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Text Production and Authorship: Gertrude of Helfta’s ›Legatus divinae pietatis‹

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Text Production and Authorship: Gertrude of Helfta’s ›Legatus divinae pietatis‹

Abstract

The corpus of works produced by the visionary nuns at Helfta illustrates the complexity of both textual transmission and authorial identity in the high and late Middle Ages. By tracing the transmission of texts – either in their entirety or in extracts – and by documenting hitherto unknown manuscript witnesses to that transmission, this contribution demonstrates the extent of interconnected monastic networks and the impact of visionary texts from Helfta. The choice of extracts, their adaptation and their integration into new contexts are particularly crucial for understanding the processes of transmission and nature of authorship. Topics: collective and cooperative authorship, divine authorisation, the process of codifying revelations against the background of monastic "memoria". ERROR CORRECTION: The new discovered manuscript Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek, ms. 827 doesn't contain any information about Gertrude's family name (cf. f. 25v-27v = prologue), see Almuth Märker/Balázs J. Nemes: "hunc tercium conscripsi cum maximo labore occultandi" Schwester N von Helfta und ihre 'Sonderausgabe' des "Legatus diviniae pietatis" Gertruds von Helfta in der Leipziger Handschrift Ms 827, in: Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur 137.2 (2015), S. 248-296.
A Companion to Mysticism
and Devotion in Northern Germany
in the Late Middle Ages
Brill’s Companions to the
Christian Tradition
A series of handbooks and reference works
on the intellectual and religious life of Europe,
500–1800
Editor-in-Chief
Christopher M. Bellitto
(Kean University)
VOLUME 
The titles published in this series are listed at brill.com/bcct
A Companion to Mysticism
and Devotion in Northern Germany
in the Late Middle Ages
Edited by
Elizabeth Andersen, Henrike Lähnemann
and Anne Simon
LEIDEN BOSTON
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A companion to mysticism and devotion in northern Germany in the late middle ages / edited
by Elizabeth Andersen, Henrike Lahnemann, and Anne Simon.
pages cm.—(Brill’s companions to the Christian tradition, ISSN 1871-6377 ; VOLUME 44)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-90-04-25793-1 (hardback : alk. paper)—ISBN 978-90-04-25845-7 (e-books)
1.Mysticism—Germany—History—Middle Ages, 600–1500.2.Germany—Church history—
843–1517.3.Germany—Religious life and customs—Middle Ages, 843–1517.I.Andersen,
Elizabeth (Elizabeth A.) editor of compilation.
BV5077.G3C66 2013
248.2’209430902—dc23
2013027831
In memoriam Timothy McFarland
1936–2013
University College London
A wonderful friend and inspiring colleague
to whose encouragement we owe a great deal
CONTENTS
Preface ................................................................................................................ ix
List of Contributors ........................................................................................ xi
List of Maps ...................................................................................................... xv
List of Illustrations .......................................................................................... xvii
List of Textual Appendices to the Chapters ........................................... xix
1. Introduction: Mysticism and Devotion in Northern
Germany .....................................................................................................
Elizabeth Andersen, Henrike Lähnemann and Anne Simon
2. Liturgy and Reform: Northern German Convents in the Late
Middle Ages ............................................................................................... 
Jürgen Bärsch
PART ONE
BEGINNINGS AND FORMATIONS.
MYSTICAL CULTURE AND THE HELFTA CIRCLE
3. Hadewijch of Brabant and the Beguine Movement ..................... 
Veerle Fraeters
4. Transmission and Impact: Mechthild of Magdeburg’s
Das ließende Licht der Gottheit ........................................................... 
Sara S. Poor
5. Text Production and Authorship: Gertrude of Helfta’s Legatus
divinae pietatis.......................................................................................... 
Balázs J. Nemes
6. Latin and the Vernacular: Mechthild of Magdeburg—
Mechthild of Hackeborn—Gertrude of Helfta ............................... 
Ernst Hellgardt
viii 
PART TWO
TRANSMISSION, TRANSFORMATION AND EXCHANGE.
DEVOTIONAL CULTURE AND THE LÜNEBURG CONVENTS
7. Prelude: Northern Circulation of Fourteenth-Century
Mystical Texts .......................................................................................... 
Geert Warnar
8. An Urban Housewife as a Saint for Prussia: Dorothea of
Montau and Johannes Marienwerder .............................................. 
Almut Suerbaum
9. Birgitta of Sweden in Northern Germany: Translation,
Transmission and Reception ............................................................... 
Elizabeth Andersen
10. The Inuence of the Devotio Moderna in Northern
Germany .................................................................................................... 
Anne Bollmann
11. Religious Song and Devotional Culture in Northern
Germany .................................................................................................... 
Ulrike Hascher-Burger
12. Liturgy and Performance in Northern Germany:
Two Easter Plays from Wienhausen ................................................. 
Tanja Mattern
13. Bilingual Devotion in Northern Germany: Prayer Books
from the Lüneburg Convents .............................................................. 
Henrike Lähnemann
14. Intellectual Horizons: Letters from a Northern German
Convent...................................................................................................... 
Eva Schlotheuber
Illustrations ....................................................................................................... 
Bibliography ..................................................................................................... 
Glossary .............................................................................................................. 
Index ................................................................................................................... 
PREFACE
The editors of the volume are very grateful to the British Academy for
the award of a small research grant which made it possible to bring the
contributors together from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA
and the UK. The three lively days of constructive and productive discus-
sion have meant that the volume is richer and more coherent. Besides
the authors, the other participants at the workshop in Newcastle were
Ulla Bucarey, Mary Fischer, Stephen Mossman, Rianne Mus, Friedel Helga
Roolfs, and Timothy McFarland to whose memory this volume is dedi-
cated; he not only put Dorothea of Montau on the map of mysticism but
throughout the process was a lively partner for all our discussions. Thanks
go also to the Faculty’s “Medieval and Early Modern Studies Group” and to
the School of Modern Languages at Newcastle University for enabling the
group to be inspired by a trip through ecclesiastical Northumbria.
We regard the translations as a distinctive feature of this volume. The
early ones were done by Laura Ball, the later by Anne Simon. For help and
consultation with the various translation tasks involved, we are indebted
to Friedel Helga Roolfs, Frauke Thees and Gabriele Wright; for critical
reading to Rabia Gregory, Jefrey F. Hamburger, Silvia Ranawake, Ann
Marie Rasmussen, Annette Volng and especially to Nigel F. Palmer and
Stephen Mossman whose profound knowledge of the religious landscape
of late medieval Germany provided a constant point of reference. For the
dialect map, we received help from Robert Peters, who further dened
the Low German dialects, and Sheila Watts, who claried the English ter-
minology. The copy-editing was done by Suzanne Dorf Hall and Rhonda
Kronyk with the help of Jenny Lemke, Aletta Rochau and Almut Sichler.
Special thanks go to Brill: to Julian Deahl for his initial reaction to the
presentation given at Leeds in 2008 which set the whole project in motion,
to Christopher M. Bellitto as editor of the series, to the type setters and
cartographers, who dealt with the demands of charting the ever chang-
ing region of northern Germany, and to Ivo Romein and Karen Cullen for
their sustained interest and good humour during the production process.
Elizabeth Andersen, Henrike Lähnemann and Anne Simon
Newcastle upon Tyne, Easter 2013
CHAPTER FIVE
TEXT PRODUCTION AND AUTHORSHIP: GERTRUDE OF HELFTA’S
LEGATUS DIVINAE PIETATIS
Balázs J. Nemes
The corpus of works produced by the visionary nuns at Helfta illustrates
the complexity of both textual transmission and authorial identity in the
high and late Middle Ages. By tracing the transmission of texts—either
in their entirety or in extracts—and by documenting hitherto unknown
manuscript witnesses to that transmission, this contribution demonstrates
the extent of interconnected monastic networks and the impact of vision-
ary texts from Helfta. The choice of extracts, their adaptation, and their
integration into new contexts are particularly crucial for understanding
the processes of transmission and nature of authorship.
The Helfta Corpus. Text, Excerpts and Marginalia
The fth book of the Memorial of the Abundance of Divine Sweetness by the
holy virgin Gertrude [of Helfta] contains much about this holy virgin [Mech-
thild of Hackeborn] and her sister, the abbess Gertrude [of Hackeborn], who
belonged to the aforementioned convent [Helfta]. In the same place resided
the other holy virgin Mechthild [of Magdeburg], as may be ascertained from
the Prologue of her Revelations [Lux divinitatis]. (Stiftung Luthergedenkstät-
ten/Luthers Geburtshaus, H 546, fol. 68r)
These marginalia from a manuscript rediscovered just a few years ago in
Eisleben demonstrate a remarkable knowledge of the history and litera-
ture of the circle of Helfta visionaries. The manuscript, which contains a
series of excerpts from the Liber specialis gratiae by Mechthild of Hacke-
born, was completed in 1361. However, the above quotation dates from
the last quarter of the 15th century, and was added during a detailed com-
parison of the manuscript’s contents with those of an existing copy of the
same book (probably Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf.
1003 Helmst) from the Erfurt Charterhouse St Salvatorberg.
On the manuscripts of the Liber referred to here and their relationship to each other,
see Nemes, Von der Schrift zum Buch—vom Ich zum Autor. Zur Text- und Autorkonstitution
104  . 
Whoever annotated the copy not only successfully avoided confus-
ing the two Gertrudes at Helfta, a frequent mistake after the printing of
the Liber in German in Leipzig in 1503, but also avoided conating the
two Mechthilds, a persistent error in other circles, such as that of the
Basel Charterhouse. That the author of this quotation must have been
a member of the Erfurt Charterhouse is supported by two things: the
Erfurt ownership mark, and the fact that the marginalia were written by
an anonymous colleague of the librarian Jakob Volradi, who worked on
the Charterhouse’s great book catalogue towards the end of the 15th and
beginning of the 16th centuries, expanding it in various ways.
For more than 500 years there has been consensus about the names to
be associated with Helfta’s revelatory literature, but not about the texts
to be included in this corpus. Volradi’s anonymous colleague mentioned
not just the Liber specialis gratiae and the Legatus divinae pietatis, but also
the Lux divinitatis, the Latin translation of Mechthild of Magdeburg’s Das
ließende Licht der Gottheit. The prologue says that the Lux divinitatis deals
with the revelations of a blessed woman (anonymous in the prologue of
the Lux divinitatis although not in the rest of the text) who spent the last
12 years of her life as a holy woman in Helfta (sanctimonialis in helpede).
The edition of the Revelationes Gertrudianae ac Mechtildianae (1875–1877)
by Louis Paquelin includes the corpus as dened by Volradi’s colleague.
However, strictly speaking, the Lux divinitatis should be removed from this
corpus of visionary literature from Helfta because of its Dominican origin,
probably in Erfurt, and replaced by the seventh book of Das ließende
Licht, composed at Helfta. Ever since the rst edition of the Legatus by
in Überlieferung und Rezeption des “Fließenden Lichts der Gottheit” Mechthilds von Magde-
burg (2010), 225–229.
Regarding the confusion of the Abbess with the visionary Gertrude, see Revelationes
Gertrudianae ac Mechthildianae, ed. Paquelin (1877), vol. 1, XIX–XXIII.
