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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Mechthild of Magdeburg

b. 1210, Germany; d. circa 1285, Helfta, Germany

Mechthild’s own writings are the only source of biographical information about her life. She began having visions at age twelve. In 1230, she left home for Magdeburg, where she joined a community of Beguines, a semimonastic group of women who lived as ascetics but did not take vows. She seems to have remained with the Beguines for about twenty years, at which time she began to record her visionary experiences and revelations of God and Hell in a text combining prose and poetry. In 1270, Mechthild joined the convent at Helfta, led by Gertrude of Hackeborn, where she spent the remainder of her life. Her work—the seven-volume Das fließende Licht der Gottheit (The Flowing Light of the Godhead)—was largely forgotten until the end of the nineteenth century, when it was rediscovered and published.