The Same Spaces Tell Different Religious Stories. Several Considerations on Cospatiality in Paris around 1300

— Dietmar Mieth

(translation revised by Jo Ann Van Vliet)

Some Preliminary Observations

(1) The King’s Chapel in Paris (“Sainte-Chapelle”) was constructed in the times of King Louis IX near the Royal Palace and the Episcopal Palace on the central island of the Seine. It was a Gothic Chapel on two levels. The lower level was designated for the laity, including religious lay groups like the Beguines, and for public religious events (today: for exhibits and ticket services!). The upper level was designated for the King, his court, and the court clergy. In the expensively furnished royal chapel with exquisitely colored stained glass windows, the Crown of Thorns has been displayed and venerated since the Crusades led by Louis IX. In this breathtakingly beautiful, sacred atmosphere, the King could hardly have felt like a lay person.

(2) The University of Paris, the Sorbonne, offered the opportunity to debate controversial issues and to critically examine the use of academic Latin und vernacular languages. Copies of books and manuscripts could be bought and recommended in the “Rue St. Jacques”, at that time a main street leading to the south. The public squares near the Dominican monastery with their officially authorized and sworn booksellers and copyists were utilized by the University of Paris; however, these booksellers additionally offered religious books and manuscripts in the vernacular, among them early French translations of the Bible.

(3) In the city, “intra muros”, the affiliated beguinages and convents were located in close proximity to the Hôtel de Dieu. The Hôtel de Dieu was a central hospital used by the ill and by a special religious community of sisters and brothers. On admission, all patients were immediately required to receive Communion – considered to be the best medicine of all. Religion prevailed over health.

(4) On the right side of the Seine, not far from the Île de France, was the central square:  the “Place de Grève”. The houses and residences of the wealthy, including the Jews, were located near this square. However, this marketplace was also used by the royal and papal Inquisition to burn heretical or Jewish books, condemned Christian heretics like Marguerite Porete and relapsed Jews (1310) as well as the condemned leaders of the Knights Templar (1314).

(5) Religious life in the streets: the “Free Spirit” movement.

(6) In the north and to the east of the city, “extra muros” – also a metaphor for space – : an autonomous city, the city of the Knights Templar, and a place for larger executions by fire as well as houses “extra muros” for lepers and their religious caregivers.

(7) The co-incidence of two conceptions of canonical Inquisition: “blasphemy”, used by the King’s administration, and “heresy”, used by the Pope’s Inquisition, united and exemplified in the same person: William of Paris, the Great Inquisitor.

(8) A question remains about the vertical co-spatiality of city and heaven.


The following considerations have arisen in the context of research into the religious and social contexts of religious writing around 1300. The search for “co-spatiality,” for “equality in space”, has its roots in socio-religious conflicts in the city of Paris, which in the first two decades of the fourteenth century led to the use of state and ecclesiastical power, including force and violence, by the Inquisition. Nothing in this period was “secular” in the modern sense. Although the distinction between “secular” and “ecclesiastical” power was very present, “secular” in the sense of the consecrated kingship could include the clergy, because the King and the state were “Christian” in a clear demarcation of their religious powers. Conversely, the Pope also had secular power. However, he was able to exercise this power more sovereignly in the “Empire” than in France (Avignon belonged to the territory of the Empire as an imperial fiefdom). The “co-spatialities” described above move in a space of the exercise of power by religiously justified means; those involved were themselves strongly motivated by a combination of political and religious interests. In the following I will use the term “co-spatiality” together with the terms “coincidence” and “simultaneity”.[1]

The City of Paris

Around 1300 Paris was the largest city in Europe, with a population of approximately 200,000. [2] At this time in the Middle Ages, it was at the height of its power and importance as a royal and episcopal seat on the island of the Seine, as a commercial center on the right side of the Seine, and as a monastic and university city on the left side of the Seine.[3] The city was surrounded by a high wall and well fortified, especially towards the northwest. After the plague, after the Jacquerie and the merchants’ revolt (1358) and then during the Hundred Years’ War, the population of Paris diminished by half. The university changed slowly; theologians were generally reactionary during the Reformation.

In 1310 the “Rose Paris” was in bloom, though not without thorns. In 1306 there was an uprising against the patriciate: many of their houses – near the Place de Grève (see below) – were set on fire. Twenty-eight “terrorists” were captured and then executed on this square. The King continued to raise taxes, reformed the coins and scales for the sale of goods, defrauded the Jews and the Lombard bankers, and ultimately eliminated the Order of Knights Templar as a state within the state. The order had its own city in the north of Paris, behind the northern gate, outside the city walls.

Seventy percent of the inhabitants of Paris did not pay taxes. The bells rang to the rhythm of the canonical hours from the prime to vespers. They rang at six o’clock in winter when it was still dark, and from seven o’clock in summer. Who owned a clock at that time? Everyone listened to the bells! – In the evening there was a curfew, for safety on the streets. There were only three large street lanterns in the entire city of Paris.

The main roads for wagons, carts, and carriages had been widened, but the alleys were often only sixty centimeters wide. The earthen paths had long since been paved. The upper floors of buildings faced the front. There were footpaths on planks through the mud when it rained. Animals were driven onto the streets. Many people were on horseback. Horse droppings were collected on the road and then used as fertilizer. Donkeys pulled the merchants’ carts. Wagons and carts used to transport loads were mainly to be seen on the north-south route, through the Rue Saint Jacques, where the university is located. There were many beggars. The royal city police wore red uniforms. Residential areas of the nobility, the patriciate, and prelates or monks (Cistercians, Benedictines) were protected by walls with gardens behind them. There were large markets for food products, especially bread and fish markets, on the Right Bank, also markets for textiles, leather, metal utensils, and books on the “Place de Grève”, for example, as well as on the Left Bank near the rented rooms and boarding houses for the students.

Map of Paris in 1380 after Leuridan J., Mallet J.-A, Plan restitué de Paris en 1380, Paris, CNRS Editions, 1991, 1999. (Created by Cédric Roms, see here for copyright details and legend; click on image to enlarge).

How did Paris actually smell? How was the hygiene? The water supply? The disposal of organic waste materials? The removal of the latrines? Excrement and garbage waste were discharged into the river, or were taken to the fields outside the city. Open gutters in the middle of the alleys were used to remove what was poured out of the windows. The logistical challenges of daily life did not offer the poorer segments of the population much leisure.

Where and how were the bath houses in the monasteries? The barbers and hairdressers? The rich and the aristocracy had their own wells; there were few public wells for the bourgeoisie. The poor risked the Seine water upstream, which was transported in barrels and sold.

