Sometime in the first quarter of the thirteenth century a numberof works were written for anchoresses, women who lived as religious recluses in cells adjoining churches. The most influential is Ancrene Wisse (A Guide for Anchoresses), which discusses in great detail the daily life of the anchoress, both outer--her prayers, her house, her food and clothing--and innter--her attitudes to everything she is and does. Holy Maidenhood, a treatise on virginity, praises the freedom and joy of the unmarried state of the anchoress, providing a series of arguments to support her in her way of life when she may be tempted to leave it. Sawles War (The Soul's Keeping) looks at the pains of hell and the joys of heaven as recounted by two messengers, Fear and Love of Life. The passions of three early virgin martyrs, Katherine, Margaret, and Juliana provide models of heroic strength and determination int he face of bribery, argument and torture by disappointed would-be lovers, who demand the virgins' renunciation of their new Christian faith. The Wooing of Our Lord is the longest of several short prayers and meditations which court the anchoress, body and soul, on behalf of Christ as lover. Together, the works give us an extraordinarily detailed sense of a powerful, multi-faceted spirituality which is most respects quite different from that of the later and better known fourteenth-century English mystics. Thisis the first time all of these works have appeared together in print.
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