b. 1210, Bohemia; d. 1279/82, Milan
Guglielma of Milan, a pious laywoman, practiced and preached an alternative, feminized version of Christianity in which she predicted the end of time and her resurrection as the Holy Spirit incarnate. She arrived in Milan in the 1260s with a son in tow; in a vita written by a disciple, Andrea Saramita, it is claimed that she was the daughter of King Otakar I of Bohemia (which would make her the sister of the sainted Agnes of Bohemia). Whatever the case of her parentage, in Milan she soon attracted disciples from the elite classes of the city, as well as among the Umiliati, a lay urban religious movement that operated on the fringes of heresy. When she died, some time between 1279 and 1282, her body was buried in the Cistercian monastery at Chiaravalle; the burial site soon became a shrine and a cult sprang up around her. The Guglielmites were led by a sister of the Umiliati order, Maifreda da Piovano, who was elected their pope and performed Mass over Guglielma's grave. Their creed—that Guglielma's resurrection would herald a new church led by women—attracted the attention of the Inquisition. In 1300, thirty Guglielmites were charged with heresy. Guglielma's bones were disinterred and burned, and three of her devotees, including Maifreda, were sent to the stake.
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