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Contours of the Duchy of Brabant of Hadewijch's time, drawn on a 20th century map of Belgium and the Netherlands. Neither country existed at the time, nor any "border" dividing Flanders and what later would become the Netherlands.

Hadewijch was a 13th century poet and mystic, probably living in the Duchy of Brabant.

Most of her extant writings, none of which survived the Middle Ages as an autograph, are in a Brabantian form of Middle Dutch. She is associated with Antwerp (often she is referred to as Hadewych of Antwerp)[1] but this is only based on a later addition to one of the manuscript copies of her works, that was produced several centuries after her death. Most of the other manuscripts containing her work were found near Brussels.

Her writings include visions, prose letters and poetry. There are two types of poems: her lyrical poetry followed the forms and conventions used by the trouvères and minnesingers of her time, but with the theme of worldly courtship replaced by sublimated love to God. The other series of poems are simpler didactical poems in letter format, on Christian topics, not all of them considered authentic.

No details of her life are known outside the sparse indications in her own writings. These indications lead many to conclude that she was involved in the then emerging beguine movement. That she would have been a nun can be excluded,[2] as her writings (primarily her prose letters) show that she travelled and lived in several places, and as in general her writings lack references to life in a convent. She must have come from a wealthy family: she had a wide knowledge of literature and theological treatises in several languages, including Latin and French, in a time when studying was a luxury only exceptionally granted to women.

She is considered to be a precursor to the mystic and theologian Jan van Ruusbroec, who developed many of her ideas, but in a more theologic-systematic way.

The poetry of the mystic Hadewych would play an important role in the essays, plays and novels of Belgian writer Suzanne Lilar.

Medieval manuscript page of a Hadewijch poem


  1. ^ Also Hadewych/Hadewijch/Hadewig of Brabant. Note that in the modern state of Belgium Antwerp (the city) lies not in Brabant (the Belgian province) but in the province of Antwerp. The "of Brabant" and "of Antwerp" identifications of the 13th century Hadewijch are apparently primarily intended to distinghuish her from the 12th century German prioress Blessed Hadewych [1]
  2. ^ The 19th century understanding (based exclusively on her visions and poetry) that she would have been a nun, as described for instance in C.P. Serrure (ed.), Vaderlandsch museum voor Nederduitsche letterkunde, oudheid en geschiedenis, II (C. Annoot-Braeckman, Gent 1858), pp. 136-145 has been abandoned by more modern scholars, because of the evidence in the prose letters. That she could be identified with an abbess that presumably died in Aywières (the convent where also Saint Lutgard lived around the same time) in 1248, is considered even more unlikely in recent scholarship. For more on this, see, for instance, the writings by Paul Mommaers mentioned in the references section below.


  • Hadewijch - Columba Hart (ed. and translator), preface by Paul Mommaers (1980), Hadewijch: The Complete Works, Paulist Press   ISBN 0-8091-2297-9
  • Hadewijch - Marieke J. E. H. T. van Baest (essay and translations), preface by Edward Schillebeeckx (1998-01-01), Poetry of Hadewijch, Peeters   ISBN 90-429-0667-7
  • Mommaers, Paul - Elisabeth M. Dutton (transl.) (April 2005), Hadewijch: Writer - Beguine - Love Mystic, Peeters   ISBN 90-429-1392-4

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