Rheno-Flemish spirituality

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Rheno-Flemish spirituality. A style of Christian mystical devotion of the 13th cent., which developed in Belgium and the Rhineland. The Rhineland mystics emphasized the seeking and finding of God within, rather than in outward devotions. They were rooted in the practice and experience of the Beguines (and their male counterparts, the Beghards), who were lay religious groups seeking the simplicity of the early Church in communal association with each other (they were condemned, especially for their use of the vernacular Bible and private interpretation of scripture, but their descendants survive to the present). One major figure was Mechtild of Magdeburg (1210–c.1290), who lived most of her life as a Beguine, but retired to a convent when her writings were attacked; her main work, Das fliessende Licht der Gottheit (The Flowing Light of the Godhead), is a compendium of her own experiences and of medieval mysticism.

Gertrude of Helfta (1256–1301/2), often called ‘the Great’, experienced, at the age of 25, a bond of love with Jesus, a kind of ‘nuptial mysticism’ (Brautmystik), and from that time entered a life of contemplation; she wrote the much-admired Legatus Divinae Pietatis (The Herald of Divine Love, parts of which were written later from her notes), and was one of the first to develop devotion to the Sacred Heart. Hadewijch of Antwerp (early 13th cent.), whose Visions develop the same theme of a union with God of ecstatic love (minnemystiek), Jan van Ruysbroeck, and Hildegard of Bingen are often associated with this group; and the devotio moderna of Gerard Groote is usually regarded as a direct successor.