See Nemes, Schrift, 109–110, 336–338 and 389–396.
See Nemes, Schrift, 229–233. On this scribe, see Eier, “‘Ich habe sehr neugierig
gesucht und gelesen und fast alle Bücher der Bibliothek unseres Hauses durchgelesen’.
Beobachtungen zur Lektüre- und Studienpraxis in der Erfurter Kartause am Beispiel der
Sammelhandschrift des Bruders N.” (2012).
Large parts of the catalogue have been edited in Lehmann, ed., Bistum Mainz, Erfurt,
2 (1928). This is complemented by the print of the Prohemium longum in Märker, Das
Prohemium longum des Erfurter Kartäuserkatalogs aus der Zeit um 1475. Edition und Unter-
suchung (2008), vol. 1, 45–312.
Cf. Nemes, Schrift, 208–245. In addition see Nemes, “Mechthild im mitteldeutschen
Raum. Die Moskauer Fragmente und andere Handschriftenfunde zur Rezeption des
‘Fließenden Lichts der Gottheit’ und seiner lateinischen Übersetzung” (2013).
. 5:     105
the Cologne Carthusian Johannes Justus Lanspergius in 1536, the Exercitia
spiritualia have also been included. However, given the uncertainty about
their origin, they, too, should probably be excised from the Helfta corpus.
The corpus of ‘Revelationes’ from Helfta should thus consist only of the
Legatus, the Liber, and the seventh book of Das ließende Licht. In the 13th
century, these works from Helfta and Magdeburg constituted a northern
centre of mystical writing which is as signicant as the contemporary
mystical culture of Brabant (→ Fraeters).
The following discussion focuses on the Legatus and the difering
accounts of its origins, and on the function of these narratives and the
view of authorship presented within the text itself. While not wishing
to lose sight of the actual circumstances of literary production in Helfta,
it becomes less important to read as cultural-historical facts the various
statements made in the text about its origins, i.e. the history of the text and
“textual mysticism”, which conceive the inscribing of divine revelations as
one textual continuum stretching from the source of the inspiration via its
medium (author) and its scribes to the recipient. The narratives related
to the genesis of the text need to be considered in more detail since the
discovery of several Central German manuscripts has highlighted an area
not hitherto associated with the circulation of this text. The study of
For further information, see Nemes, “Die ‘Geistlichen Übungen’ Gertruds von Helfta.
Ein vergessenes Zeugnis mittelalterlicher Mystik” (2004). Doubt as to the credibility of
Lanspergius’s ascription of the Exercitia to Gertrude allows the observation that the
Cologne Carthusian enriches the Legatus with snippets of text not otherwise found in
the manuscripts by Gertrude: cf. Revelationes, vol. 1, 459–460 (also Gertrude d’Helfta, ed.
Clement, vol. 4, 428, n. 1) and 571–575 (also idem, Gertrude d’Helfta, vol. 5, 313–316) and 57
(also, Gertrude d’Helfta, ed. Doyère, vol. 2, 32, the latter all in Gertrude d’Helfta: Œuvres spir-
ituelles. One of the three German prayers included in the edition of the Exercitia (Gertrud
von Helfta: Exercitia spiritualia. Lateinisch und deutsch, ed. Ringler (2001), 66) is similar to
a prayer noted in several Bavarian and Austrian manuscripts: Augsburg, Universitätsbib-
liothek, Cod. I.3.8 10, fols. 54r–55r; Budapest, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, Cod. germ. 16,
fols. 34v–35v; Esztergom, Főszékesegyházi Könyvtár, Mss. III. 171, fols. 25r–v; and Munich,
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 4638, fol. 65v. On the enriching of (German) Gertrude-
texts with chapters extraneous to the Legatus, see also Gertrud von Helfta: Ein botte der
götlichen miltekeit, ed. Wieland (1973), 48 n. 2 and Schneider, Pseudo-Engelhart von Ebrach,
Das Buch der Vollkommenheit (2006), LIII.
For a critical view on the location of Mechthild in Magdeburg, see Dinzelbacher,
“Mechthild von Magdeburg in ihrer Zeit” (2004), 157–158, and Voigt, “Review of: Hildegund
Keul, Verschwiegene Gottesrede. Die Mystik der Begine Mechthild von Magdeburg, Inns-
bruck/Wien 2004” (2007), 384. See Nemes, “‘sancta mulier nomine Mechtildis.’ Mechthild
(von Magdeburg) und ihre Wahrnehmung als Religiose im Laufe der Jahrhunderte” (2014),
for a discussion of Mechthild’s status as a religious in traditional research and the history
of her reception.
Löser, “‘Schriftmystik’. Schreibprozesse in Texten der deutschen Mystik” (2012), 199.
106  . 
the transmission of these manuscripts would no doubt yield signicant
information to help in placing mysticism within its historical context,
especially when checked against the entries and the classication of the
Legatus in medieval monastic library catalogues.
Until recently the number of known Legatus manuscripts was limited
to ve from the Swabian and Ripuarian areas and of Carthusian and Ben-
edictine provenance:
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 15332 (1412, Buxheim Charter-
house, later the Premonstratensian monastery Roggenburg)
Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. 4224, fols. 83r–282v (1482–
1490, Benedictine monastery Donauwörth)
Trier, Stadtbibliothek, Cod. 77/1061, fols. 1r–135r (15th century, unknown
provenance)
Mainz, Stadtbibliothek, Hs I 13, fols. 136ra–225va (15th century, third quarter,
Mainz Charterhouse)
Darmstadt, Landesbibliothek, Hs 84, fols. 27v–176v (1473, Cologne
Charterhouse)
Two of these manuscripts (Munich and Vienna) transmit the whole text;
the others contain only excerpts. None dates from beyond the end of the
15th century and, apart from one important exception, this is true for
the majority of the other textual witnesses examined, among them an
See Nemes, “Mechthild im mitteldeutschen Raum,” for a discussion of this topic using
the transmission of Mechthild’s writings at the end of the 15th century in the context of the
Erfurt Charterhouse mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. See Williams-Krapp, “‘Wir
lesent daz vil in sölichen sachen swerlich betrogen werdent.’ Zur monastischen Rezeption
von mystischer Literatur im 14. und 15. Jahrhundert” (2008), and Williams-Krapp, “Mys-
tikdiskurse und mystische Literatur im 15. Jahrhundert” (2012).
Cf. Gertrude d’Helfta, vol. 2, ed. Doyère, 58–64; Barratt and Stoudt, “Gertrude the
Great of Helfta,” (2010), 470.
The identication of its provenance, named in the colophon as “Werdea”, with the
“monastère de sainte Croix de Werdau” by Doyère in Gertrude d’Helfta, vol. 2, 60, and
with “Kloster Heiliges Kreuz in Werden” by Unterkircher, Die datierten Handschriften
der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek von 1451 bis 1500 (1974), 120 and Neddermeyer, Von
der Handschrift zum gedruckten Buch. Schriftlichkeit und Leseinteresse im Mittelalter und
in der frühen Neuzeit. Quantitative und qualitative Aspekte, vol. 1 (1998), 284 is incorrect:
cf. Herrad Spilling’s review (1977), 444, of the catalogue by Unterkircher, and Rudolf, “Des
Pseudo-Methodius ‘Revelationes’ (Fassung B) und ihre deutsche Übersetzung in der Brüs-
seler Handschrift Eghenvelders” (1976), 76.
The manuscript cited in my dissertation, Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Inventar.-Nr.
78 B 1a, fol. 203r (cf. Nemes, Schrift, 225, n. 538) does not, as indicated, contain any textual
witnesses of the Legatus. The prayer to “sancta Gertrudis virgo”, here accompanied by a
miniature, refers to Gertrude of Nivelles. The same applies to the manuscripts that Anker-
mann, following Grubmüller, “Gertrud von Helfta” (1981), 7, accounts for as previously
unknown translations of the Legatus in Gertrud die Große von Helfta, 38 (1997), n. 95
. 5:     107
extensive manuscript of excerpts dating from the end of the 15th century
and originating in the Benedictine monastery at Erfurt. Along with the
other manuscripts mentioned below, it provides evidence for the recep-
tion of the Legatus in the central German region, an area hitherto not
associated with the circulation of these texts: Weimar, Herzogin Anna
Amalia Bibliothek, Q 49, fols. 163r–208v (with extracts from Books I and
III–V). Three more manuscripts point to Erfurt: Bonn, Universitäts- und
Landesbibliothek, S 0726, fols. 361ra–364vb; Moscow, Russian State Library,
Fonds 183, Nr. 281, fols. 181r–183v; and Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preuß-
ischer Kulturbesitz, Ms. theol. lat. oct. 89, fol. 201r. The Bonn manuscript
is a collection of theological texts written in Erfurt by one Mathias Pahe
(and another hand) around 1410/20 and contains a vision of a mass that
is printed in the Sources chrétiennes immediately after the fth book of
the Legatus. The other two codices were produced in the Charterhouse
itself: the Moscow manuscript dates from the middle of the 15th century
and contains Legatus III, 75–80; the Berlin manuscript dates from the
last quarter of the 15th century and contains an Ave Maria which is essen-
tially a short extract from Legatus IV, 12(11). This bilingual German-Latin
anthology in the form of a rapiarium contains several excerpts from the
Lux divinitatis, all of which have been checked for accuracy against a Ger-
man text in the Erfurt Charterhouse that seems to have been regarded
as the original. Furthermore, it incorporates extracts in East Central
German from all seven books of Mechthild of Magdeburg’s Das ließende
Licht, evidence perhaps of the complete manuscript of Das ließende
(Düsseldorf, Universitätsbibliothek, Ms. C 96, fols. 110r–116r and Osnabrück, Staatsarchiv,
Rep. 2 No. 21, fols. 191r–214v).
Cf. Ringler, “Die Rezeption Gertruds von Helfta im Bereich süddeutscher Frauen-
klöster” (1998), 134, 136.
Cf. Eier, Die lateinischen Handschriften bis 1600, 2 (2012), 258.
Cf. http://www.manuscripta-mediaevalia.de/dokumente/html/obj31275402 (Jürgen
Geiß).
Cf. http://www.manuscripta-mediaevalia.de/dokumente/html/obj31300281 (Marie-
Luise Heckmann).
Cf. Braun-Niehr, Die theologischen lateinischen Handschriften in Octavo der Staatsbib-
liothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz, pars 1 (2007), 150.
On this phenomenon see Nemes, “Ein wieder aufgefundenes Exzerpt aus Mechthilds
von Magdeburg ‘Lux divinitatis’” (2008), 367; Nemes, Schrift, 365–379.
See Braun-Niehr, Nemes, and Squires, “Ein neuer Textzeuge der mitteldeutschen
Überlieferung des ‘Fließenden Lichts der Gottheit’ und seiner lateinischen Übersetzung”
(2013). For more information regarding the Mechthild-transmission in Central German see
Nemes, “Mechthild im mitteldeutschen Raum.”
108  . 
