medieval Church and Its Writings. University of Saint Thomas–Saint Paul, MN, 2003. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.