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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: April 2020

10 - The Visions, Experiments, and Operations of Bridget of Autruy (fl. 1305–15)

Summary

“Bridget of Autruy” is the moniker used here for a recently rediscovered medieval visionary, the sister and intimate associate of John of Morigny, author of the Liber florum celestis doctrine: a work of visions, prayers, rituals, and experiments written in stages between 1301 and early 1316. This work, which at present remains our only source for Bridget's life and thought, was burned as heretical in Paris in 1323 but was widely copied, read, and used as an orthodox expression of Marian devotion for the next two centuries in Germany, Austria, Poland, Italy, Spain, and England, as well as France, especially, it seems, in Benedictine and Augustinian houses. After almost half a millennium of obscurity it has recently been published in full for the first time.

A decade younger than her brother, Bridget was born into a seigneurial family of no great wealth in the late 1280s, probably in Autruy, a village in the Loiret on the river Juine, midway between Orleans to the south and Etampes and nearby Morigny to the north, in the archdiocese of Sens. Here her devout mother owned a house on two floors adjoining a walled field, while the parish church, dedicated to St. Peter, contained a painted wooden statue of the Virgin of a kind widely dispersed across the region. After offering her virginity to God in her teens, partly as a result of a series of visions involving the devil, God, the Virgin, and the angels, Bridget may have lived as a beguine or other semi-religious before becoming a nun in her mid-twenties. It is not unlikely that we should be referring to her as Bridget of Rozay, the Benedictine house near Sens she may well have joined. There are signs that around this time she also became, at least briefly, a public figure. However, nothing is known about her later life or in what year she died.

Although she could read and write Latin, and although one passage may derive from her pen, there is no evidence that Bridget recorded or publicized her own visions. Nor does her status as a medieval woman intellectual rest only on the eight or so of these visions detailed in the Liber florum.