Licht recorded in the library catalogue of the Erfurt Charterhouse. This
catalogue is of interest for the transmission of texts by Gertrude since it
mentions a series of manuscripts no longer extant that contained excerpts
from the Legatus. It even refers to a complete copy of the Legatus owned
by the Eisenach Charterhouse, founded by monks from Erfurt in 1378. By
far the most important new discovery is a manuscript pointing to neither
Erfurt nor the charterhouse there, but, rather, to the East Central German
region: Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek, ms. 827, fols. 8r–148r. This manu-
script is particularly signicant because it transmits substantial extracts
from the Legatus and its dating indicates a period somewhere between
the beginning and middle of the 14th century, thus making it the oldest
known textual witness of Gertrude’s revelations.
The following newly discovered manuscripts conrm the reception of
the Legatus in southern Germany: Augsburg, Staats- und Stadtbibliothek,
Cod. 203, fols. 55r–57v (possibly from the Buxheim Charterhouse, rst
quarter of the 16th century, with extracts from Legatus III, 47 and 69 [sic]
and IV, 26); and Uppsala, University Library, Cod. C 517m, fols. 30v–173v
(end of the 15th century with extracts from Book IV). By contrast, a
comment in the Darmstadt manuscript mentioned above, which trans-
mits only Books 1–3 of the Legatus, suggests the Ripuarian region or, more
precisely, the Cologne Charterhouse. The comment indicates that Books 4
Cf. Lehmann, Bistum Mainz, 432, 16–23.
Cf. Lehmann, Bistum Mainz, 276,1 (medieval signature: B 31), 317,3 (D 13), 361,35
(F 69), 363,1 (F 74), 431,4–10 (J 2primo), 433,5 (J 7) and 433,18–23 (J 8). Lanspergius used another
manuscript, no longer extant, of the Legatus (minus the prologue and Book 1) for his rst
edition, cf. Doyère, Gertrude d’Helfta, vol. 2, 64–65. The Vienna Manuscript cod. 4224 (see
the list of manuscripts above) served as the source text, at rst for an incomplete copy
of the Legatus and later for a complete one (→ Hellgardt). Cf. Doyère, Gertrude d’Helfta,
vol. 2, 58. A translation with the title Ein botte der götlichen miltekeit must already have
been completed in the 14th century, earlier than previously assumed. This is clear from a
short excerpt of the translation in two manuscripts: Gotha Cod. Chart. B 269 (cf. http://
www.handschriftencensus.de/6923) and London, University College, MS Germ. 24, fol. 12v,
(www.handschriftencensus.de/3550). My thanks to the late Timothy McFarland (UCL) for
drawing my attention to this manuscript. The legend of Saint Truta in Der Heiligen Leben
also shows this text was accessible in this region around 1400. See Williams-Krapp, Die
deutschen und niederländischen Legendare des Mittelalters. (1986), 259 n. 15 and 415 (Pc 1
[= Pécs/Ungarn, Klimó könyvtár, Cod. AA. II. 21, fol. 450ra–466vb] should be added to the
list of manuscripts that transmit the text).
My thanks to Almuth Märker (Leipzig) for drawing my attention to this manuscript.
Description: http://www.manuscripta-mediaevalia.de/dokumente/html/obj31571101.
Cf. Trede and Gehrt, Handschriftenkataloge der Staats- und Stadtbibliothek Augsburg,
vol. 8 (2011), 360.
Cf. Andersson-Schmitt, et al., Mittelalterliche Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek
Uppsala. Katalog über die C-Sammlung, vol. 5 (1992), 306–307.
. 5:     109
and 5 were also present in the Cologne Charterhouse in a larger format,
probably a quarto manuscript described in the Charterhouse catalogue
from the 17th and 18th centuries as the fourth and fth book of the blessed
Gertrude (Libri quartus et quintus B. Gertrudis). This manuscript might
be identical to the four books of revelations attributed to one “virgin
Truth” (Revelationes Truthae virginis libri IV–V) in Cambridge (Mass.),
Harvard University Houghton Library, ms. Riant 90, fol. 71r–182v.
Finally, two 15th-century prayer books from Swabia and the Cologne
Charterhouse should be mentioned: Munich, Universitätsbibliothek, 8°
Cod. ms. 193, fol. 75v (Swabia, second third of the 15th century); and
Darmstadt, Landesbibliothek, Hs 2772, fol. 61r and 90r (Cologne Charter-
house, around 1425). While they may not necessarily be witnesses to the
transmission of Gertrude’s writings, they contain a section of text found
in the Legatus. The text in question is a prayer that had not until now
been identied, yet is quoted in Legatus II, 4 (1,3–13) and, according
to Gertrude’s own words, was often recited. It would seem that Gertrude
did not compose the text herself, but copied it from a prayer book. The
Munich and Darmstadt manuscripts appear to conrm this, as the prayer
is included without being ascribed to Gertrude. This is signicant because
the author’s signature (“Truta” or “Gertrudis”) is otherwise the distinguish-
ing feature of primary and secondary Gertrude transmission, and points
to a prayer that Gertrude found in her prayer book and incorporated into
the second book of the Legatus. Legatus III, 19 (3,23–27) provides us with
Cf. Staub, Die Handschriften der Hessischen Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek Darm-
stadt, vol. 5,1 (2001), 27–28.
Cf. Wagner, Die “Epistola presbiteri Johannis” lateinisch und deutsch: U berlieferung,
Textgeschichte, Rezeption und U bertragungen im Mittelalter; mit bisher unedierten Texten
(2000), 40; Moulinier, Beate Hildegardis Cause et Cure (2003), XXVII; and Metzger, “The
Manuscripts of Writings by Ioannes Hagen de Indagine, O. Cart.” (2008), 190. The chapters
from Books IV and V are preceded by the vision of the mass (fols. 71r–74r) which in the
Sources chrétiennes is printed immediately following Book V of the Legatus: cf. the com-
plete version digitized in colour on pds.lib.harvard.edu.
Cf. Daniel, Die lateinischen mittelalterlichen Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek
München. Die Handschriften aus der Oktavreihe (1989), 136–137.
Cf. Achten, et al., Die lateinischen Gebetbuchhandschriften der Hessischen Landes- und
Hochschulbibliothek Darmstadt (1972), 72 and 74.
Cf. Ruh, Geschichte der abendländischen Mystik, 2 (1993), 326.
Cf. Friedman, Northern English Books, Owners, and Makers in the Late Middle Ages
(1995), 162.
The Munich manuscript 8° Cod ms. 193 contains prayers dating back centuries,
as shown by the Passion prayer on fol. 127r, which, according to Elke Senne (Berlin),
appears as an introductory prayer in a surviving manuscript of the Liber specialis (here:
“spiritualis”) gratiae by Mechthild of Hackeborn from the end of the 13th and beginning of
110  . 
a parallel case in the form of an anonymous Marian prayer in the fol-
lowing prayer books: Weimar, Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Oct 52,
fol. 224v (Erfurt Charterhouse, rst half of 15th century) and Oct 62,
fol. 54v (Erfurt Charterhouse, 15th century); Frankfurt, Universitätsbib-
liothek, ms. Praed. 169, fol. 315r (central Rhine region, perhaps from a
Cistercian abbey, around 1490); and Brussels, Koninklijke Bibliotheek,
Cod. 21600 (1639), fol. 146v (16th century). The same prayer occurs in St
Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. 519, pp. 77–78 (Benedictine monastery of St
Gallen, before 1439) as a prayer of St Trude to the glorious virgin (Oratio
sancte Trute ad gloriosam virginem).
The Genesis of the Legatus
These chance discoveries indicate how much research on the Legatus
remains to be done; here, they draw attention to its texture, which, in
accordance with the statements within the text itself, is particularly com-
plex. These statements are inserted at more or less prominent points in
the Legatus and can be read as strategies for validating the text and the
truth it contains. Since they concern the circumstances surrounding the
origins of the ve books and refer to their genesis, production and valida-
tion, they construct a system of references for authorizing the text.
the 14th centuries: Leipzig Manuscript ms. 671 from the Cistercian monastery of Altzelle in
Saxony (My thanks to Almuth Märker, Leipzig, for allowing me access to Anette Löer’s
manuscript description). This prayer is also found in Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod.
B X 11, fols. 79v–80r (Basel Charterhouse, middle of the 15th century) and A VIII 27, fols.
211v–212v (Basel Charterhouse, end of the 15th century).
Cf. Bushey, Die lateinischen Handschriften bis 1600, 1, (2004), 282 and 366.
Cf. Powitz, Die Handschriften des Dominikanerklosters und des Leonhardstifts in
Frankfurt am Main (1968), 379.
Cf. Clasen, Legenda antiqua S. Francisci. Untersuchung über die nachbonaventurianis-
chen Franziskusquellen, Legenda trium sociorum, Speculum perfectionis, Actus B. Francisci et
sociorum eius und verwandtes Schrifttum (1967), 67.
Cf. von Scarpatetti, Liturgica, Libri precum, deutsche Gebetbücher, Spiritualia,
Musikhandschriften 9.–16. Jahrhundert (2008), 286. Before Hieronymus of Brünn, the main
scribe of the manuscript (not of our text!), became Dean in St Gallen in 1432, he was a
cloistered member of the Benedictine monastery of Hersfeld in Hesse. Hersfeld is one
of the monasteries that maintained connections with Helfta (see Hubrath, Schreiben und
Erinnern. Zur “memoria” im Liber Specialis gratiae Mechthilds von Hakeborn (1996), 35 n. 45).
Thus, this unique attribution to Gertrude in the transmission of the Passion prayer may be
a literary reection of the connections between both institutions otherwise documented
only in charters; and the Benedictine monastery of Hersfeld might be one of the recipients
of the literary oeuvre from Helfta.
. 5:     111
Although it may be correct to regard Helfta as an island of written and
illuminated literary manuscripts in the Saxon-Thuringian region, we
should bear in mind the context of a Cistercian convent that attracted
nuns from the highest ranking noble families in Central Germany. The
powerful network of family connections and relationships seems to have
fostered ideal conditions for literary activity by highly educated nuns.
Furthermore, the memorial character of the literature would have cre-
ated and consolidated identity within the convent as well as presenting
Hubrath, Schreiben, 30. F. Schrader provides a good overview of the numerous Cis-
tercian convents close to Helfta in “Die Zisterzienserklöster in den mittelalterlichen Diöz-
esen Magdeburg und Halberstadt” (1970), 265–278. On the beguines in the region around
Saxony and Thuringia, see Voigt, Beginen im Spätmittelalter. Frauenfrömmigkeit in Thürin-
gen und im Reich (2012). This view of Helfta as an island must be relativized as soon we
consider, for example, the 12th-century Benedictine reform convents of Lamspringe and
Lippoldsberg (see Bertelsmeier-Kierst, “Audi lia et vide. Frauenkonvente nach der monas-
tischen Reform” (2010), and the chapters in Schmidt-Glintzer, ed., Die gelehrten Bräute
Christi. Geistesleben und Bücher der Nonnen im Mittelalter (2008) or the Cistercian convent
of Wienhausen, which, like Helfta, was not incorporated. Wienhausen is characterized by
an extensive (if not mystical) literary production in both Latin and the vernacular from
around the same time (early 14th century) as the emergence of literary works in Helfta:
cf. Mattern, Literatur der Zisterzienserinnen. Edition und Untersuchung einer Wienhäuser
Legendenhandschrift (2011), and, in addition, the fragments of a rhymed version of the
Passion found in the garments of an angel of the sculpture group of the Risen Christ (see
Lähnemann, “Text und Textil. Die beschriebenen Pergamente in den Figurenornaten”
(2013) http://www.handschriftencensus.de/23637). See also the German-Latin prayer
books in Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod Guelf. Helmst. 1265, 1319, 1321, 1399,
1417, 1430. These have been largely overlooked until now but were likely produced in the
Cistercian convent of Wöltingerode around 1300.