A society separated by social standing and by their clothing. Nobility – clergy and monasteries (fifteen percent of the population!) – the merchants of the patriciate – many well-paid construction workers, stonemasons, blacksmiths, carpenters for the transept of Notre Dame, craft guilds with strict rules: they and their families made up the majority of the population. Also wage laborers – medical assistants and caregivers – domestic workers – servants – beggars – the physically impaired. Finally, the Beguines, often members of an upper class, but not exclusively. Where they formed a community, they chose a “magistra” as their leader. Many men with monastic tonsure, many women with head coverings (for example, wimples, hoods, veils). A colorful picture in the streets, the noise of the blacksmiths, the rattling of the mills, the shouting of the vendors, the children, the animals…

Where and how did the children play? Or did they play only rarely and have to help at an early age, in crafts, in the household instead? How did people die in Paris? Who prepared the bodies of the dead for burial? Who buried the dead? Where and how did the Beguines assist, who carried out the mourning rituals, who assisted or worked as nurses in the hospitals?

The beggars prayed in the streets: “Bread, for God’s sake, give us bread!” Thewandering Beguines and Beghards take up this call and live on the streets in voluntary poverty by begging.

The Provost of Paris, appointed by the King, was also mayor, the highest ranking judge, and the head of the police.[4] He had sixty assistants at that time. However, the majority were delegated judges, lawyers, and scribes who prepared paperwork related to the trials, primarily for the documentation of legal acts. More personnel was necessary for the police, presumably provided by the military, occasionally wage laborers. What had to be guarded and monitored? Secular and ecclesiastical institutions and charities, for example: the hospitals and their administration. The privileges and the punishments. The bistros and the students’ favorite taverns. The brothels. The military stations. The banks of the Lombards, so-called even if they were not from Italy. The gardens behind the walls. The cleanliness: horse droppings and pig and chicken feces in the streets.

Jews lived in the city as merchants. They were easily identifiable in everyday life by their clothing. (They were expelled from France in 1306, their property confiscated).

The suffering was visible on the streets every day: The disabled, the injured, the elderly. The prisons were emptied less by executions than by expulsions.

What holds it all together, this colorful, antagonistic society, so highly differentiated into social classes? In the past, it had been the divisions of class, protection, and serfdom. Now, as new achievements, the priority of the state and the uniformity of law were sought. Courts were assigned a place to convene instead of delegating representatives to visit the problem cases. The judge no longer travelled, he received. Consequently, people lost rights, especially the nobility, including its jurisdiction; people gained new rights, especially citizens appointed to the royal parliament. The authority of the King, his officials, his police, respect for the differences between the classes, and, in particular, the authority of the Church, remained in force and were even intensified. As human rights increased, so did the duties of the citizens. The King and his Council levied more and more taxes and attempted to redefine the units of measurement. The King was called “Le Bel”, in English, “The Fair” (a term for a person with light hair).

A co-spatiality: The island of the Seine, Sainte-Chapelle, and the Episcopal Palace

Above the island of the Seine, Notre Dame de Paris, the majestic cathedral, rises parallel to the right arm of the Seine with its great towers facing west.[5] Around 1310 the transept was partially demolished and scaffolded for reconstruction: since 1296, the master builder Pierre de Chelles had been converting the transversal building from Romanesque to Gothic style and extending it in the process. The cathedrals were built for eternity, but the architectural styles changed nevertheless. Notre Dame for the Bishop and the clergy; a rood screen built to separate them from the populace. The Episcopal Palace with a meeting place in front is immediately adjoining. On the meeting place in front of the palace, decorated with fruit trees, there were processions and protests – on the same public square but at different times. In 1310 the Knights Templar gathered there to protest against the King’s Inquisition and the commissioning of the Parisian Episcopal Commission. To redeem a promise made by the Papal Cardinal Commission, also present, promising them the opportunity to present a defense by self-chosen representatives. As a result, fifty-eight Templars imprisoned in the northern “state within a state” recant their confessions. Philip of Marigny, the Archbishop of Sens, brother of the first royal minister, himself commissioned by the king and responsible for this region, immediately ordered for them to be burned as relapsing heretics at the eastern gate of Paris – “extra muros”, outside the city – in human bundles packed in wood.

Sainte-Chapelle, the new Gothic royal church, completed by 1248, slenderly reaching for the sky, is dedicated to the Crown of Thorns. King Louis IX, later canonized as St. Louis, brought this relic to Paris from the Crusades: through Christ’s suffering to eternal bliss. This also applies to kings! Here “co-spatiality” clearly applies: the church was constructed with two floors. In this church, Sainte-Chapelle, the people had full access to the lower floor; the royal family with the high nobles, ministers, and high clergy celebrated the liturgy on the upper floor. Only the king was allowed to touch Christ’s Crown of Thorns – on Good Friday. The people, among them the Beguines invited to Paris by King Louis, who, according to their own regulations, were appointed for a limited time, participated in the celebration of the liturgy from respectively on the lower floor. The sound from above reached the people below, but the spectacular view was only from above. (This type of construction also exists in the chapels of German castles in Anhalt and Thuringia). On the lower floor of Sainte-Chapelle, in 1308, a wandering Beghard and apocalypticist in Franciscan garb – Guiard of Cressonessart – protested against the arrest of the Beguine Marguerite Porete for a purported relapse into heresy: the further distribution of her book “Le miroir des simples âmes”, which had been burned by episcopal order in Valenciennes in 1306. This “mirror” (which is always a word for a “compendium”) competes, in my opinion, with the “Miroir des (nobles) dames” by Durand of Champagne, the Franciscan and official confessor of Queen Jeanne (Jeanne of Navarre).  

Marguerite Porete, The Mirror of Simple Souls ( Le miroir des simples âme), Chapter 35, late 15th/early 16th century. (For copyright details, see here.)
Modern edition of the Le miroir des nobles dames (Durand of Champagne, Speculum dominarum: édité par Anne Flottès-Dubrulle avec la collaboration de Constant J. Mews, Rina Lahav et Tomas Zahora)

Today the lower floor of the church is now used secularly: a space for exhibits, ticket services, and electronic security measures. The current “co-spatiality” is vertical: a religious utilization above a secular, tourist utilization.

On the banks of the Seine to the west rise the fortifications dating from the Norman Conquest: the Louvre and, opposite, another fortress with a large donjon, later to be called the Tower of Nesle (“Tour de Nesle”). On the Left Bank remains of the walls of the Roman baths are still visible. Some of their large stones form the foundation of Notre Dame. The old settlement was there, followed by the Romanesque monastery buildings and the university, the Sorbonne.

The University of Paris, the Sorbonne

This Parisian University, a consolidation of monastic and cathedral schools[6], is the center of philosophical and theological scholarship in the Christian world at the time: a pontifically recognized university since 1215, it claimed to exercise as much authority as the Pope in matters of faith (cf. Imbach,2018, 107-119). (This is why Meister Eckhart and Martin Luther also appealed to the Faculty of Theology in Paris, both unsuccessfully!). King Philip IV took advantage of the theologians’ independence, supporting the theologians, who – independent of Rome – strove for the power to define faith. Philip even utilized the theologians to support his heresy charges against Pope Boniface VIII, despite dissent among them. The University of Paris offered the same spaces to those with contradictory thoughts and theories. (Field 2012, 131-133; Courtenay 2000, 240-245)

The fight against heresy united the Pope, the bishops, the King, and the theologians but divided them, too. Medical terms of combat were prevalent: fighting against pestilence, against infection, against being carried away into doom. The populace had to be saved from heresy, which reputedly had assumed epidemic proportions. Ever since the Cathars had formed a counterchurch in the south, fear was widespread that this could happen again. The devout laity, men and women from the bourgeoisie, pushed themselves between the classes of the “simple souls”, on the one hand, and the nobility or the clergy, on the other hand. A third way, a third strategy asserted itself through the intensity of veneration and through exemplary living. Criticism of the prelates was saturated with the victory in spiritual exemplariness. The mendicant orders reacted with the differentiation of spirituality. The depth of personal spirituality was to be demonstrated by the virtues of humility and service.

