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6. Latin and the Vernacular: Mechthild of Magdeburg—Mechthild of Hackeborn—Gertrude of Helfta

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Chapter Summary

The relationship between Latin and the vernacular has been particularly significant for the development of European mysticism, especially women's mysticism since the 13th century. In southern Germany, religious texts in women's convents or addressed to lay people were increasingly written in the vernacular rather than in Latin. By contrast, in northern Germany the majority of religious texts, both transmitted and authored, remained in Latin, even in women's communities. The corpus of mystical literature displays a wide range of competence in this language, as is clearly demonstrated by texts drawn from the writings of the three visionary women of Helfta. Hence the Latin-German origins and transmission of the writings by Mechthild of Magdeburg, Mechthild of Hackeborn and Gertrude of Helfta form the focus of this chapter. The translations of Mechthild of Hackeborn's book also show an intricate linguistic relationship between Latin and the vernaculars.

Keywords: European mysticism; Gertrude of Helfta; Mechthild of Hackeborn; Mechthild of Magdeburg



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