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Beatrice of Nazareth

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Part of the A History of Women Philosophers book series (HOWP,volume 2)

Abstract

Beatrice (Beatrijs) was born in Tienen1 in a well to do family at the beginning of the 13th century. She died in 1268 at the Cistercian convent Nazareth,2 of which she had become prioress in 1236. Her biography appeared not much later than 1268. Although the author of this biography is uncertain, Willem of Afflighem, the author of The Life of St. Lutgardis, is mentioned.3 The author of Beatrice’s Life obtained his materials from the sisters of Nazareth, particularly from sister Christina. He also obtained some data from an autobiographical work by Beatrice herself, the Liber vitae suae (Book of her own life), which unfortunately has not survived. A shortened biography, Quinque prudentes virgines (Five wise virgins) contains much of Beatrice’s major work Van seven manieren van heiliger Minnen (The Seven Modes of Sacred Love), and was written later by Henriques (1603).

Keywords

  • Mystical Experience
  • Spiritual Life
  • Eternal Life
  • Latin Translation
  • Sixth Mode

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Notes

  1. Tienen is a town in Belgium.

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  2. The convent was in Lier.

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  3. However, this is very doubtful, since Willem already was a very skilled author about 1268 and certainly not a tyro in writing, as the author of the biography of Beatrijs calls himself. Willem of Afflighem wrote the biography of St. Lutgardis, (Vita Lutgardis by Willem of Afflighem, F. van Veereghem, ed., 1900), which proves the great literary qualities of the author before 1268. This makes it rather doubtful that he should have also been the author of the Life of Beatrijs of Nazareth. See L’hagiographie cistercienne dans le diocèse de Liège au 13e siècle by S. Roisin. Leuven, 1947, p. 301, sq.

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  4. Beghinae were educated women in the 13th century. Some of them even set out to preach, which was soon forbidden by the Pope (A.A.S.S.Oct. 13, III, A). See also my chapter on Hadewych.

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  5. ‘Per idem quoque tempus a patre magistris liberalium artium est commissa disciplinis scolaribus quibus iam a matre initiata expeditius informanda’ (Vita I, III, 21).

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  6. It is highly probable, that there was a so-called schola Latina in Zoutleeuw, although there is no other evidence for its existence than the evidence found in Vita Beatricis (See L. Reypens in Vita Beatricis, Antwerpen 1964). At least the dative “Magistris” in Vita I, III, 21 (see note 5) suggests that Beatrice was committed to the charge of “Magistri” or “magistrae”, who should take care of her education in the liberal arts. Magistri would be evidence for a latin school and magistrae would refer to the erudition of the women, in whose charge Beatrice was given.

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  7. Beatrice was anxious to die from fear of sin (Vita 169). This fear made her long for death.

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  8. This experience made Beatrice weak. She lost control over her body and seemed to be unconscious to the other nuns (Vita 163). She had to be put to bed. The biographer gives his own reasons for the corporeal phenomena: the soul, which is powerful everywhere in the body, immediately transmitted the feeling of this union to all the members of the body. The concept that the soul moves the body and is powerful in every part of it is found in Augustine’s writings, for instance in his De quantitate animae, ed. Desclée de Brouwer, Bruges, 1980.

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  9. This vision is described in Vita 215: Beatrix sees God, the Father sending a river out from Himself. This river is the Son. Many small rivers are going out from the Son, inviting people of good will to come and drink from the waters that are streaming into eternal life.

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  10. The concept that the human soul made in the image of God is between God and the world is found in Gregory of Nyssa, in De opificio hominis (Migne, Patrologia Graeca 44).

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  11. “Let us make a pact, let us make an alliance, that we may not be separated from each other, but that we may truly be unified together.”

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  12. See Statuta capitulorum generalium Ordinis Cisterciensis ab anno 1116 ad annum 1786, edited by D.J.M. Canivez, 8 volumes, Leuven (Louvain, 1932–1941); L’Ordre de Citeaux en Belgique by D.J.M. Canivez, Forges lez Chimay, Abbaye Cistercienne de Notre Dame de Scourmont, 1926. Many convents came to existence since the 12th century. These convents are all characterized by the influence of mysticism.

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  13. (M.S. Brussels 4459–4470), Vita III, 7, n. 213–217; Vita II, 11, n. 125; Vita III, 2, n. 195.

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  14. See L. Reypens in his Introduction ot the Vita Beatricis, p. 68, note 4.

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  15. Beatrice used to walk barefoot at night in the snow, etc.

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  16. Trembling of the limbs and uncontrolled laughter seem sometimes to have been additional signs of the mental state of Beatrijs’ mystical enjoyment of God (ch. XI).

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  17. Codex Vindobonensis S.N. 12707; Codex Gandavensis 165; Codices Bruxellenses 4459–70; Dutch edition of the Vita by L. Reypens, Antwerp 1964. Dutch edition of the Seven Modes by J. van Mierlo, Leuven (Louvain), 1926.

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  18. The entire work concerns the strain of cyclic Love. This topic strongly reminds us of Dionysius Areopagite in De divinis nominibus IV, 11, 17 and IV, 14, 8. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, III, 607sq. According to Dionysius yearning for God is a movement in our soul; God, the object of our yearning, causes this movement in the soul. Beatrice introduces the Seven Modes: “There are seven modes of love, coming from the highest and returning to the highest.”

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  19. Seven Manieren van Minne, edited by L. Reypens and J. Van Mierlo, Leuven (Louvain, Belgium) 1926.

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  20. Cf. St. Paul, Phil. I, 23.

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  21. This expression reminds us of St. Augustine, who uses it under Neoplatonic influence.

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  22. Juan de la Cruz, Llama de Amor Viva, strophe I, vers 6.

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  23. See L. Reypens, Vita Beatricis Antwerpen, 1964.

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  24. Reypens (in Vita Beatricis, Antwerpen 1964, p. 58) thinks the Seven Manieren to be the only writing of Beatrijs. He does not consider the other titles of subjects mentioned in the Vita to be the titles of treatises, but merely the titles of schedules for school-lessons.

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  25. Van Mierlo (op. cit. p. 76) thinks that the contents of Vita II, 3, told by the biographer, are based on an original treatise of Beatrijs. Personally I think Van Mierlo is right, as he is with regard to the other treatises. See preceding note.

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  26. Passio in mediaeval Latin means: 1) the enduring of..., the undergoing of...; the experiencing of..., 2) suffering, pain, illness, discomfort, 3) Passion (of Christ), 4) affection, emotion, passion.

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  27. The allegory of the orchard goes back to the Legend of Felicitas and Perpetua and found its way through the Middle Ages. See for instance the writings of Sister Berthe, a fourteenth century nun and recluse in the City of Utrecht.

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  28. Providentia = Precaution or providential caution.

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  29. Summum Bonum is said of God by St. Augustine under Neoplatonic influence.

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  30. De erroribus Abälardi ch. I (Bernardi opera ed. Migne, Lut. Par. 1854, vol I–IV, Patrologia Latina 182–185): “... for what is more against reason than to try to transcend reason by reason?”

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  31. De Consideratione, ch. V.

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© 1989 Kluwer Academic Publishers

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Wolfskeel, C. (1989). Beatrice of Nazareth. In: Waithe, M.E. (eds) A History of Women Philosophers. A History of Women Philosophers, vol 2. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-2551-9_5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-2551-9_5

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