Ruedi Imbach describes a possible “Parisian” encounter of the protagonists of the translation of the Latin educational curriculum into the vernacular languages: Dante Alighieri (Italy), Ramon Llull (Spain), and Meister Eckhart (Germany). Their stays in Paris reveal something of the academic melting pot of the Sorbonne and its intellectual fascination, which extended from Latin as a scientific (scholarly) language to the new literary education in the vernacular. (Imbach, 2018, 115)

Three specific aspects, among others, characterized life in Paris at the beginning of the fourteenth century, when the splendor of this European capital, which was also the center of the intellect, outshone everything else: first, in the north, the city on the city, “extra muros” – “La Ville Neuve du Temple”- the “autonomous” residence of the Order of the Knights Templar; second, in the middle of the city, the beguinages and the court beguinages, with royal privileges and under royal protection. And third, the unique religious community of the “Hôtel de Dieu”, the central Parisian hospital. [7]

The Beguines are to be distinguished from these associations or communities formed to offer mutual assistance or to rectify an intolerable state of affairs.[8] In order to understand the lifestyle of the Beguines, it is crucial to keep in mind that this lifestyle could also be lived individually. Like the orders of chivalry – a rare coincidence – their communities did not require a novitiate. After gaining the approval of the head of the beguinage, the “magistra”, women entered with a vow that was temporary and could be revoked. Life, for all its spiritual sustenance and its infusion with spiritual devotion, was a worldly life, especially in Paris, where the Beguine workshops and their commercial activities played an important role. A bourgeois Beguine, who lived alone and provided for herself, and who was above all active as a benefactress, could associate herself with a community, but she sometimes lived alone according to the common statute. It is conceivable that Marguerite Porete had this status. It is also quite conceivable that she was in Paris frequently, and that she only rarely spent time in Valenciennes. I base this new hypothesis on her description of the region around Paris: she mentions a river, the Meuse, flowing into the Seine and from the Seine into the sea. If she had primarily lived in Valenciennes, the way to the sea was clearly via another river, the Scheldt!

Present-day Pciture of the Sorbonne (for copyright details, see here).

Co-spatialities: Books for scholars, noble ladies, and simple souls for sale in the streets

Written evidence of the unregulated sale of books, directed at educated citizens, and the regulated sale of books and manuscripts in the Rue Saint Jacques supervised by the university is extant. Booksellers and copyists for ordered manuscripts were officially sworn and authorized employees. It is unclear whether this was a university regulation and to what extent it applied to other texts being sold. Or whether the vernacular was a limitation, and texts in the vernacular had possibly been banned from the Rue Saint Jacques. This would not necessarily mean, however, that the “streets” ceased to be places of sale.

A detailed description of the unregulated sale of books can be found in remarks concluding Gilbert of Tournai’s “Collectio de scandalis ecclesiae”: “We are adding something unusual that can develop into a serious danger. There are women here who call themselves Beguines, and some of them draw attention to themselves through miniscule distinctions and delight in innovations. They have interpreted the mysteries of the Scriptures, which are scarcely comprehensible to those knowledgeable of the Holy Scriptures, in the vernacular. They read these collectively, without respect, impertinently, at gatherings, in hidden corners, and on public squares. I have seen, read, and owned a Bible in the French language, a copy of which is on public display at booksellers’ stands in Paris, for copying heresies and errors, doubts and unsound interpretations. … If this disease becomes more virulent, as many scandals will arise as female and male listeners, as many blasphemies as public squares.

To facilitate the cessation of this idle chatter following the blocking of the sources, the existing copies should be destroyed, the female and male interpreters repulsed, and what has been considered false, burned.”[9]

Two notable books were written in Paris at the end of the thirteenth century. The Franciscan Durand of Champagne was the confessor of Queen Jeanne (Jeanne of Navarre), Princess of Champagne, wife of Philip IV (“Le Bel”, “The Fair”). Durand was the author of the “Speculum Dominarum”, written in Latin and initially intended as a compendium for the princess. Queen Jeanne, who obviously was also thinking of the literate women of the nobility and the patriciate, ordered that the book be translated into French. The title of the French translation was “Le miroir des dames”. This text first distinguishes the human constitution in general and only briefly considers the woman’s “natural”, limited possibilities.[10] Discussions of the doctrines of grace and the moral virtues follow,[11] including the deplorable vices and passions in relation to women,[12] reinforced by the doctrine of virtue in the sense of the theological virtues and the cardinal virtues. The text concludes with a discussion of the wisdom of women and the practical application of their compassion and piety.[13] 

The second of these notable books was written by the above-mentioned Beguine, Marguerite Porete. Born around 1260 in the Hainaut, she was a contemporary of Meister Eckhart. Her book was entitled “Le miroir des simples âmes”.[14] Marguerite Porete provided readings about her book. Her listeners were called “simples âmes!” – “simple souls”, “souls” without an elevated status. Understanding people as “souls”, i.e., in their inner orientation, reveals the attempt to emphasize inwardness over outer forms and status-related honors. The difference between the sexes is not taken into account. On the basis of her listeners and addressees in the literate middle classes, Marguerite wanted to distinguish herself from the “dominae”, the “nobles dames”, i.e., from aristocratic society. Durand of Champagne’s “Speculum dominarum”/”Le miroir des dames” was a “morale des vertues”. Marguerite’s book was the compendium of a teaching on life; on the one hand, her “Miroir” was intended to address those citizens who could read and, on the other hand, to address everyone in the sense of their religious equality. The inner state of mind was no longer dependent on social status.

Two “Libelli”, as they were then called, books which probably did not reflect each other in their wording. However, Marguerite’s book explicitly “takes leave of the virtues” at the very beginning. This is not a farewell depicted in an autobiography describing, for example, when a woman leaves her job, a Beguine leaves a beguinage, or a nurse leaves a community of nurses in the “Hôtel de Dieu”. The title “Adieu aux vertues” was intended as a literary counterproposal, even if Marguerite Porete were not to have been familiar with the Franciscan Durand’s book (accessible through copies).

In the translation by Ellen Babinsky:

“Virtues, I take my leave of you forever

I will possess a heart most free and gay;

Your service is too constant, you know well.