Cf. Elm, Frömmigkeit und Ordensleben in deutschen Frauenklöstern des 13. und
14. Jahrhunderts (1992), 39. On the convent’s history see Oefelein, Das Nonnenkloster St
Jacobi und seine Tochterklöster im Bistum Halberstadt (2004), 95–143 and Oefelein, (2005),
283–306. See also Hubrath, Schreiben, 32–34.
Just how highly the nuns valued education is evident from the acknowledgment of
Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn in Liber VI, 1 (Revelationes, ed. Paquelin, 374–375), the refer-
ence to the prayers composed by Mechthild of Hackeborn in Liber V, 30 (Revelationes, ed.
Paquelin, 365) and the numerous references to the literary activity of Gertrude of Helfta
scattered throughout the Legatus (see above). See the account of Helfta’s history produced
by Abbess Sophia of Querfurt-Mansfeld (1292–1298) (Müller, Leben und Ofenbarungen der
heiligen Mechtildis und der Schwester Mechtildis (von Magdeburg), Jungfrau aus dem Orden
des heiligen Benediktus (1880/1881), vol. 1, XXXII). This account preceded the edition of
Mechthild printed in Leipzig in 1503 and could be based on the lost convent chronicle.
The nuns’ aspiration to a very high standard of education is also reected in the remains
(exclusively incunabula) of the monastic library of Neu-Helfta, which has hitherto been
little researched (cf. Junkte, “Die Inkunabeln der St Andreaskirche zu Eisleben,” Beiträge
zur Inkunabelkunde, Dritte Folge 8 (1983), 50–68, and von Rabenau, “Die Geschichte der
Kirchenbibliothek von St Andreas in Eisleben als Spiegel der Kirchengeschichte des Mans-
felder Landes” (1985/86).
112  . 
Helfta as a paragon of the Vita religiosa to the outside world. It is impos-
sible to ascertain just how far the development of literature at Helfta
was inuenced by external forces such as friends and family in general,
or those in charge of the nuns’ spiritual welfare in particular. It is not
known who had the cura monialium, although it is generally assumed to
have been the Dominicans. However, while there are occasional refer-
ences to Dominicans in documents from Helfta, as well as in the Liber
and the seventh book of Das ließende Licht (but not in the Legatus), they
never appear as confessors, preachers or spiritual teachers, but only in
the context of intercessionary prayers. Furthermore, in Helfta’s ‘golden’
decades before its destruction and relocation to just outside the gates of
Eisleben (1258–1342/46), the convent maintained relationships with other
orders, including the Benedictines, Franciscans and the Teutonic Order in
Halle. There is also documented evidence of connections to the Cister-
cian monastery of Sittichenbach from 1290 onwards, although, as a non-
incorporated Cistercian convent, Helfta was not subject to it. Against this
background it is doubtful whether the cura monialium ever fell exclusively
to one institution. It is more likely that the spiritual and sacramental
care of the nuns lay with a provost, probably a lay priest, appointed by
the Bishop of Halberstadt since Helfta fell within the latter’s jurisdiction.
Unlike Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn, whose life and death were given
a literary memorial in both the Liber and the Legatus, the provost may
not appear as an independent gure in the visionary literature produced
in Helfta; but according to Legatus Prol. (4,3) and III, Prol. (1,9), and to
See Hubrath, Schreiben, as well as Mattern, Literatur, 341–387.
Helfta functioned as the “house” or family monastery and burial place of the Counts
of Mansfeld and Querfurt-Mansfeld and was obliged to preserve the memoria of the found-
ing family: cf. Oefelein, Nonnenkloster, 121. Members of the founding family, from among
whose ranks the convent recruited members, are mentioned in relation to several interces-
sional prayers in the Liber in particular (cf. Liber V, 10–11, V, 15 and VII, 20).
For a critical evaluation of Mechthild of Magdeburg’s relationship to Heinrich of
Halle on the one hand and Wichmann of Arnstein on the other, see Nemes, Schrift, 99–114
and 211–214.
For instances of this in the Liber see Spitzlei, Erfahrungsraum Herz. Zur Mystik des
Zisterzienserinnenklosters Helfta im 13. Jahrhundert (1991), 34; and Bynum, “Women Mystics
in the Thirteenth Century: The Case of the Nuns of Helfta” (1984), 176.
Cf. Hubrath, Schreiben, 35. Rebuilt outside the gates of Eisleben in 1346, the convent
seems to have maintained contact with the Cistercian nuns from Wöltingerode in the 15th
century (Hubrath, Liber, 170).
Bangert, “Die sozio-kulturelle Situation des Klosters St Maria in Helfta” (1999), 35
and Palmer, “Deutschsprachige Literatur im Zisterzienserorden. Versuch einer Darstellung
am Beispiel der ostschwäbischen Zisterzienser- und Zisterzienerinnenliteratur im Umkreis
von Kloster Kaisheim im 13. und 14. Jahrhundert” (2005), 253–254.
. 5:     113
Liber V, 31 (p. 369), he authorized and, to a certain extent, initiated the
revelations that circulated under the names of Mechthild of Hackeborn
and Gertrude of Helfta.
Certain statements within the text itself indicate that an abbess also
played an important role in realizing the ‘Mysticism Project’ at Helfta: the
rst ve books of the Liber were published at her instigation. The Eisle-
ben manuscript mentioned at the beginning of this chapter is the only
textual witness of the Liber so far discovered to identify the “abbatissa” of
Liber V, 31 as “Sophie” (fol. 73r). This was Sophia of Querfurt-Mansfeld, a
descendant of the convent’s founder, Burchard I of Mansfeld. Sophia was
elected Abbess following the death in 1292 of Gertrude of Hackeborn and
held oce until 1298. Although it is unclear whether the other two books
of the Liber were produced during this period or during the interregnum
(1298–1303), the second half of the Legatus, comprising Books III–V and
I, certainly was. Evidence is provided by datable comments in the text,
and by the fact that there is no mention of the abbess’s initiative. Com-
mission by the religious superiors, or praelati (cf. Legatus Approbatio, 3;
Prol. [4,3] and III,Prol. [1,9]), is mentioned instead. While the Liber and
the books of the Legatus already mentioned mark the later phases of
An obituary with a eulogy on the virtuous life of the murdered “Her [...] prepositus”
(for the transcription of the name see Meyer and Burckhardt, Die mittelalterlichen Hand-
schriften der Universitätsbibliothek Basel. Abteilung B: Theologische Pergamenthandschrif-
ten, vol. 1 (1960), 594) indicates the esteem in which the provosts at Helfta were held. This
text, which dates from 1367, was written during the tenure of Abbess Jutta II of Stolberg
(1361–1383) and is now regarded as an independent literary witness on a par with the two
visionary texts and the chronicle of the convent’s history from 1451 by the Abbess Sophie
of Stolberg (now available in the original: Oefelein, Nonnenkloster, 96–97). The manuscript
in Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. B V 32, fols. 75va–vb, contains the text, which had
already been made known by Morin, “Un rouleau mortuaire des moniales de Sainte Marie
d’Helfta” (1925), 100–102, but not hitherto noticed in the literature on Helfta. The manu-
script comes from the Basel Charterhouse, although it belonged to the Westphalian priest
Gottschalk Kamenschede, who may have acquired the volume along with other codices
in Cologne in the 1380s/90s (Steer, “Die Schriften Meister Eckharts in den Handschriften
des Mittelalters” (2002), 217–218, and Rubino and Sturlese, Bibliotheca Eckhardiana Manu-
scripta. Studien zu den lateinischen Handschriften der Werke Meister Eckharts. Vol. 1 (2012),
61–62 and 64–65).
Cf. Grössler, Die Blütezeit des Klosters Helfta bei Eisleben, (1887), 25 n. 1.
The widespread opinion that Book I does not belong to the “secunda pars” mentioned
in the Prologue needs to be re-evaluated (cf. Grimes, “Writing as birth: the composition of
Gertrud of Helfta Herald of God’s Loving-Kindness” (2007), 338). In the prologue to Book
III we nd an allusion to the book (which is “hardly begun”) associated with a revelation
supposedly received by Gertrude while composing the second part. This allusion refers to
Book III, as shown by the quotation from Isaiah used by God to highlight His intended
purpose for the book. The same quotation is repeated in Legatus III, 64 (3, 10–14).
114  . 
Helfta’s ‘Mysticism Project’, its beginning is signalled by Legatus Book II,
composed in 1289 while Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn was still alive. It
is, however, less easy to say which phase the seventh book of Das ließende
Licht belongs to. Historically, it is usually regarded as having originated in
Helfta but, although scholars have maintained that the initiative to record
revelations in Helfta came from Mechthild of Magdeburg, we cannot
say with any certainty she actually arrived in the convent in 1270. The
status of the seventh book within the corpus of texts from Helfta is also
unexplained. The literature from Helfta focuses on convent memoria, an
aspect which characterizes the textual contents of both the Legatus and
the Liber. It does not, however, play such a programmatic role in Das
ließende Licht, the odd reference to the convent’s collective conscious-
ness or environment notwithstanding.
The six thematically ordered books of the Lux divinitatis sit more easily
within the context of literary production at Helfta, creating as they do a
memorial to the visionary mystic identied in the text as one Sister Mech-
thild (soror mechtildis). However, individual amendments to the transla-
tion of Das ließende Licht and its reception in the 14th century indicate
that its transmission occurred primarily within Dominican circles. Look-
ing at textual transmission also reveals the Liber and Legatus were already
being copied together in 14th-century manuscripts, but both were copied
separately from the Lux divinitatis and the seventh book of Das ließende
Licht, despite the fact this was probably produced in Helfta. It seems that
Mechthild of Magdeburg never belonged to the ‘ocial’ corpus of revela-
tions that originated at Helfta in either German or Latin. Her inclusion in
the written canon (via the Lux divinitatis) appears to have been under-
taken for the rst time in Erfurt in the 15th century by the colleague of
The identication of the “soror M.” or “soror Mechtildis” who occasionally appears
in the Liber and Legatus with Mechthild of Magdeburg is uncertain (cf. Peters, Erfahrung,
122–125), particularly as there were several nuns with this popular name in Helfta
(cf. Strauch, Beiträge, 278–280; Neumann, Beiträge, 41 n. 43 and Ankermann, Gertrud die
Große, 37). The biographical information contained in the prologue to the Lux divinitatis
and, above all, the reference to Helfta could have originated from confusion with Mech-
thild of Hackeborn (cf. Peters, Religiöse Erfahrung als literarisches Faktum. Zur Vorge-
schichte und Genese frauenmystischer Texte des 13. und 14. Jahrhunderts (1988), 121 n. 33).
Cf. Nemes, Schrift, 126–131.
See Nemes ibid., 317–342 and 342–357.
