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[Kolloquium] Dr. Tom Gaens (Groningen): “Women Come to Sensible Devotion More Easily Than Men”. Female Visions and Revelations in the Devotional Theology of Henry of Coesfeld
18. Juli 2019, 16:00 - 18:00
In the fifteenth century, the Carthusians routinely adduced the visions and revelations of “approved women”, such as Hildegard of Bingen, Elizabeth of Schonau, Gertrude the Great, Mechtild of Hackeborn, Dorothea of Montau, Catherine of Siena, Bridget of Sweden, and others, as heralds of church reform in light of the bankruptcy of the leadership of the Church. Surviving manuscripts and library catalogues from various charterhouses also attest to this great interest in women visionaries.
In this paper, I will discuss the devotional theology of Henry of Coesfeld (†1410), an authoritative and influential Carthusian monk whose works have been overlooked by scholars to date. In his texts, Coesfeld distinguishes between two kinds of devotio, i.e., rational or spiritual devotion, and sensible or sensual devotion. According to the Carthusian, women generally come to sensible devotion more easily and more quickly than men. Following the Espousals of the Brabantine mystical theologian John of Ruusbroec, Coesfeld additionally states that some devout who are the most advanced in the second kind of devotion, are able to produce revelationes, to receive intellectual visiones, and to experience raptus.
But what makes Coesfeld’s work truly interesting is that he also acknowledges female visions and revelations as arguments in a theological discourse. By way of example, I will specifically discuss Coesfeld’s effective use of the visions of Mechtild of Hackeborn and Bridget of Sweden.