Once I placed my heart in you, retaining nothing;

You know that I was to you totally abandoned;

I was once a slave to you, but now am delivered from it.

I had placed my heart completely in you, you know well.

Thus I lived a while in great distress,

I suffered in many great torments, many pains endured.

Miracle it is that I have somehow escaped alive.

This being so, I no longer care: I am parted from you,

For which I thank God on high; good for me this day.

I am parted from your dominations, which so vexed me.

I was never more free, except as departed from you.

I am parted from your dominations, in peace I rest.”[15]

Admittedly, in her usage of the term “virtue” in chapter titles and in the body of the book, Marguerite was only rejecting “duties” imposed externally, and not those exercised internally in the name of the fundamental virtue, love. For, she writes, although she has taken leave of the virtues, the virtues have not taken leave of her because of love.

This also becomes clear in one of the dialogues between “Amour” and “Raison”[16]:

Amour (Love): “This Soul has within her the mistress of the Virtues, whom one calls Divine Love, who has transformed her completely into herself, is united to her, and which is why this Soul belongs neither to herself nor to the Virtues…”

Raison (Reason): “But who are you, Love? says Reason [Raison]. Are not you one of the Virtues with us even though you be above us?” [17]

Amour (Love): “I am God, says Love, for Love is God and God is Love, and this Soul is God by the condition of Love. I am God by divine nature and this soul is God by righteousness of Love. Thus this precious beloved of mine is taught and guided by me, without herself, for she is transformed into me, and such a perfect one, says Love, takes my nourishment.”

In French “amour” (as in Latin: “amor”) is masculine and in this sense infused with activity. Accordingly, the attitude of the “I” as “soul” is predominantly one of receiving and transmitting. For “God is Love” is the comprehensive and actual Reality that can continue to work within the human being. Duties imposed externally become secondary to this active reality. Marguerite’s criticism of virtue makes this clear.

It is often a friendly, occasionally ironic teaching of “Raison” directed against the Sorbonne, against Scholasticism, a kind of “analytical philosophy” of the time. Beyond the monitoring faculty of “Raison”, there was neither philosophy and nor theology for the Magistri. A lay theologian like Ramon Llull from Spain was an outsider here, a tolerated and presentable one. However, he was dependent on his own sources of income.

Marguerite criticizes the church (“Église la petite”, the “little” Church), i.e. the elitist, clericalized Church which has become too “small” in the meaning of “too restricted”. She calls the Church of the believers using the vernacular the “Église la grande”, the “greater” Church.[18] The celebrations of the Eucharist and the biblical texts were in Latin, as were the sequences and the orations. Without sermons in the vernacular there was no bridge to the liturgy. At the time this must have seemed like a “filter”. Filtering was done according to what was considered reasonable for those not proficient in Latin. Anyone who did not utilize this filter, Meister Eckhart, for example, was later said to have caused severe damage.[19] What was unfiltered was ostensibly a source of heresy, because it opened the door to a personal understanding of the Bible and theology.

Marguerite was only implicitly, not explicitly, opposed to women’s specific teachings on virtue and the pretensions of the nobility. However, it broadens our understanding of her text if we also discover the trait of self-assertion in it. We can hardly avoid assuming that the explicit opposition between “nobles dames” and “simple âmes” was programmatic. All of this belonged to Paris, in a lively literary context and in the midst of a flowering of the Beguine communities in this city with very different accents. Consequently, the trial of Marguerite Porete became a symbol respectively the fulfillment of Gilbert of Tournai’s predictions.[20] If the truth is filteredin time, the listeners will not have to be tortured later: this was the philosophy of the learned inquisitor, William of Paris. [21]

In a climate of the avoidance of sin but in constant danger of sinning, and strikingly visible in the long lines of people awaiting annual confession, Eros sought two literary alternatives to the priority of heavenly expectation in the Middle Ages: the descent into so-calledvagrant poetry and the ascent into the ethereal and aesthetic veneration of women. The image of women could also be shifted upwards or downwards, depending on the interests of men. What remains unclear is to what extent the corresponding writings were offered in street sales. One example is in this time the French “Roman de Fauvel”, a writing against hypocrisy in the context of high moral standards.

As already indicated, there were three characteristic facets of life in Paris at the beginning of the fourteenth century, when the splendor of this European capital, which was also the center of the intellect, outshone everything else: in the north, the city on the city, “extra muros” – “La Ville Neuve du Temple”- as the “autonomous” residence of the Order of Knights Templar, and in the middle of the city, the beguinages and the court beguinages, with royal privileges and under royal protection. Third, the unique religious community of the “Hôtel de Dieu”, the central hospital.

Paris in the Schedel’sche Weltchronik (1493; see here for copyright details).

Intra muros: The Beguines and the brother-/sisterhoods of the Hôtel de Dieu

King Louis IX, canonized by Pope Boniface VIII – at the request of his grandson, Philip IV – not only relied on the Templars for his less than successful Crusades, but also supported the new women’s movement that had emerged in the 13th century and waspromoted by many bishops and cardinals.[22] It is not clear why they were called “Beguines”, because of their clothing or because of their prayer practices, but the name was also transferred to a men’s movement of a very different kind, which was then called “Beginus” in France and “Begharden” (Beghards) in the “Empire”. Some of the Beghards lived according to the model of the Beguines. When they no longer could all be integrated into the mendicant orders, which were subject to a papal ban on admission, they roamed the country dressed as Franciscans, as “heirs” of the strict movement advocating poverty, but also as chiliastic, self-conceived apostles. As the money economy grew, so did the alternative religious movements and the protest movements, escaping church and state control.

In 1256 King Louis IX had introduced and supported beguinages and court beguinages in Paris together with their magistrae, modelled on those in Ghent (Flanders). Beguines had often gathered in Flanders under the patronage of Elizabeth of Thuringia (later canonized as Saint Elizabeth). Initially, in addition to their religious life, they participated in caregiving for the poor, penitential devotions, and funeral services. Engaged in practical charitable activities, they also longed for contemplation. The Beguines received royal privileges, which King Louis IX stipulated in his will, for their self-sufficiency as well. Over the decades the movement in Paris grew to include several hundred women, who lived either individually or in communities. The lives of the Beguines – in vicarious penance for worldly working habits and in prayer – were seen by the people as a compensation for their own religious restrictedness and the sinfulness of their own ways of life. At the same time, it was accepted in religious circles that the Beguines engaged in commerce and were self-employed.

Instead of begging, self-sufficiency was the case. The Beguines produced fine cloth and leather goods for more sophisticated needs; they worked as merchants and had close ties to the royal women’s household. At the time of Philip IV, their houses were owned by individual women or there were houses for Beguine convents under the administration of a “magistra.” She was responsible for the observance ofthe canonical hours and owned a Book of Hours in Latin, organized the delegation of thewomen to their highly varied areas of work, invited preachers to Mass, and even preached about her personal experiences with God. These Beguine convents also maintained a school for daughters of the more elite families and were highly respected in Parisian society. They were outgoing and socialized with their own families, often from the city nobility and the patriciate, with the clergy and the Minorites, and they were also “competitive” in a worldly, commercial sense through the goods which they produced and through trade. They even paid taxes, especially when they became actively engaged in the production of silk and “luxury goods”. In spiritual” matters, too, they were conversation partners for some magistriof the Sorbonne, who preached for them and seriously looked forward to discussions with them.

