Bourignon, Antoinette (1616–1680)

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Bourignon, Antoinette (1616–1680)

Flemish mystic. Born at Lille, Flanders (now a city in northern France) on January 13, 1616; died at Franeker, Friesland, on October 30, 1680.

Influenced by religion from a young age, Antoinette Bourignon was convinced that she was the direct recipient of supernatural revelations. She entered a convent at age 20 before taking charge of a hospital in Lille, followed by one in East Friesland. Her work as a reformer took her to France, Holland, England, and Scotland. Bourignon believed that she had been appointed by God to restore the spirit of early Christianity. Teaching that true Christianity consisted of emotional impulses that had a super-natural source, she disregarded all sects and maintained that her religion could not be found in the canons or practice of any church. Known as Bourignianism, her doctrine became widespread among Roman Catholics and Protestants as she drew both dedicated followers and zealous persecutors.

Her following dwindled after her death at Franeker, Friesland, in 1680. In the early 18th century, however, her influence was so prevalent in Scotland that it prompted the condemnation of her doctrines at the Presbyterian general assemblies of 1701, 1709 and 1710. The established Church of Scotland demanded a renunciation of her precepts from every entrant to the ministry at the time of ordination. Her writings, an account of her life and of her visions and opinions, were collected by her disciple, Calvinist minister Pierre Poiret (19 vols., Amsterdam, 1679–1686), who also published her life (2 vols., 1679). At least three of her works have been translated into English: An Abridgment of the Light of the World (London, 1786), A Treatise of Solid Virtue (1699), and The Restoration of the Gospel Spirit (1707).

suggested reading:

Hauck, Realencyklopädie. Leipzig, 1897.

M.E.S. Étude sur Antoinette Bourignon. Paris, 1876.