Chapter

Ancrene Wisse

Wolfgang Riehle

in The Secret Within

Published by Cornell University Press

Published in print January 2014 | ISBN: 9780801451096
Published online August 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780801470936
Ancrene Wisse

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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This chapter examines Ancrene Wisse, a pinnacle of early Middle English prose and a magnificent exemplar of early English mysticism. Written by an unidentified author sometime in the late twelfth or early thirteenth century, Ancrene Wisse (“guide for anchoresses” in Middle English) was intended to meet the religious needs of three young sisters, who lived as recluses in a solitary cell. The three recluses were soon joined by other women, necessitating an expanded version of Ancrene Wisse; this gave rise to a “movement” that spread throughout England. This chapter considers the mystical aspects of Ancrene Wisse, and especially how it establishes a direct link between the newly prevalent desire in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries for anchoritic solitariness and the first Christian hermits. It also looks at the Letter of James the Apostle as Ancrene Wisse's basic authority, how Ancrene Wisse tackles Christology, and its relation to St. Trudpert Hohelied.

Keywords: mysticism; Ancrene Wisse; recluses; England; anchoritic solitariness; hermits; Letter of James; Christology; St. Trudpert Hohelied

Chapter.  8261 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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