The Hôtel de Dieu: Co-spatiality of the ill and of a lay congregation under the aegis of the city

The sisters and brothers in the hospitals should be distinguished from the devout women in the midst of the city and society.[23] The “Hôtel de Dieu”, the leading hospital in Paris, was considered a model for hospitals in many cities in France and in Flanders.[24] Its administrative structure and organization were frequently adopted by other hospitals: two spiritual directors and voluntary but trained and examined assistants. In the “Hôtel de Dieu” four priests, four scribes, thirty brothers, and twenty-five sisters lived and served. Married couples were not envisioned, but vows of chastity and poverty were required. There was no private property. Clothing was prescribed, and work was done in silence. Permission to leave the premises was only given in twos. The brothers had the same tonsure as the Templars, the sisters dressed in nun-like clothing and wore their hair short. There was a Prioress for the women and a Prior for the men. Communion (“medicina Christi”) was administered at the gate as soon as they entered and remained as important as food, hygiene, and care. There were large and generous donations, including an entire inventory from the powerful Countess Mahaut d’ Artois.

Life in the “Hôtel de Dieu” hardly differed from life in the monasteries. This was also true for the leprosarium outside the city gates, with its own brother- and sisterhood and strict self-administration under a Provisor (administrator) appointed by the city.

The bourgeois Beguines differed from these communities formed to counteract an intolerable state of affairs. In order to understand the life of the Beguines, it is crucial to keep in mind that Beguines could also live alone. For all its spiritual sustenance and its infusion with devotion, their life was a worldly life, especially in Paris, where their workshops and their commercial activities played a significant role.

Co-spatialities: The Place de Grève

The Place de Grève, which served as a marketplace and also as a meeting place for public royal and municipal announcements and homage – the meat market was further away, closer to the city walls – was surrounded by the houses of the patricians as well as those of the Jewish merchants.[25] Around 1310 these were mainly Jewish “converts”, who had been spared by the royal administration during the expulsion in 1306, but were compelled to cooperate in the recovery of personal possessions and valuables left behind.[26] This central square on the Right Bank, not far from the Île de France, was used for public affairs and events of all kinds, including public executions.

In March 1310 a massive book burning was carried out on the Place de Grève. Most of the books burned were probably books and texts pertaining to Judaism, which converts were required to surrender. However, it is also conceivable that unauthorized books were burned as well. “Unauthorized” – that would have been books which were not distributed by sworn dealers and copyists. What Gilbert of Tournai had demanded twenty-five years earlier was actually implemented.

On 1 June 1310 two people were burned at the stake on the Place de Grève: the Beguine Marguerite Porete – as a heretic – and a nameless Jew – as a relapsed convert who ostensibly had spit on an image of the Virgin Mary. An “auto-da-fé” had been held on the same public square one day earlier, on 31 May (the Monday after Pentecost). (The term “auto-da-fé” that I am using here is a term later used by the Spanish Inquisition).

The sentenced were either repentant and cooperative deviants, sentenced to prolonged imprisonment. Or they were unrepentant believers suspected of heresy, who refused to swear an oath of denunciatory cooperation and consequently had been sentenced to death by fire a day later.[27] For 31 May a large tribune had been erected in the square to accommodate the officials and invited dignitaries – including representatives of the Royal Parliament, the Royal City Council, the university leadership, especially the theologians, bishops, higher members of the clergy, and other official representatives and civic-minded parties. Guiard of Cressonessart, wearing a garment similar to the Franciscan habit, a wandering, self-conceived apostle from the area surrounding Reims, had rushed to the aid and defense of the imprisoned Beguine Marguerite Porete two years earlier. However, in the meantime he had sworn to cooperate and abjured his errors. The sentence was pronounced in his favor and carried out immediately: his religious garments were promptly removed, and he was relegated to the status of a lay person, sentenced to lifelong imprisonment in a monastery.

For the Beguine Marguerite Porete, who had also been transported to the Place de Grève from prison, the sentence for obstinate adherence to heresy was publicly justified in form and content – on the basis of expert opinions given by theologians and canonists – and then pronounced: public burning at the stake as a heretic on the following day. This verdict was also pronounced on the relapsed Jew accused of blasphemy – an anonymous Jew. The justifications then became the subject of contemporary French chronicles and were included in the decisions of the Council of Vienne (1311-1313). In Marguerite Porete’s case the accusation was sexual depravity (libertinism).

In 1296 Nicholas of Bibra had already leveled the same charges at the “religious” female vagabonds.[28] This accusation cannot be substantiated by Marguerite’s book. Nor can her reservations about “virtues” that were not governed by love in the sense of “caritas” be understood this way. However, the French chronicles chose to focus on the accusations of sexual permissiveness and impenitence.[29]

The segmentation of the religious women’s movement at the time into “open retreats” (such as the Hôtel de Dieu), beguinages, court beguinages, and devout women living alone as well as wandering and begging women[30],known by the cry “For God’s sake, give us bread!”, was extensive. Given this situation, it is unquestionable that the Church in Paris and at the Council of Vienne[31] was striving to confine the itinerant religious movement and wished to subject all – potentially quotable – words and expressions from religious texts in the vernacular together with their authors to the Inquisition. Master Eckhart, first affected personally by this treatment in Cologne in 1323, was able to save himself in 1327 with a self-drafted oath of purification due to his high standing.[32] Since it was a matter of libertinism in the sense of the Occultus Erfordensis of Nicholas of Bibra, whom Eckhart presumably knew, he distanced himself from the misinterpretation of Augustine’s famous statement “Caritatem habe, et fac, quod vis” (“Love and then do what you want”). In a famous vernacular sermon (Pr. 29 Quint) Eckhart states: “Now, some men say: If I have God and the love of God, well I can do whatever I want. This phrase they misunderstand. So long as you can do something that is against God and against His commandment, you do not have the love of God; you may well deceive the world [in the sense of ignorant people in society] as if you owned it.”[33]

The outcome of Marguerite’s trial was ultimately determined by her refusal to cooperate with those carrying out the Inquisition (specifically, the papal inquisitor, William of Paris) in the form of an oath. Marguerite, who was not granted the privileges of Magister Eckhart to formulate an oath of purification herself, knew what to expect if she refused to take the oath: first excommunication, then death by burning. On 1 June the executions of the Beguine and the Jew were carried out in public on the Place de Grève.

In this context, the piety of the wanderingreligious movement should be mentioned. It was depicted very vividly by Umberto Eco in his bestseller “The Name of the Rose”. Poverty and wandering the streets constituted a unity for this movement. Those involved were underway like the “Apostles” and “Disciples” of Christ: the “Free Spirit” in the streets. Here it is useful to recall the north-south connection, the “Rue Saint Jacques” mentioned above.