Cf. Nemes ibid., 208–245 and Nemes, “Mechthild bei den ‘Gottesfreunden’—Die Got-
tesfreunde bei Mechthild. Oder: Wie gottesfreundlich ist das ‘Fließende Licht der Gottheit’
Mechthilds von Magdeburg?” (2014). See also Federer, Mystische Erfahrung im literarischen
Dialog. Die Briefe Heinrichs von Nördlingen an Margaretha Ebner (2011), 324–338.
. 5:     115
Jakob Volradi mentioned above, although the impact of this inclusion was
not felt until the edition by the monks of Solesmes in 1875/77.
Authorizing the Legatus
Several techniques are used to legitimize the publication of the divine
revelations imparted to a nun. One is to surround the text with quotations
from the Bible and the works of the Church Fathers in the form of margin-
alia. According to the closing section of the Prologue, they were added
by its author (i.e. the scribe of Gertrude) in order to underpin individual
statements theologically. The Liber and the Lux divinitatis also have
marginalia. The fact that the Legatus was provided with a document
of approval is reminiscent of the Miroir des simples âmes by Marguerite
Porète, whose orthodoxy had to be veried by an expert theologian. The
many references to the Bible and the lives of the Church Fathers, particu-
larly in the Lux divinitatis, perform the role of a commentary, although,
unlike in the prologue to the Legatus, there is no explanation of their
function. The defensive attitude in the Legatus, which is even more pro-
nounced in the accompanying work, the Approbatio doctorum, is surpris-
ing, not only because of the text’s unmistakable “Catholicity” (Kurt Ruh),
but also because it deals with the communal work of conventuals as
instigated by the convent leaders and for the benet of the community.
Important though the inclusion of the convent in the liturgically anchored
A selection of these is reproduced in Doyère, Gertrude d’Helfta, vol. 2, 85–87 and
Clément, Gertrude d’Helfta, vol. 4, 485–491 and vol. 5, 311–313.
Cf. Doyère, Gertrude d’Helfta, vol. 2, 90–91.
In the Wolfenbüttel manuscript of the Liber comments and marginalia have been
added throughout the text (Hubrath, “The Liber specialis gratiae as a Collective Work
of Several Nuns” (1999), 234 n. 5). The same applies to the surviving German and Latin
Mechthild manuscripts, in particular the Einsiedeln manuscript of Das ließende Licht,
Cod. 277 (now accessible online at www.e-codices.ch) and the Basel manuscript of the
Lux divinitatis, Cod. B IX 11. In the case of Das ließende Licht it can be safely assumed that
the reference apparatus, which consists of commentaries, quotations and (in the case of
the German transmission) cross-references to the work, did not arise as an additional text
in the course of reception but was already present in the vernacular source of the Latin
translation and therefore during Mechthild’s lifetime (cf. Nemes, Schrift, 114–125).
Trusen, Der Prozeß gegen Meister Eckhart. Vorgeschichte, Verlauf und Folgen (1988),
34–36. Another case of mysticism suspicious to scholastic theology would be the revela-
tions by Elsbeth of Oye, cf. Nemes, Schrift, 205–206.
Doyère, Gertrude d’Helfta, vol. 2, 104–107. See also Doyère, Gertrude d’Helfta, vol. 3,
349–350 and Nemes, Schrift, 223–224.
See Bynum, “Women Mystics.”
116  . 
life of Gertrude may be, what follows focuses on the writer who speaks
in the nal section of the prologue and throughout the rest of the work.
She is considered by Kurt Ruh to be the “actual author” of large parts of
the Legatus.
Apart from the second book of the Legatus, which is regarded as authen-
tic due to the text itself citing Gertrude as the author, there are numerous
instances of another speaker inscribing herself into the text, thematizing
the writing process and reecting on her role as scribe. The rst person
statements regarding her role in the genesis of the text consistently sug-
gest a single person behind them, not in the sense of a historical gure,
but of an assumed persona. She remains anonymous and portrays her-
self as completely in the service of her blessed sister, who is identied
by name as Gertrude only in the titles of Legatus IV,17 and in the mass of
Gertrude appended to the edition. However, she is no mere stenogra-
pher: in large sections of Books III–V it is dicult to distinguish between
copied and original text, between text and commentary.
Gertrude’s anonymous sister could most readily be called an author—
in Kurt Ruh’s denition of the term—in the rst book with regard to her
role as a hagiographer. She presents herself as a member of the convent
(cf. I,10 [4,9–10]) and a spiritual friend of Gertrude (cf. I,5 [2,4–6]). Her
familiarity with Gertrude—a basic requirement for the credibility and
validity of any hagiography, and which may therefore be a topos—afords
her insights into the secret spiritual life of her sister. In good hagiographi-
cal fashion she also draws on eyewitness accounts (I, 14 [1,1–2]) and letters
addressed to Gertrude (I,7 [4,1]). She further structures the material avail-
able to her: rst, by incorporating cross-references; second, by illustrating
individual points by weaving into the material eyewitness accounts and
quotations from the Bible and the Church Fathers. As in the nal sec-
tion of the Prologue, she anticipates criticism by referring to a particular
Regarding the dominance of liturgical inuence in the visionary literature of Helfta,
see Harrison, “ ‘I am wholly your own’: Liturgical piety and community among the nuns of
Helfta” (2009); Benke, “Mystik und Liturgie” (2003); Abril, “Gertrude of Helfta” and Harris,
“Gertrude of Helfta: a liturgical spirituality?” (2000).
Ruh, Geschichte, 2, 318. Ruh sees “Sister N.” as the key gure for a historical under-
standing of Gertrude of Helfta and Mechthild of Hackeborn (Geschichte, 316). He points
out that Sister N had not only worked on the Legatus but also (according to Ruh: together
with Gertrude) on the Liber (Ruh, “Gertrud von Helfta. Ein neues Gertrud-Bild” (1992)). For
a critical view see Nemes, Schrift, 284 n. 765 and n. 777 (with further literature).
According to Hubrath the name Mechthild is mentioned only twice in the Liber “and
a historical identication is only possible because of the remark that she was the sister of
the Abbess (Gertrude of Hackeborn), whose name is also known not from the Liber but
from monastic records” (Schreiben, 45).
. 5:     117
revelation given to Gertrude which makes clear that the recording of the
revelations is God’s will (I,15 [1,1–2]). In realizing God’s will, the writer
is guided by two main principles: readability in her arrangement of the
material, and usefulness in its content. This approach is something she
justies at every turn (for example, I,11 [13,18–22]). The same principles of
structuring and composition are used in the text types attributed to Ger-
trude herself in the Legatus, namely prayers, collections of dicta, poems,
and devotional exercises.
A comparable picture emerges through the various details concerning
the process of writing that are scattered throughout Books III–V, where
a nun—identied as such by the Prologue to Book III—again adopts the
role of scribe. Furthermore, the Prologue tells us that she was charged by
her superiors with recording the subsequent text. Her activity as an author
is indirectly authorized by God Himself, as Gertrude recognizes following
a vision of the Heart of Jesus. There she comments that it pleases the
Lord if she allows everything to be written down for the benet of all
(III,30 [2,24–25]). In dealing with the revelations communicated to her,
the nun displays a remarkable literary independence in Books III–V as
well; something also expressed in remarks made in her own right. She is
not merely a stenographer, as she, too, structures the material (cf. IV,35
[3,1], V,9 [1,31–33], V,22 [3,21–22]) and links similar themes together (cf.
III,66 [1,11–12] and IV,4 [9,1]). At one point she adds a quotation from Ber-
nard of Clairvaux as explanation (IV,26 [2,8–25]); elsewhere she appears
in her own right to comment on Gertrude’s words and the events of her
life (see, for example, III,12 [1,23–26], III,13 [2,12–15], III,14 [4,1–5], III,18
[9,10–14] and III,53 [2,1–5]). She also omits some material “for the sake of
brevity” (V,1 [18,3] and IV,27 [5,7–11]). The material selected is therefore
what she—not Gertrude—considers useful (cf. III,66 [connecting text]
and V,9 [1,3–4]).
These sections of text that thematize autonomous authorial activity
are not the only instances to reveal traces of an editorial approach to the
material: there are also, for example, the exact parallels between Liber VII,
1–10 and Legatus V,4. Textual material beyond the marked quotations
Cf. Legatus I,1 (2,17–41); I,4 (2,1–8); I,7 (1,17–23); I,11 (4,1–3); III,54 (2,9–12); IV,23
(10,11–15); V,4 (1,5–6); V,27 (1,1–4) and V,30 (5,1–3).
The nuns working with Mechthild of Hackeborn on creating the Liber worked
according to entirely comparable principles (cf. Haas, “Mechthild von Hackeborn. Eine
Form zisterziensischer Frauenfrömmigkeit” (1984), 222–225; Hubrath, Schreiben, 49–52
and Löser, “Schriftmystik”, 169–173).
See Spitzlei, Erfahrungsraum, 46 n. 132 and Ankermann, Gertrud die Große, 58. These
parallels—and the cross-reference between Liber I,31 (108) and Legatus III,9 in which the
118  . 
from the Bible and the Church Fathers also seems to have found its way
into the Legatus. This is indicated by the above observations about its
transmission, as they suggest the adaptation of prayer texts from else-
where in Legatus II, 4 and III, 19; and, nally, the biblically inspired phrase
“in the beginning of this book” (in principio hujus libri) gives an intertex-
tual link from Legatus III,64 (3,10–14) to the Prologue.
The closing chapters of the Legatus are as important as the Prologue
in determining the function and validity of the text, since they thema-
tize the scribe’s participation in creating the book. In response to Ger-
trude’s plea to God to preserve the book from all error, she is reassured
that “with the same love with which I in my freely-given grace poured
out all that is written in this book, I also committed it to the memory
of the one who listened to you, who collected and ordered it all to my
greatest delight” (V,33 [1,27–32]). It is this quotation that caused Kurt Ruh
to regard the scribe as the actual author—which is more a reection on
Ruh than on the scribe. At the beginning of Legatus V,34, the scribe
introduces herself as the “compiler of this book” (compilatrix hujus libri),
using a term common in learned circles that here implies far more than
a mere compiler in the sense of Bonaventura. The scribe of the Legatus
at times adopts the role of a commentator. Furthermore, just as Gertrude
commends the book to God in a ‘recorded’ conversation in Book V,33
and a little further on in the form of a hymn of praise (V,35), the com-
piler also feels authorized to present the nished book to God (V,34). In
such an arrangement the distinction between one’s own words and those
of another, between text and commentary, is of no signicance, particu-
larly since God has assured Gertrude that He has entrusted the revelations
to the memory of the scribe. This is new: until now it has always been Ger-
trude as the chosen one (electa) who was presented as the guarantor for
the transmission of the divine message—a message subject to repeated
distortion until it was transferred into the medium of writing, which, in
connection between the books is created by a reference to the same event rather than by a
common section of text—seem to be the reason for the widely accepted scholarly opinion
that one of the nuns who helped Mechthild of Hackeborn to record her revelations was
Gertrude of Helfta. See Nemes, Schrift, 281–282 n. 765.
See also Hubrath, Schreiben, 53–55.
Lanczkowski translates this phrase with “Verfasserin dieses Buches,” clearly relating
her to Gertrude (Gertrud von Helfta: Gesandter der göttlichen Liebe (1989), 504; likewise
Kiening, Mystische Bücher (2001), 52).
