Flemish woman writer of the 13th century. No historical information is available about her, but the language and atmosphere of her writings seem to indicate that she was a lady of noble birth of the Brabant of her time. She probably was the leader of one of many small associations of pious women that had come into existence without any formal organization, and that attracted women intent on works of mercy and on mutual sanctification. These associations, many of which originated at the end of the 12th century, were organized into béguinages in the second half of the 13th century (see beguines and beghards). Hadewijch and her companions had not yet received the status of the béguines; she must, therefore, have lived before 1250, and her main literary activity fell most probably between 1230 and 1250.
For her companions Hadewijch committed to writing her 11 Visions; she translated her religious experiences into imaginative "visions" of genuinely intellectual stature; in a few places she refers to moments of oneness with God, experiences she considers to be of the same nature as the beatific vision. Her 31 Letters gave her an opportunity to clarify for the benefit of her followers her ideas about God's love of man and man's love of God, though she never tried a systematic treatment. Her mystical vision of love was influenced by the French spirituality of the 12th century, which she recast in the way that characterized the mystical writers of the whole Middle Dutch period. The 17 Poems in rhyming couplets are in fact letters that repeat the same doctrine. With her 45 Poems in Stanzas Hadewijch gave rise to the lyric poetry of mystic love; she portrays her yearning for God through the themes, imagery, and technique used by the troubadours to exalt courtly love.
Bibliography: The Complete Works, tr. c. hart (New York 1980). t. weevers, Poetry of the Netherlands in Its European Context, 1170–1930 (London 1960) with bibliography and translations. t. m. guest, Some Aspects of Hadewijch's Poetic Form in the "Strofische gedichten" (The Hague 1975). f. willaert, De poëtica van Hadewijch in de Strofische Gedichten (Utrecht 1984). e. dreyer, Passionate Women: Two Medieval Mystics (New York 1989). g. j. lewis, Bibliographie zur deutschen Frauenmystik des Mittelalters (Berlin 1989). Der Berg der Liebe: europäische Frauenmystik, ed. h. unger (Freiburg im Breisgau 1991). s. murkjansen, The Measure of Mystic Thought: A Study of Hadewijch's Mengeldichten (Göppingen 1991). j. g. milhaven, Hadewijch and Her Sisters (Albany 1993). Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics, ed. b. mcginn (New York 1994).
[n. de paepe]