The former town hall and the Place de Grève around 1610 by Claude Chastillon. (For copyright details, see here).

Co-spatialities in the streets: The “Free Spirit” blows in the streets

The street served as a space for many things: co-spatiality. It is used by beggars, people in need, but also by the devout who live by begging. The mendicant monks have moved from the street to the Terminier districts around the city, where they have their own districts for begging. The poor received some of their food at the gates to the monasteries. In the streets there were trade and the transportation of goods, but also wandering Beguines and wandering Beghards, who imitate the mendicant orders, especially the Franciscans: the radically poor, the apocalypticists, and the Free Spirits.

The poverty movement, which had its roots in the 12th century, was at the same time linked to a spiritual movement. Joachim von Fiore had transformed the Christian doctrine of salvation, which had always thought from below to above. However, this contradicted the worldview: from below we are sinners, from above we are redeemed. “From above”, this could be thought metaphysically, but also socially. If a person looked up to heaven, he or she saw the church. The profession of faith is a legacy of the conflicts about Jesus Christ. There was no consensus with the Byzantine respectively Greek Orthodox Church on the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit was banished, as it were, to the upper level of the Trinitarian deity. It was rarely the focus of the liturgy, Pentecost being a significant exception, and when it was, it was presented as moving from “above to below”: “veni creator spiritus”, as co-creator and co-redemptor, who acts spiritually from within through its gifts. History was the continuation of Christ, the link between God and man. The Holy Spirit was a trustee” of Christ, as the Latin Church had claimed against the Orthodox Church. Its visibility on earth is an image: a dove. The dove at the baptism of Jesus reveals him as Christ. In Eastern iconography, the Holy Spirit is allowed to stand beside the Father and the Son as a human image. The Son has a story. In this story the father mourns and sacrifices like Abraham, an image that is placed opposite the Cross in cathedrals.

Joachim von Fiore ended the ahistorical nature of the Holy Spirit hovering over everything. Consequently, the Holy Spirit became a person acting in history, accompanying the Incarnation of man through history as the future. This future replaces the hierarchies. The poor man anticipates this future.

Marguerite Porete was not a proponent of the spiritual poverty movement. But her “Sire amour” is the Holy Spirit! She did not speak metaphysically, but historically when she outlined the vision of the “greater church” (“Église la grande”). She talked not only about the individual anticipation of salvation, but also about the future of the Church and society. This distinguishes her from the “mystics”, who did not call themselves “mystics” at that time. She not only saw heaven from below to above, as it opens upward, she had the vision of heaven for the entire Christian community.

Extra muros: Outside the city walls

There is an autonomous city, exempt from Parisian taxes. Extra muros can also be a place of imprisonment, expulsion, and execution.[34]

The Order of the Knights Templar was founded by French knights, who did not return to their homeland, but were committed to guarding the conquered territory. In France this was called “Outremer”. The combination of testimony of faith and war as a Crusade gave rise to these units, which became known as orders of knights. The knights, who no longer lived in a Christian society with its possibilities of status-based marriage, combined hardship with virtue, i.e., they vowed celibacy,participation in the spiritual community, at the center of which was the veneration of Mary, and the brotherhood-in-arms. Their standard visualized this in the depiction of two knights, one of whom is sitting behind the other, on a horse. The order was established at the beginning of the twelfth century, shortly after the conquest of Jerusalem during the First Crusade. Consequently, Jerusalem became the center of this military order. A number of castles were built in Outremer for military and supply purposes. The Templars continued to recruit in the homeland. Many second- and third-born sons preferred this path of Christian military adventure to priesthood or monasticism. In time, the order also recruited among the sons of citizens, and it also accepted priests who were responsible for the observance of the canonical hours and for the sacraments. To facilitate this recruitment, the city of the Templars was built outside the Parisian walls to the north. However, in the south of France and in the north, in Normandy, the order owned property as a feudal lord through appropriate donations, which it constantly tried to expand. France was divided into provinces of the order, each of which was under the authority of preceptors. In Paris, the European center of the Knights Templar, the “city by the city” had been developed in the north since the middle of the twelfth century, supported by the kings. Its famous “Great Tower” housed the state treasure of the kings. In this way it was removed from the city and secured militarily. Over time, merchants moved to this city to enjoy freedom from mandatory membership in the guilds and their paternalistic stance. Wealthy citizens saved taxes there, too. Additionally, people saved themselves from apprehension by the police, sought asylum there, and, in many cases, did not have to fear being captured and potentially imprisoned or tried. The city of the Templars, which was created as a resource for the military protection of Outremer, soon grew beyond this purpose. After the fall of Acre (Akko) in 1291, the last fortress in Outremer (Jerusalem had long since been lost), the Order immediately moved its official residence from there to Paris. In 1302 the final unsuccessful attempt at re-conquest took place. While the Order of St. John fortified the island of Rhodes, the Templars had disappeared from the country they were supposed to defend. The popes in Rome were reluctant to accept this development. They would have liked to see the Order of the Knights Templar, which had established itself as an economic power in Europe, merge with the Order of theKnights of St. John, who retained their original orientation on charitable services, especially the care of the ill as “Hospitaler”. The privileges of the Knights Templar in Paris, which they vehemently defended, clashed with the interests of the Pope and, in other ways, with those of the King. Moreover, their reputation “among the people”, the “fama” (infamy), was questionable, due to their isolation and their secret, unknown rites, which gave rise to rumors.

Those sentenced to death by immolation were sometimes executed outside the city walls, at the east gate near a mill of the monastery of St. Antoine, because of the unbearable smell for those living in the city. However, such executions were also carried out on the public square in front of the city hall when it was not a mass burning.

Two Inquisitions in the same place: The conflict between the King and the Pope in Paris

To my knowledge, the temporal and spatial co-incidence of two inquisition cases in Paris has not yet been treated in historical scholarship. The analyses of the Templar and Beguine trials, despite their simultaneity and overlapping spatiality, have not been taken into account, presumably because the scholars were either interested in legal history and or in the history of religion. The political interests of the King and the Pope diverged considerably and complexly. King Philip IV used the Inquisition to destroy a state within the state, the exempt and independent Templar organization. The Pope hoped to integrate the Knights Templar into the Order of St. John, i.e., in order to concentrate power in the interest of the crusade option. However, the King protected the new religious lay movements, especially the Beguines and the beguinages, founded by King Louis IX. The Pope, i.e., the papal Inquisition, attempted to move the religious lay movements from the streets and “domesticate” them in terms of content in preparation for the Council of Vienne (1311-1313). Moreover, their dispute over the spiritual poverty movement was common knowledge. Consequently, a conflict arose in which the Pope attempted to impede the royal inquisition, an attempt, which was only partially successful. The Pope (Clement V) was, however, successful in obtaining a judgement of heresy in the trial against Marguerite Porete, which he could utilize against the religious movements during the Council of Vienne. This was the work of the Inquisitor William of Paris, who had originally been obligated to the King and alternately participated in both trials: first the Templar, then the Beguine trial. This hypothesis is new and does not contradict the historical research on the Templar and the Beguine trials, but draws its conclusion, which is difficult to refute given the simultaneity and co-spatiality, the co-incidence, of the two cases and their connection in the person of the inquisitor.