Cf. Parkes, “The Inuence of the Concepts of Ordinatio and Compilatio on the Devel-
opment of the Book” (1976), 127–128.
Also Harrison, “‘Oh! What treasure is in this book?’ Writing, reading, and community
at the monastery of Helfta” (2008), 89.
. 5:     119
the eyes of God, afords His message the widest possible impact. Thus
we learn from the scribe that Gertrude could not express in human words
everything that was revealed to her (cf. III,12 [2,1–3] and IV,11 [6,3–7]),
and that some things worthy of report (IV,26 [2,30–31]) will have to be
passed over in silence. Other ‘textual omissions’ occur because “although
she understood every single word that she received, she could not keep
everything in her memory due to weakness” (IV,48 [16,3–5]). Even those
things that could be memorized are “fragmentary” and can only be par-
tially expressed through “allegories” (IV,55 [1,7–11]). Typically, God accepts
such ‘textual deterioration’ as inevitable, and urges Gertrude, who is por-
trayed by her fellow nun as a messenger (cf. IV,13 [2,6–8]) or channel
(cf. I,11 [1,8–14]), to convey the message in written form as well as orally
(II,10 [1,8–10]). Committing the message to a form of written memory no
longer bound to the personal memories of Gertrude and her scribe guar-
antees its permanence and survival (cf. I,15 [1,14–16] and IV,13 [2,15–21]).
Thus the process of writing and the text itself ofer even Gertrude the
possibility of re-remembering later (cf. II,21 [2,9–11] and 22 [1,4–7]). Her
readers should, by way of contrast, be led to remember (cf. II,21 [2,7–9]),
thereby transcending a situation that requires the simultaneous presence
of speaker-messenger and listener. It is, therefore, not surprising that
participation in and the reading of the message conveyed by the Legatus
are viewed very much as the same thing (see, for example, Prol. [4,19–24],
II,23 [22,19], II,24 [2,1–3]). Through the text itself, as well as through the
reading of it, its recipients are absorbed into the now “extended speaker
situation” of a conversation that originally took place between God
and His messengers, namely Gertrude and the nun. This is thematized in
the Prologue (cf. 2,9–17) and in one of the nal chapters of the Legatus
Köbele, Bilder der unbegrifenen Wahrheit. Zur Struktur mystischer Rede im Span-
nungsfeld von Latein und Volkssprache (1993) demonstrates that this also afects the liter-
ary and linguistic composition of the texts from Helfta (although not Das ließende Licht),
104–122.
The second book, however, which is regarded as authentic, presents her as a self-
aware author who assumes that her text will continue to exist even after her death (Lega-
tus II, 23 (22, 19–20)).
It should be noted that the literary oeuvre of Helfta arose during a period of transi-
tion for the convent. See Hubrath, Schreiben, 40.
The same applies to the Liber of Mechthild of Hackeborn (Hubrath, Schreiben, 52).
This expression has been taken over from Ehlich in the full knowledge that he does
not conne the text and the process of transmission that guarantees it to the written form
(“Text und sprachliches Handeln. Die Entstehung von Texten aus dem Bedurfnis nach
Überlieferung” (1983), 38).
120  . 
(cf. V,34 [1,11–19]), and lends the written material a claim to validity that
can hardly be bettered. This claim is, of course, guaranteed by the fact that
at programmatically pivotal points in the book the written material claims
God as its author (in the Prologue and Book V,33).
***
Books do not, however, fall from Heaven, and writing does not—except
in post-Structuralist fantasies—write itself. As a philologist, one does not
want to leave the text to God’s authorship, however much the writing
would assert this for itself. Like Kurt Ruh, we are far more interested in
discovering the actual author. In this quest, Friedrich Nietzsche provides
a helpful analogy: his book Menschliches, Allzumenschliches was created at
the end of the 19th century in comparable circumstances to the Legatus.
He had recourse to a scribe, his secretary Heinrich Köselitz, alias Peter
Gast. However, his reason was not humility, as in Gertrude’s case (at least
according to the prologue to Legatus III), but short-sightedness. This state
of afairs led Nietzsche to make the following observation: “Truth to tell,
it was Peter Gast, at that time a student at the University of Basel and a
devoted friend of mine, who was responsible for the book. With my head
wrapped in bandages and extremely painful, I dictated while he wrote and
corrected as he went along—to be accurate, he was the real composer,
whereas I was only the author” (Nietzsche, Ecce homo 5: Menschliches, All-
zumenschliches, 327). Similarly, it is a characteristic of monastic literature
that Cistercian visionary literature may be guaranteed by the authority
of a named, saintly nun—the author—but producing the literary record
is ultimately the task of the convent. This is important for our under-
standing of the Legatus: by focusing solely on its protagonist, one risks
misunderstanding the communicative achievement and social function of
the text, for Gertrude functions solely as the authority for the validity of
the text and is, in this sense, “only” the author. In light of these remarks,
certain characteristics of the “actual author” (Kurt Ruh) may surely be
attributed to this “actual scribe”. The voice of this fellow nun from Helfta
is also heard in the Prooemium, which occurs before the extracts from the
Legatus in the Leipzig manuscript ms. 827, another previously unknown
witness to literary production in Helfta. In it Gertrude’s sister nun speaks,
Palmer, “Deutschsprachige Literatur im Zisterzienserorden”, 253.
This came to my attention too late to be fully worked into this article. See Märker
and Nemes, “Eine hagiographische Figur meldet sich zu Wort. Zu einem neu entdeckten
Text der Helftaer Klosterliteratur” (2014).
. 5:     121
describing her own role in the textualization of the divine revelations
received by Gertrude, already thought of as deceased. The nun includes
new information: Gertrude’s family names, and some previously unknown
details about the origin of the text and a series of chapters that are not
currently part of the known corpus of Gertrude’s revelations.
The discovery of the Leipzig manuscript sheds new light on the per-
sona visible in the hagiographical parts of the Legatus. This persona might
simply be part of a strategy of “personalizing the author” (Hugo Kuhn)
by personifying the voice of the narrator. However, the writing sister
nun might also be more than a mere literary device. In the case of 14th-
century Dominican Sister Books, for example, author writers are known to
be responsible for recording the divine grace imparted to their fellow sis-
ter, and for reinforcing the validity of their reports through their status as
eye witnesses. By analogy, the anonymous sister of the Legatus could be
a nun from Gertrude’s immediate surroundings who helped in the compo-
sition of the book and even became a ghost writer, co-authoring the text
and pre-empting Peter Gast by centuries.
Kuhn, “Versuch einer Literaturtypologie des deutschen 14. Jahrhunderts” (1980), 85.
Cf. Bürkle, Literatur im Kloster. Historische Funktion und rhetorische Legitimation
frauenmystischer Texte des 14. Jahrhunderts (1999), 243–245.
122  . 
T A
T P  A: G  H’
L  
Edition: Doyère et al. (Sources chrétiennes, Nr. 139, 143, 255, 331). The transla-
tion of the Prologue is based on the partial translation in Laura M. Grimes’s
essay: “Writing as Birth: The Composition of Gertrud of Helfta’s Herald of
God’s Loving-Kindness,” Cistercian Studies Quarterly 42.3 (2007), 329–345,
consulting the complete translation of the rst three books by Margaret
Winkworth (in The Herald of Divine Love). For the extracts from Book V,
the German translation of Johanna Lanczkowski (WBG 1989) was consulted.
Revision and further translation: Laura Ball and editors.
5a)The Prologue to Gertrude of Helfta’s Legatus divinae pietatis (I,1)
The Prologue to Book I of the Legatus describes the role of divine inspira-
tion in the genesis of the text and the transmission of God’s loving kindness
through the book to the appropriately devout author, reader and copyist.
God emerges as a co-author who chooses a title for the work, The Herald of
the Divine Loving-Kindness, that expresses its intention.
1.Omnium bonorum distributor
Spiritus Paraclitus, qui spirat ubi
vult, prout vult et quando vult, sicut
congruentissimum quaerit secretum
aspirandi, sic etiam ad salutem
plurimorum congruentem ordinat
modum aspirata in lucem proferendi,
ut patet in hac famula Dei, quam licet
larga superefIuxio divinae pietatis
non desierit sine intervallo temporis
immanare, emanandi tamen ordinavit
intervalla. Unde et liber iste diversis
temporibus est conscriptus, ita ut
pars una conscriberetur post octavum
annum acceptae gratiae et pars altera
circa vicesimum annum perceretur.
The Spirit, the Paraclete, dispenser of
all good things, who breathes where
he wills, how he wills and when he
wills, seeks to keep his inspiration a
most tting secret; yet for the salvation
of many he also ordains a tting
way of revealing his inspiration, as
clearly shown in this handmaid of
God. Although the vast ood of God’s
loving kindness never ceased to ow
continually into her, He nonetheless
ordained a pause before it owed out.
So it was that this book was written
down at various times: one part written
down eight years after her reception of
grace and the second part completed
about twenty years later.
2.Quas utrasque partes se acceptare
Dominus singulis vicibus dignanter
declaravit. Nam cum prima pars
conscripta fuisset et ipsa cum humili
devotione eam Domino commendasset,
For both of these parts, the Lord
signied his gracious acceptance of it.
When the rst part had been written
down and she had dedicated it to the
Lord with humble devotion, she
. 5:     123
tale a benignissima pietate Dei accepit
responsum: “Nemo a me elongare
potest memoriale abundantiae divinae
suavitatis meae.” Per quod verbum
intellexit Dominum velle imponi libello
illi tale nomen: scilicet Memoriale
abundantiae divinae suavitatis. Et
adjecit Dominus: “Si quis cum devota
intentione spiritualis profectus in
hoc libro legere desideraverit, ipsum
mihi attraham in tantum quod quasi
inter manus meas leget in eo, et ego
memetipsum illi in hoc opere sociabo,
ut sicut eri solet quando duo legentes
in una pagina, unus alterius sentiat
atum, sic ego intraham atum
desideriorum ipsius, quo viscera
pietatis meae commoveantur super
eum. Insuper aspirabo ipsi aatum
meae divinitatis, quo ipse interius per
spiritum meum renovetur.” Subjunxit
etiam Dominus: “Qui vero simili
intentione in eo conscripta descripserit,
pro singulis immittam ei a suavitate
divini Cordis mei tot sagittas amoris,
quae in anima ipsius jucundissimas
delectationes divinae suavitatis
commovebunt.
received this answer from the sweetest
loving kindness of the Lord: “No one
can separate this memorial of the
abundance of my divine sweetness
from me”. She understood by these
words that the Lord Himself wanted
the book to be given the following title:
Memorial to the Abundance of Divine
Sweetness. The Lord added: “If anyone
wishes to read this book with the
devout intention of spiritual progress,
I shall draw them so closely to me that
they will read it as if my own hands
were holding the book and I myself
shall keep them company at the task.
As when two people are reading the
same page, each is aware of the other’s
breath, so shall I draw in the breath
of their longings. Thus the core of my
loving kindness will be moved to have
mercy on him. Moreover I shall breathe
into him the breath of my divinity
which, through my Spirit, will create
him anew within”. The Lord also added:
“Whoever copies what is written here
with a similar intention, for every
single word I will re at him, from the
sweetness of my divine heart, as many
arrows of love which will set in motion
in his soul the most delightful pleasures
of divine goodness”.
