Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The mulieres religiosae were a diverse group of women in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century who lived a variety of lifestyles. Two such mulieres are Hadewijch, a beguine, and Beatrijs of Nazareth, a Cistercian nun both outstanding thirteenth-century writers who exemplify the mystical theology characteristic of this dynamic group of women. The task of this study is to explore the writings of these two medieval authors to examine how they interpreted their experiences of union with God. To do this, I will investigate the ways in which these two particular women of the thirteenth- century Low Countries construct a theological understanding of the human relationship to the divine. This theological anthropology, for both women, is built upon their own dynamic experiences of God in their lives. These experiences served as the framework which Hadewijch and Beatrijs were able to translate into a theology of divine encounter and transmit, particularly in the case of Hadewijch, to their communities. Though in different ways, Hadewijch’s and Beatrijs’ understanding of the divine/human relationship is characterized by a concern for freedom – freedom to transform into their true selves with God. Examining Hadewijch and Beatrijs’ writing with attention to how they handle the topic of freedom and, more broadly, using freedom as a lens through which to approach their work opens up a broader understanding of theology by women in the thirteenth century.

This theology of freedom and divine encounter will be explored via specific themes in their writings. These themes under examination will be Hadewijch’s and Beatrijs’ relationships with a male theological/spiritual culture, their approach to intelligibility of the divine, and their positions on the theological value of experience – both of suffering with and union with Christ. By researching this topic, I ultimately hope to fill out the understanding of Hadewijch’s and Beatrijs’ innovative contributions to the field of mystical theology and to reaffirm, in general, the importance and diversity of women’s voices in theology, both past and present. Finally, I intend to demonstrate that a key component of both Hadewijch’s and Beatrijs’ theology is a concern for freedom – both freedom from encumbrances and freedom for divine union – in their spiritual lives.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.