A sou coin with Pope Clement V (1310; for copyright details, see here).

Sean Field comes to the following conclusion in his discussion of the timely “coincidence” of the Templar trial and the trial against Marguerite Porete: “It is always dangerous to assume that the two events must be related to each other merely by virtue of their simultaneity. Yet in this case the congruent timing in the two Parisian trials is too striking to ignore. The papal commission on the Templars began hearing witnesses 11 April, the same day the theologians were gathered by William of Paris to consider extracts from Marguerite´s book. It continued through 9 May, the day the canonists issued their final opinion and declared Marguerite relapsed. The very next day Philip of Marigny began to move against Templars of his diocese. After the burnings of 12 May, the commission continued to try to attend to its business up to 30 May. The very next day Marguerite and Guiard were sentenced. Two processes thus marched along in near-perfect synchronicity. Beyond the chronological parallels, the major involvement of Philip of Marigny suggests a larger coherence to the pace of both proceedings. The very man who had first seen to it that Marguerite was sent to Paris was now resident in that city and charged with demonstrating that royal patience with overly long inquisitions was at an end. The fact that both processes came to fiery conclusions within weeks of each other is more than a co-incidence.”[35]

With enormous respect for the precise description of the synchronicity of the two processes by Sean Field in such an exacting historical analysis, I would like to broach the possibility that the interests in the two condemnations or damnations may have been different. Pope Clemens V had an unquestionable interest in the justification of the planned condemnation of the Beguines in decisions of the Council of Vienne, decisions in which the results of the trial against Marguerite Porete were definitely used. King Philip the Fair, in contrast, had a strong interest in the disempowerment of the Knights Templar. This was not congruent with the interest of the Pope. Sean Field bases his interpretation on the fact that Philip of Marigny was an important actor in the case of Marguerite Porete and in the case of the Templars. However, Sean Field also presented an excellent analysis of the tasks delegated to the Inquisitor William of Paris. Although the King had utilized him in the trial against the Templars, he lost this royal function as inquisitor as the result of a specific papal decision. Later, following his reappointment as inquisitor, he received a new order: the trial against Marguerite Porete. Did he receive this order from the King or from the Pope? I propose:  this new order can be seen in combination with the specific interests of the Pope – tolerated by the King.  Then the co-incidence of the processes may not have been dominated but only tolerated by royal interests. This is an open question. Here I merely wanted to add several reflections on the co-incidence, which is also significant as a “co-spatiality”. It is a co-incidence in time and in space.

Is there a vertical and metaphorical co-spatiality? City life in anticipation of heaven

What took place in the inner consciousness of every person in medieval Paris who contemplated his or her own life? Was there a sense of coherence? There is a comprehensive answer to this: the earth was small, heaven was large. Time on earth was brief, time in heaven was infinite. In the vertical alignment, heaven and city form two levels: the city and the heavenly Jerusalem. Following the Evangelium of John chapter 21 and the Apocalypse of the New Testament (21, 1-2) the Christian eschatological expectation was the transformation of the city into the New Jerusalem, which signifies a New heaven and a new earth. (cf. Peter Kurmann). However, heaven was also present on earth: in the buildings, in the cathedrals, especially in Notre Dame and in La Chapelle. Everything was to be given to heaven. The earth was a vale of tears, heaven shone everywhere. Many, but not everyone, could give everything to heaven. The devout attempted to anticipate heaven by living an “angelic life”.

What did this mean for the suffering, the dying, which they experienced right before their eyes every day? The habit of seeing (the blood), the habit of hearing (the screams!), the habit of smelling (burnt food in the kitchens, but also outside, burnt garbage and burnt flesh), the habit of touching (the cold bodies of the dead). Illness and disease could be tasted on the tongue. “If your tongue is coated with disease, no food tastes good to you” (Meister Eckhart (Homily 5, 130). The senses were burdened with suffering. The force of habit led the individual person to no longer be distressed and horrified by suffering and dying; the only remaining reaction was prayer. Life, which was exceedingly brief, was only shortened slightly by its premature termination. Salvation and damnation stood at the church gates. Infant mortality was high. The risk of multiple births was high. Even Jeanne, the Queen of France mentioned above, the wife of Philip IV, who gave birth to five children, only lived to be thirty-two.

Life in misery was accompanied by a vision of heaven. The eighth day was always present: this was the day of the heavens that transcends the days of the week. Glory from above shone through the church windows. In a cathedral the human being was considered to be in heaven. This was his or her destiny, when, guided externally by the threat of judgement and the fate of the foolish virgins, he or she entered the state of salvation through the martyrdom of Christ and that of the saints, both men and women. Re-entry into heaven through the confession of sins. Pray for me, brothers, all those whom I have trusted, said the dying King Philip IV.

Death was understood merely as a transition. The life expectancy was 30 years; the privilege to be older or very old was held by a Methusalem over sixty. Personally witnessing people on the threshold of death, personally witnessing people torturing other people to save their lives. Stoically, the person who had been an onlooker endured the torture himself or herself.

Heaven – in its magnitude and magnificence – was a consolation for many sufferings. “The sufferings of this world cannot be compared to the coming glory” (Paul, Romans 8:18). Every person lived a double life: an earthly life and a heavenly life of expectation. A person could be denied the prospect of heaven – the worst possible judgement and a punishment for heresy. The onlookers may have felt pity for the woman being burned at the stake on June 1, 1310. They saw her tears and thought that she was crying because she would never experience eternal bliss. What they did not understand: she was crying out of happiness. Soon the beloved would embrace her.

Marguerite Porete’s “Compendium for the Simple Souls” was understood by those officiating at her trial as a call for sexual freedom. There is nothing about this in her work; the concern was that her thesis – namely, the person who lives in the love of God may follow his or her nature in freedom – would be interpreted sexually. According to the description of Nicholas of Bibra in his text on life in Erfurt during the late thirteenth century, there were reasons for this impression. In any event, given the widely-known quotations in circulation, the powers that be seriously doubted that the “people” could distinguish between a “nature” in the Aristotelian sense, determined by its moral purposes, and the nature of original sin as the epitome of sinful inclinations.

The veneration of Mary inherited its imagery from the medieval songs of love. The official reason for the burning of the nameless relapsed Jew on 1 June 1310 was blasphemy: he allegedly had spit on an image of Mary.[36] Spitting on the cross as a blasphemous act[37] was also attributed by the Inquisition to the initiation rites of the Knights Templar, which involved kissing the cross. Only a slight shift in attitude or perspective was necessary to interpret acts of this kind – spitting and kissing – in terms of the interests in question.

Map of Paris (1575; Plan de Paris, la marque en rouge indique le site du Clos du Chardonnet; for copyright details see here).

