Mechtild of Magdeburg - Writer: c. 1210-1285
Mechtild began receiving visions from about the age of 12, and at 20 she became a Beguine, leading a life of prayer and devotion under the guidance of Dominican friars. From 1250 until 1264, Mechtild worked diligently to record the visions she had received. That period, interrupted by occasional ill health and verbal attacks from skeptics, produced six volumes known as Flowing Light of the Divinity, and later a seventh volume was added. Around 1270, she joined the Benedictine nunnery at Helfta, who offered her protection and support in the final years of her life, and where she finished writing down the contents of the many divine revelations she claimed to have experienced.
Mechtild wrote with passion and clarity, and notably in German-rather than Latin. A Latin edition came later. In fact, many consider that she was the first German woman to write about spiritual matters in her native language. Her depictions of Purgatory and Hell are vivid, Hell being described as having three levels: the lowest level contains fallen Christians, the middle level contains Jews, and the highest level contains unbelievers and pagans. She also revealed that Heaven sits on top of Purgatory and Hell, and that God imbues each of our souls with a little of his heavenly goodness.
Her work was largely forgotten by the 15th century, but was rediscovered in the late 19th century by Pater Gall Morel. Her work has been increasingly studied, both for its academic interest and as a work of devotional literature.
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