3.Secunda vero pars dum
conscriberetur, etiam nimis voluntatem
ipsius demulcens, et ipsa hoc nocte
quadam querulando Domino
proponeret, ipse eam solita benignitate
demulcens, inter caetera sic dixit:
“Dedi te in lucem gentium ut sis salus
mea ab extremis terrae.” Quod cum
illa de libro isto, qui tunc vix incoeptus
fuerat, dictum intelligeret, admirans
ait: “Et quomodo, Deus, per hunc
libellum aliquis poterit percipere lucem
cognitionis, cum voluntatis meae
nullatenus sit ut plura
One night, while the second part was
being written to the great delight of
God’s will, she was making complaint
to the Lord. He soothed her with His
usual kindness and said, amongst other
things: “I have given thee to be the
light of the Gentiles, that thou mayst
be my salvation even to the farthest
part of the earth”. As she knew that He
was speaking of the book, which was
scarcely begun, she said wonderingly:
“And how, O my God, could anyone be
granted the light of knowledge through
this little book, since I do not want any
124  . 
conscribantur, et etiam ipsa pauca
jam scripta nequaquam permittam
manifestari?” Ad quod Dominus: “Cum
ego Jeremiam in prophetam eIegissem,
ipse videbatur sibi nec loqui scire nec
congruentem discretionem habere,
cujus tamen eloquio ego correxi gentes
et regna. Similiter quaecumque luce
cognitionis et veritatis per te illustrare
disposui, non frustrabitur, cum
aeternam praedestinationem meam
nullus hominum possit impedire, quia
ego quos praedestinavi hos et vocabo,
et quos vocavero hos et justicabo,
qualicumque mihi complacet modo.
more to be written and I will not allow
the little that is already written to be
shown to anyone?”. To which the Lord
answered: “When I chose Jeremiah
to be my prophet, he thought he was
incapable of speaking with knowledge
or discretion, yet by the words of his
mouth I reproved peoples and kings. In
the same way, my intention to clarify
certain things through you by the light
of knowledge and truth shall not be
frustrated, for no one can hinder what
has been predestined from eternity. For
those whom I have predestined I shall
call; and those whom I have called
I shall justify, in the way which
pleases me”.
4.Altera vice, dum iterum in orando
niteretur obtinere a Domino, ut
permitteret se prohibere scribentem
hunc librum, quia tunc obedientia
praelatorum eam tam violenter non
cogeret ad scribendum sicut antea
fecerat, Dominus benigne respondit:
“An nescis quia quemcumque voluntas
mea cogit, super omnem obedientiam
est coactus? Ergo cum voluntatem
meam, cui nemo potest resistere,
scias in scribendo libro isto, ut quid
turbaris? Nam et ego scribentem instigo
et deliter juvabo atque quod meum
est illaesum conservabo.” Tunc illa
voluntatem suam beneplacito divino
totam conformans dixit ad Dominum:
“Quo vocabulo, dilectissime Domine,
vis hunc libellum praetitulari?” Ad
quod Dominus: “Liber iste meus
Legatus divinae pietatis nominabitur,
quia pietatis meae supereuentia in
ipso aliqualiter praelibabitur.” Quod illa
multum admirans ait: “Cum personae
illae quae nominantur Legati majori
fungantur auctoritate, quid huic libello,
quem tali denotas vocabulo, dignaris
concedere auctoritatis?” Respondit
Another time, when she again pleaded
in prayer with the Lord, asking
whether He would allow her to stop
writing this book, for obedience to
the ecclesiastical powers no longer
drove her to write with the same force
as in times past, the Lord answered
full of kindness: “Do you not know
that whosoever is forced by my will, is
obliged above and beyond any other
obedience? Therefore, since you know
my will, which no one may resist, in
writing this book, why then are you
troubled? For I will encourage the
scribe and support her faithfully; and
that which is mine I will preserve
unsullied”. Then she, conforming her
entire will to the divine pleasure, said
to the Lord: “What title do you want
this book to have, most loving Lord?”.
The Lord replied: “This book of mine
will be called The Herald of the Divine
Loving Kindness, for some of the
overowing abundance of my loving
kindness will spill over into it”. At this
she marvelled greatly and asked: “If
people called legates act with greater
authority, what authority do you then
. 5:     125
Dominus: “Ex virtute divinitatis hoc
concedo ut quicumque ad laudem
meam cum recta de et humili
devotione devotaque gratitudine
in ipso legerit, et aedicari quaerit,
venialium peccatorum remissionem
consequatur, et obtinebit gratiam
spiritualis consolationis et insuper
habilitabitur ad gratiam ampliorem.
deem worthy for this little book, to
which you give the name Legatus?”. The
Lord replied: “By virtue of my divinity
I grant this: that anyone who reads it
for my praise with correct faith, humble
devotion and religious gratitude and
who seeks to be edied and to receive
remission of venial sins will obtain the
gift of spiritual consolation; and will,
moreover, become capable of more
ample grace”.
5.Post haec, dum illa recognosceret
Domino complacere ut duae partes
conjungerentur in unum, devotis
orationibus requisivit ab eo quomodo
permisceri deberent quae singula ipse
singulis, ut praescriptum est, vocabulis
dignatus est disjungere. Respondit
Dominus: “Sicut gratia prolis electae
uterque parens quandoque afectuosius
respicitur, sic ex utrisque hunc librum
conjungendum praeordinavi, unde ex
utrisque sortietur vocabulum, scilicet
Legatus memorialis abundantiae divinae
pietatis, quia legationem divinae
pietatis meae faciet ad memoriam
electorum meorum.”
Then, having recognized that it would
please the Lord to bind both parts
together, she enquired of Him in
humble prayer as to the manner in
which they should be combined, after
He had declared Himself to distinguish
the diferent parts by diferent titles, as
noted before. The Lord replied: “Just as
because of a chosen child sometimes
both parents are regarded more
afectionately, so have I preordained
that this book should result from
a union of both parts and the title
emerge from both: that is, The Herald:
A Memorial of the Abundance of the
Divine Loving-Kindness, for it will herald
my loving kindness in the memory of
those that I have chosen”.
6.Et cum in consequentibus pateat
huic jugiter afuisse divinae dignationis
praesentiam et tamen quandoque
inseratur “apparuit” vel “afuit ei
Dominus”, sic intelligendum est, quod
quamvis vere frequenter afuerit
ipsi speciali quadam praerogativa,
pro causa tamen et pro tempore
quandoque magis imaginatoriam
exhibuit illi formam, ad capacitatem
proximorum quibus hoc noticandum
praeordinavit. Similiter etiam sciendum
est de his quae in consequentibus
videntur diversa, quia Deus amator
universorum, in visitatione unius,
plurimorum diversimode quaerit
Since it will become clear from what
follows that the presence of the divine
favour constantly supported her
and yet she sometimes inserted “He
appeared” or “The Lord was with her”,
this must be understood to mean that,
although He was indeed often with
her as a special privilege, nonetheless
there were periods when, for some
reason or some time, He appeared
to her in a form more amenable to
the imagination, in conformity to
the capacity of those around her, to
whom He preordained that a particular
revelation should be communicated.
Similarly, it is also essential to know, in
regard to the
126  . 
salutem. Et quamvis tam ferialibus
quam festivis diebus pius Dominus
continue indiferenter gratiam suam
huic infuderit, tam per imaginationes
corporearum similitudinum quam
etiam per puriores illuminationes
cognitionum; si quid tamen de
imaginationibus corporearum
similitudinum ad intellectum
humanum in libello isto describi
voluit, ad discretionem legentium et
capacitatem divisum est in quinque.
varied material that follows, that God,
the lover of all, in visiting one seeks in
diferent ways the salvation of many.
Just as the loving Lord continually
poured His grace into her without
alteration, on weekdays and holy
days, sometimes through the means
of sensible corporeal similitudes,
sometimes through purer intellectual
visions, so, too, did He will this book to
record images of His bodily likenesses
according to the capacities of the
human intellect. For the readers’
estimation and comprehension it is
divided into ve books.
7.In quorum primo continetur
de commendatione personae et
testimoniis gratiae. In secundo libro
continentur quae ipsamet, instigante
spiritu Dei, per gratiarum actionem
conscripserat de modo susceptae
gratiae. In tertio vero exponuntur
aliqua de beneciis sibi impensis, sive
revelatis; in quarto autem annotantur
visitationes quibus in quibusdam festis
consolata est a divina pietate. In quinto
deinde exprimuntur aliqua de his quae
sibi Dominus dignatus est revelare ex
meritis animarum decedentium. Et
subjunguntur aliqua de
consolationibus quibus Dominus
extrema ipsius dignatus est
praevenire.
In the rst book of these is contained
the recommendation of the person
and the witnesses of grace. In the
second book is contained what she
herself, encouraged by the Spirit of
God, did record with gratitude about
the manner in which she received
grace. In the third book, something of
the gifts of grace imparted or revealed
to her is described. In the fourth book
are recorded the visitations by which
she was comforted on various feast
days by divine love. In the fth book,
something is conveyed of those things
the Lord deemed worthy to reveal to
her about the merits of the souls of
the dead and also something of the
comforts He deemed her worthy of at
her own death.
8.Sed quia Hugo dicit: “Suspecta
est mihi omnis veritas quam non
conrmat Scripturarum auctoritas.
Et infra: “Nec rata poterit esse
quantumlibet verisimilis revelatio
sine attestatione Moysi et Helyae, id
est, sine Scripturarum auctoritate.
Ergo in marginibus annotavi quae
simplex ingenium et inexercitatus
sensus meus in instanti ad memoriam
potuit
However, as Hugh says: “I hold
suspect all truth which is not
conrmed by scriptural authority”;
and, further down, “No revelation,
however probable it appears, should
be endorsed without the witness of
Moses and Elijah, that is, without the
scriptural authority”. I have therefore
recorded in the margin what my simple
wit and inexperienced understanding
could recall on the
. 5:     127
revocare, sperans ut, si quis acri
ingenio et exercitato sensu
afuerit, multo probabiliora atque
convenientiora testimonia possit
adhibere.
spur of the moment, in the hope that
if anyone of keen wit and experienced
understanding should come across
it, he would be able to cite far more
credible and appropriate witnesses.
5b)In Praise of the Book (V,33)
Book V, § 33 De commendatione libri hujus (“In Praise of This Book”): After
completion of the book Christ imbues it with His sweetness and sancties
it in terms equating the book with the Eucharist.