Summary: Intellectual and political debate in the same places

The two most important places for “co-spatialities” were the marketplace (“Place de Grève”) and the streets where books and manuscripts were sold. The religious conflicts associated with these places were tangible there. Paris in general was a unique “locus”: on the one hand, through the claim to power of the French kings, on the other hand, through the university and the special presence of the Orders and the Church.

We note: Two kinds of tension in the same place: (1) the development and “domestication” of religious movements, (2) the clash of Latin as a language of the educated and cultivated with a vernacular language capable of developing literary qualities in the same place. In this respect, the search for “co-spatialities” has clearly influenced my research on these conflicts – in the interest of the questionability of attributions of heresy.

In conclusion: the so-called “Free spirit” movement in the streets, as described by Nicholas of Bibra, had no textual sources, but was well known through widely circulated quotations about poverty and begging, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the criticism of the established clergy. In order to domesticate this movement, inquisitors attempted to define heresy and heretical ideas in words and sentences. The exemplary trial in Paris against Marguerite Porete denounced her free spirit as libertinism. Through this literary circuitousness the trial – and its verdict – enabled the Church to specifically formulate definitions of heresy at the Council of Vienne.

— Dietmar Mieth is Professor Emeritus of theology (University of Tübingen) and director of the Meister-Eckhart-Forschungsstelle at the Max-Weber-Kolleg, Erfurt.



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Markus Vinzent, Eckhart´s Early Teaching and Preaching in Paris. In Dietmar Mieth, Marie Anne Vannier, Markus Vinzent and Christopher M. Wojtulevicz (eds.), Meister Eckhart in Paris and Strasbourg, Eckhart: Texts and Studies, vol. 4, Peeters: Leuven 2017, 209-266.

Lydia Wegener, Eckhart and the World of Women´s Spirituality in the Context of the “Free Spirit” and Marguerite Porete. In: Jeremiah M. Hackett (ed.), A Companion to Meister Eckhart. Brill: Leiden-Boston 2013, 415-444.

Martina Wehrli-Johns, Die kanonistischen Kommentare zu den Beginendekreten von Vienne 1311 und ihre Auswirkung auf die Verfolgung von Beginen und Begarden im14. Jahrhundert. In Dietmar Mieth, Britta Müller-Schauenburg (eds.), Mystik, Recht und Freiheit. Religiöse Erfahrung und kirchliche Institutionen im Mittelalter. Kohlhammer: Stuttgart 2012, 38-50.

[1] “Deutungsmodelle und Theorierahmen“, which connect time and space, seem for me to be especially plausible, see Rau (2014: 62-79). In a personal communication Jacques Lévy writes to me on: „Coincidence, which is not such a specificities world could empass both space (cospatiality) and time (contemporality). The non- contemporaneity of different components of a society is classic and comparable to the non-cospatiality. In both cases, there is a conventional grid, the official or consensual measure of time or space, which apparently connect everything located at the same moment/place.”  (Email from Nov 13, 2020.) See also:

[2] To the interference between space and social practices in the medieval Paris see: Oberste (2018) 37-104.; 155-216.

[3] The information in the following description is based on: Paris in the Middle Ages, A copyrighted Wikipedia Article: “Paris_in_the_Middle_Ages”. See also the maps of Paris ca. 1300-1330: Oberste (2018) 192and ca. 1380 Oberste 68. See also the map of the medieval “Ile de la Cité” taken from the map “Plan de Bâle” (1553), Oberste 57.

[4] See for the questions of crime, investigation and punishment: Oberste (2018) 253-265 with a Picture of a scene before the criminal court in the year 1358, 257.

[5] See the map Oberste (2018) 192

[6] See Oberste (2018) 89-93.

[7] See again on the map Oberste 192.  Mulder-Bakker, who describes this type of community in Liège, for example  (2017:36)

[8] See Suella Stabler (2007); Böhringer (2014).

[9] Gilbert de Tournai,  Collectio des scandalis p. 61 sq. See Irene Leicht, p. 407 sq.

[10] See Durand, ed. Flottés-Dubrulle (2018:  101 sq.) For a general discussion of this type of virtue ethics for women, see Mews (2011: 13-30)

[11] De moribus, Flottés-Dubrulle (2018: 127 sq.)

[12] De moribus vituperabilibus, Flottés-Dubrulle (2018: 132 sq. )

[13] See Flottés-Dubrulle (2018: 68-73).

[14] See the translation by Ellen Babinsky

[15] Marguerite Porete, The Mirror. Translation by Babinsky (1993: 84)

[16] Marguerite Porete, The Mirror. Translation of Babinsky (1993:  104)

[17] On this dialogue see Marler (2013: 445-472)

[18] See “The Mirror” in Babinsky´s translation (2018: 101)  

[19] In the Papal Bull “in agro dominico” from 1329. See Senner (2013: 79)

[20] See note 8 above.

[21] On the inquisitor, see Sean Field (2012: 63-84; 167-176)

[22] See note 2: Paris in the Middle Ages.

[23] See note 2: Paris in the Middle Ages and the map Oberste 192.

[24] See Anneke Mulder-Bakker (2017: 36) on hospitals in Liège modelled on the Parisian hospitals.

[25] Today near the City Hall in Paris, see on the map Oberste 192.

[26] Today the Place de Chatelet

[27] For details to this events, see the exacting description by Field, 2012: 145-166.

[28] See Occultus Erfordensis (1997: 245)

[29] See Sean Field (2012: 209 sq.)

[30] On „Sister Kathrei“ and the doubts about her heresy, see F. J. Schweitzer (2018: 99-116)

[31] See Wehrli-Johns (2012: 38-39)

[32] See Senner (2013: 64-70)

[33] Pr. 29, DW II, p. 28-31; cf. Schweitzer. L.c. 99; engl. trans. GWLY I, 637, addition D. Mieth.

[34] See Oberste (2018) 93-101 about suburban spaces at Paris. His specific example of “extra muros” is: Saint-Martin-des-Champs, a powerful monastery in the nord, not so far from “Le Temple”. See the map Oberste 192. To the Knight Templars and the famous process against them see Ubl (2012)

[35]  Field (2012: 73-77, 96-97, 148 -539) Here: 151 -152. In note 23 to these pages Field refers to Marie Bertho (1993: 137-139), postulating a difference in motivations underlying his and her interpretations of the coincidence. I propose an in-depth analysis of the – well known – different motivations of King and Pope.

[36] See Field (2012: 161.234.                                                                                                  

[37] See to acts of blasphemy in the Middle Ages: Schwerhoff (2021) 113-190. My assumption beyond his examples is, that the act of kissing may be denunciated as an act of spying. This may also have been in the case of the accusation of blasphemy to the Knight Templars. The accusation was that they spit on the Christian cross instead of kissing it. 

Cite this blog post
urbrel (2022, February 23). The Same Spaces Tell Different Religious Stories. Several Considerations on Cospatiality in Paris around 1300. Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from

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