We will be looking this week at the relationship between beguine spirituality and the spirituality of the cloister in the context of thirteenth-century Germany, and Helfta in particular. Mechtild was a beguine who associated quite late in life with the Cistercian convent at Helfta while Gertrude was raised within the cloister. It is easy to see the beguines in their "newness" as completely separate from traditional female monasticism, but we see this week that female monasticism in one particular place and time, at least, was filled with new spiritual expression as well. What similarities and differences do you find in Mechtild and Gertrude? What is the role of the male spiritual advisor here?

This is the week where Rebecca Garber's ORB page on medieval German women writers is actually quite helpful. She has a nice introduction to the geographical distribution of medieval religious communities in thirteenth-century Germany, distinctions in various styles of spiritual expression, as well as a fairly full biography of Mechtild and a brief one on Gertrude (von Helfta).

Of the two chapters you've been assigned in Jeffrey Hamburger, The Visual and The Visionary: Art and Female Spirituality, I'd like you to focus most on Chapter 2, which is the section entitled "The Visual and The Visionary". But you may also want to spend some time with Chapter 1, which treats material culture in female monasticism and its relationship to female spirituality.