Cum liber iste conscriptus esset,
apparuit illi Dominus Jesus, habens
ipsum impressum pectori suo,
dicens: “Hunc librum meum ad
hoc intimis divini pectoris mei
impressi, quo singulas litteras in eo
conscriptas dulcedine divinitatis meae
pertranseam medullitus, sicut medo
suavissimus micam recentis similaginis
ecaciter pertransit, ut omnis qui ad
laudem meam cum humili devotione
in ipso legerit, fructum ex hoc
consequatur aeternae salutis.” Tunc
oravit Dominum ut eumdem librum ab
omni conservare dignaretur errore ad
suam laudem et gloriam. Qui extensa
venerabili manu sua super illum, signo
sanctae crucis communivit, dicens:
“Eodem efectu quo in hac missa
panem et vinum transubstantiavi
omnibus in salutem, etiam omnia
in libro isto conscripta caelesti
benedictione mea modo sancticavi
omnibus, sicut supra dixi, cum humili
devotione in ipso legere volentibus in
veram salutem.” Et subjunxit Dominus:
“Sic, inquit, delectat me labor hunc
librum meum mihi conscribentis
quasi tot olfactoriola mihi ad ornatum
appenderit, quot litteras in ipso
conscripsit, ex quibus singulis triplici
miro modo acior delectamento, quia
profecto in eis sapit mihi inexplicabilis
After this book had been written, the
Lord Jesus appeared to her, holding it
pressed to His breast and saying:
“I have pressed this book which is mine
deep into my divine breast to saturate
every single letter written in it with the
sweetness of my divinity, as sweetest
mead drenches a bite of fresh bread
with sweetness, so that each one who
reads it in humble devotion for my
praise will gain the fruit of eternal life.
Thereupon she prayed to the Lord that
He would deem this book worthy to
preserve it from all error, for His praise
and glory. Then He stretched out His
venerable hand over the book and
sealed it with the sign of the holy Cross,
saying: “Through the same power by
which, at mass, I have transformed the
bread and wine for the salvation of all,
I have sanctied everything written in
this book by my heavenly blessing for
the true salvation of all those, as I have
said, who read it in humble devotion”.
The Lord added the following words:
“I delight in the work of the scribe
who has written this book for me, as
surely as if she had adorned me with
as many vials of perfume as there are
letters in the book. Each of these lls
me with marvellous delight in three
forms: I taste in them the unspeakable,
divine sweetness of my divine love,
128  . 
5c)The Reception of the Book (V,34)
Book V, § 34: De acceptatione hujus libri (“The Reception of This Book”):
Observed by an eyewitness, the compiler ofers the completed work to the
Lord, who promises to guide the pious reader Himself but to destroy the
scornful one.
dulcedo divini amoris mei, ex quo
cuncta in eo conscripta prouxerunt.
Et acit me suavis redolentia bonae
voluntatis ipsius scribentis. Necnon
alludit mihi forma meae gratuitae
pietatis quae patet in singulis ejusdem
libri scriptis. Ego enim in eodem amore,
quo omnia in libro isto conscripta
gratuita pietate mea tibi infudi, eodem
etiam amore eadem memoriae a te
audientis commendavi, componens et
ordinans ac per manus ejus secundum
optimum beneplacitum meum
conscribens universa. Ego enim saepe
dictum librum meum sanctissima
conversatione mea operiam, roseisque
monilibus quinque vulnerum meorum
adornabo, ac septem donis Spiritus
sancti, tamquam septem sigillis, divina
virtute mea consignabo, ut non sit qui
ipsum de manu mea eruere possit.”
from which all the things written in
this book have owed; the good will of
her who writes for me delights me with
its delicious fragrance; and the form
of my freely given grace, which shows
through in all that is written down.
With the same love, with which I in my
freely given grace poured out all that is
written in this book, I also committed it
to the memory of the one who listened
to you, who collected and ordered it all
to my greatest delight. For I will cover
this book which even now I often have
called mine with my most holy life and
adorn it with the rose-coloured jewels
of my ve wounds and seal it with the
seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, as with
seven seals, by my divine might, so that
no one shall be able to pluck this book
from my hand”.
1.Hinc alia vice, dum compilatrix
hujus libri communicatura eumdem
occulte in manica sub pallio suo
deferret oblaturum Domino in laudem
aeternam, hoc nullo penitus hominum
sciente, et more solito exis genibus
in obviam dominici corporis profunde
inclinaret, visus est ab alia persona
Dominus, quasi ex incontinentia
profusivi amoris, cum ingenti gaudio
in obviam ejus genua ectendo eam
blande circumplecti, dicens: “Ego
dulcedine divini amoris mei penetrabo
et penetrando fecundabo omnia
verba libri hujus mihi modo oblati,
immo veraciter impulsu spiritus mei
On another occasion, when she,
the compiler of this book, went to
Communion, she carried it secretly
in the sleeve of her habit, under her
mantle, to ofer it to the Lord for
His eternal praise, without anyone
knowing. She genuected in the
usual way and, approaching the body
of the Lord, prostrated herself before
it. At this point another person
saw the Lord approaching her with
great manifestations of love and joy,
embracing her tenderly and saying:
“I will penetrate all the words in this
book which you have ofered me with
the sweetness of my divine love—
. 5:     129
conscripti. Et quicumque humiliato
corde ad me veniens, amore amoris mei
in eo legere voluerit, huic ego revera in
sinu meo quasi digito proprio sigillatim
quaeque sibi utilia demonstrabo, et
insuper me ipsi tam dignanter acclinabo
quod, quemadmodum quis diversis
speciebus saturatus aatu suo aspiraret
se osculari volentem, sic ego ex aatu
divinitatis meae efectum animae suae
salutarem ipsi ecaciter inspirabo.
Qui vero curiosa instigatur elatione,
a tergo mihi adveniens, quasi dorso
meo incubuerit ad introspiciendum,
et invertendo perscrutando hujus libri
mei textum, hunc certe cum pondus
ejus amplius supportare noluero, divina
virtute mea confusum deicere non
verebor.”
and, penetrating them, make them
fruitful—for they were truly written by
the power of my spirit. And I will take
whoever comes to me with a humble
heart, desiring for love of my love to
read this book, onto my lap and with
my nger point out all specically that
is benecial for him. And I will incline
myself graciously towards him, so that,
in the same way that someone who
has been sated by both species of the
Eucharist breathes onto the one who
wishes to kiss him, I will breathe into
the reader ecaciously with my divine
breath to efect his soul’s salvation.
However, whoever is spurred on by
curiosity and self-aggrandizement to
come to me underhandedly, leaning
as it were on my back to spy over
my shoulder and scan the text of my
book to pervert it: I will not sufer the
burden of his weight for a moment;
I will not hesitate to destroy the
disgraced with my divine power.
5d)The Conclusion of the Book (V,36)
Book V, § 36 Conclusio hujus libri (“The conclusion of this book”): This pas-
sage praises God’s fruitful co-authorship of the work, which leads the narra-
tor and reader of the book upwards to His grace and their salvation.
Ad laudem et gloriam Dei amatoris
humanae salutis conscriptus est liber
iste; sed causa brevitatis plurimis,
immo pene innumeris, omissis,
consummatus est tam evidenti et, ut
ita dicam, tam miraculoso adjutorio
divinae misericordiae, quod vel etiam
saltem per hoc solum innotescere
potuit quam uberem animarum
fructum ipse praeventor et subsecutor
optimorum datorum ex eo requirat.
Nequaquam tamen exhausto rivulo
divinarum inuxionum in hanc
electam suam directo, sed partito
This book was written to the praise
and glory of God, the lover of human
salvation. For the sake of brevity many
things, nay, things almost without
number, have been omitted. It was
completed with the remarkable—I
might even say wondrous—help of
divine mercy, which alone at least could
reveal that overabundant fruit of the
soul which the author and nisher of
all good gifts expected from it. Without,
however, being exhausted, the stream
of divine outpourings owed directly
into this person, His chosen one, and
130  . 
nobiscum quod nobis congruebat,
electam suam, quasi per ascensorios
gradus imaginationum deducens
ad secretiora, immo ad puriores et
excellentiores sapientiae haustus,
perduxit, qui nequaquam corporearum
imaginationum obumbrationibus ad
publicum nostrum possint perduci.
Quae tamen omnia incontinentissima
Dei pietas cum universis hic scriptis ad
salutem egentium tam copiose faciat
exuberare, quo, adaucto centuplicato
fructu, in librum vitae scribi digni
inveniantur. Et interim legentes in
libello isto simpliciores, qui per se
non suciunt natare in prouvio
divinae pietatis, saltem hoc vehiculo
iter arripiant, et quasi manuductione
beneciorum proximi sui delectati,
vacando lectionibus, meditationibus
et contemplationibus, ipsi tandem
gustare incipiant quam dulcis est
Dominus et quam revera beatus est qui
sperans in eo totum cogitatum suum
jactat in ipsum. Quod benignitate
sua nobis praestare dignetur qui in
Trinitate perfecta vivit et regnat Deus
per innita saecula saeculorum. Amen.
shall be given to us as we deserve
it. Yet through a gradual elevation
of the imagination the Lord has led
His chosen one upwards, as if over
ascending stairs, to higher graces
of vision and more secret things so
she might taste the purer and more
delightful fountains of wisdom, which
can by no means be understood
through the shadow images of
bodily imagination possessed by the
uninitiated.
May the eternal loving kindness
of God join all this with that which is
written here and make it so fruitful for
the readers’ salvation that they may
bring forth fruit a hundredfold and
be found worthy to be written into
the book of life. And meanwhile the
simpler readers of this book, those
who are not able by themselves to
swim in the stream of divine grace,
may at least travel by this vehicle and
rejoice that they, too, may be led by
the hand through their neighbour’s
gifts of grace until nally they begin
to taste, by reading, meditating and
contemplating, how sweet the Lord
is and how truly blessed he is that
hopes in the Lord and throws all his
care upon Him. May God in His loving
kindness preserve this, God, who lives
in the perfect Trinity and rules world
without end. Amen.
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https://freidok.uni-freiburg.de/data/154832 - Der Versuch, den überlieferten Buchbestand der 1803 aufgehobenen Erfurter Kartause zu erfassen und den Verbleib der im mittelalterlichen Standortkatalog verzeichneten Bände zu ermitteln, wurde von Paul Lehmann 1928 zum ersten Mal unternommen. 60 Jahre später präsentierte Sigrid Krämer eine aktualisierte Dokumentation des erhaltenen Buchbestands der Erfurter Kartause, die im ersten Teil des von Krämer erstellten Nachschlagewerks „Handschriftenerbe des deutschen Mittelalters“ 1989 erschienen ist. Der von diesen beiden Verzeichnissen erfasste Buchbestand bildet den Grundstock der vorliegenden Übersicht, die eine nach Möglichkeit korrigierte, nochmals aktualisierte und bibliographisch fundierte Dokumentation über den Verbleib von Büchern (in erster Linie von Handschriften, in geringerem Maße auch von Inkunabeln und Frühdrucken) aus der Kartause Erfurt bietet. Sie erhebt nicht den Anspruch auf Vollständigkeit und Fehlerlosigkeit. Vielmehr bildet sie den Zwischenstand eines work in progress ab, der in eine Datenbank münden soll. Ergänzungen und Korrekturen sind jederzeit möglich und höchst willkommen.
C 96, fols. 110r-116r and osnabrück, staatsarchiv, rep. 2 no. 21, fols
  • Universitätsbibliothek Ms
düsseldorf, universitätsbibliothek, Ms. C 96, fols. 110r-116r and osnabrück, staatsarchiv, rep. 2 no. 21, fols. 191r-214v).
die rezeption Gertruds von helfta im Bereich süddeutscher frauen­ klöster
  • Cf
  • Ringler
Cf. ringler, "die rezeption Gertruds von helfta im Bereich süddeutscher frauen­ klöster" (1998), 134, 136.