Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Agnes Blannbekin, Viennese Beguine: Life and Revelations

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Agnes Blannbekin, Viennese Beguine: Life and Revelations

Article excerpt

Agnes Blannbekin, Viennese Beguine: Life and Revelations. Translated from the Latin by Ulrike Wiethaus, with introduction, notes, and interpretive essay. [Library of Medieval Women.] (Rochester, New York: D. S. Brewer. 2002. Pp. vii, 184. $60.00.)

Agnes Blannbekin (ca. 1244-1315), Austrian mystic, may be little-known today because she was once briefly notorious. Like her more famous contemporary, Angela of Foligno, she dictated her revelations to an anonymous Franciscan confessor. One of those revelations, which the beguine herself was reluctant to disclose, involved the relic of Christ's circumcision. On the feast commemorating that event, Agnes felt the Lord's foreskin on her tongue, thin as the membrane of an egg, and swallowed it with great sweetness "about a hundred times" (p. 35). Christ then revealed to her that his foreskin had been resurrected with him on Easter-although several churches claimed to possess the relic. When the first edition of Agnes's Revelations was published by Bernard Fez in 1731, it was attacked as blasphemous and promptly disappeared from view. Nor does any complete manuscript survive. The present abridged translation is based on Peter Dinzelbacher's edition of 1994, leben und Offenbarungen der Wiener Begine Agnes Blannbekin, which relies on a rare copy of Pez.

Despite this scandalous history and a vision of the nude Christ, Agnes's text is considerably less erotic than the mystical writings of other beguines. The variety of her visions is typical of high medieval devotionalism. She uses familiar teaching techniques such as enumerating twelve glories of the Virgin, five types of confessors, and four ways of receiving the eucharist, made memorable through vivid color symbolism and animal imagery. …

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