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This source book offers a comprehensive treatment of the solitary religious lives in England in the late Middle Ages. It covers both enclosed anchorites or recluses and freely-wandering hermits, and explores the relation between them. The sources selected for the volume are designed to complement better-known works connected with the solitary lives, such as the anchoritic guide Ancrene Wisse, or St Aelred of Rievaulx’s rule for his sister; or late medieval mystical authors including the hermit Richard Rolle or the anchorite Julian of Norwich. They illustrate the range of solitary lives that were possible in late medieval England, practical considerations around questions of material support, prescribed ideals of behaviour, and spiritual aspiration. It also covers the mechanisms and structures that were put in place by both civil and religious authorities to administer and regulate the vocations. Coverage extends into the Reformation period to include evidence for the fate of solitaries during the dissolutions and their aftermath. The material selected includes visual sources, such as manuscript illustrations, architectural plans and photographs of standing remains, as well as excerpts from texts. Most of the latter are translated here for the first time, and a significant proportion are taken from previously unpublished sources.

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Privacy across space and time
Kieron O’Hara

Ancrene Wisse (Millett 2009 ). Their attitudes to privacy were inconsistent in modern terms. The ritual for sealing someone in was akin to a funeral rite, as the person was ‘dead’ to society (Maddocks 2013 , 28–29). Christina of Markyate was secluded in a cell so small that she was unable to wear warm clothes in winter, and its entrance was only removed once a day to allow her to

in The seven veils of privacy
E.A. Jones

Introduction This section is concerned with what Ancrene Wisse calls the ‘outer rule’ that governs ‘all outward behaviour, how you should eat, drink, dress, say your prayers, sleep, keep vigil’. 1 The emphasis is on rules or guidance texts composed during the period covered by the volume, though it should be stressed that the twin early classics, Aelred’s De Institutione

in Hermits and anchorites in England, 1200–1550
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Jill Fitzgerald

with a necklace of gemstones, Lucifer conceives his crimes by saying that ‘he might be equal to the Lord with his own powers’. Aldhelm proposes that chastity means little if one succumbs to pride and vanity, which he often figures as a fierce, tyrannical queen. 3 Aldhelm’s theory of the fall reveals the narrative’s capacity for reaching a wide audience, even an exclusively female community. And he was not alone. The twelfth-century Ancrene Wisse – a handbook also intended for women – similarly places emphasis on the inherent dangers of vanity and sight. The author

in Rebel angels
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E.A. Jones

material for the early Middle English Ancrene Wisse (‘Guide for Anchoresses’), written in the 1220s, and the most complete and enduring of English anchoritic rules. It is divided between an ‘outer rule’, which focuses on prayers and other observances and the practicalities of daily life, and an ‘inner rule’ that addresses the anchorite’s moral and spiritual life, including discussions of sin, temptations, penance and love for

in Hermits and anchorites in England, 1200–1550
E.A. Jones

antiphons. The reclusory attached to the church of St Anne, Lewes (Sussex), had a squint so positioned that, in order to see the high altar, the anchoress there would have had to kneel in her own grave [ 29 ]. Ancrene Wisse elaborates upon the practical and spiritual rationale for the open grave: Admiring their own white hands is bad for many anchoresses

in Hermits and anchorites in England, 1200–1550
E.A. Jones

the external walls of a parish church, ‘under the eaves of the church’, as Ancrene Wisse puts it. 4 The foundations of a stone-built anchorhold at Leatherhead (Surrey) indicate a building 2.43 m square. The plan of the reclusory at Compton in the same county [ 8 ] was even smaller, but it had two storeys, as did the no-longer-extant cell occupied by John Lacy in Newcastle-upon-Tyne [ 23 ]. (See also

in Hermits and anchorites in England, 1200–1550
The early medieval contexts of Aldhelm’s cat riddle
Megan Cavell

are birds, rather than the mice who were so potentially destructive in monastic settlements and workplaces, injects some moral ambiguity. 47 Indeed, cats would become firmly associated with evil and witchcraft in later medieval and early modern Europe. Douglas Gray maps these associations in British literature from the twelfth-century reference to heretical orgies and cat-/Satan-worship in Walter Map’s De nugis curialium to the thirteenth-century cat of helle in the Ancrene Wisse and the devil-sinner/cat–mouse comparison in the fourteenth- and fifteenth

in Riddles at work in the early medieval tradition
Elements of Margery Kempe’s world
Laura Kalas

. Put to death by the waters and the earth itself, and deprived of life-giving air, Vitalis's restoration to the universal elements is confirmed by his posthumous, retributive harnessing of the flames in which his executor burns. But such a martyrdom by being buried alive would also have had resonances with the ‘death to the world’ of the medieval anchorite, ‘buried’ in her cell – not least Kempe's own adviser, Julian of Norwich. The anchoress is even advised in the Ancrene Wisse to dig her own grave with her fingernails: ‘ha schulden schrapien euche dei þe eorðe up

in Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe
The role of Noah’s wife in the Chester play of Noah’s Flood
Lawrence Besserman

the wood of Cross, a typological layering of implicit meaning is subtly at work, as the contextually anomalous verb leap evokes the leaping in Song of Songs 2:8: ‘The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.’ The leaping of the beloved in this verse was interpreted typologically de bono and de malo by Ambrose, Gregory the Great, and other exegetes and poets, in numerous Latin commentaries, vernacular sermons, and homiletical, mystical, and devotional texts such as the Ancrene Wisse and The Wooing of Our

in Enacting the Bible in medieval and early modern drama