The Beguines By Laura Swan Summary

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The Medieval period was a time where it was nearly impossible for anyone to lead a life of religious freedom or independence and for women, this feat was even more difficult to accomplish. However, author Laura Swan tells the story of an exceptional group of women who accomplished this task, and did so in extraordinary ways. This group of women, called the Beguines, formed around the year 1200 and became united by their common way of life, chastity, simplicity, commitment to God and to the poor and marginalized. These women truly were trailblazers, gaining nearly complete independence and religious freedom (not without a fair share of set backs) during a time where this was most certainly not the norm. Within Swan’s scholarly work, “The…show more content…
In answering the question of who the Beguines were, Swan uses contrasting examples of the lifestyles kept by nuns to that of the Beguines. She explains that nuns rarely left their monastery perimeters and were under authority of their abbess who was under control of the local bishop. Nuns made vows before the local bishop that were legally binding, and usually included their renunciation of certain rights (such as the right to claim any family inheritance). On the contrary, Beguines followed no formal rule of life (such as the Rule of Benedict) and the bishop had no more authority over them than he did any other “layperson" in his sector. Because the Beguines paid their taxes, they were granted a certain iota of protection from the church, while still keeping full ownership of their personal and collective freedom. Even though Swan uses the nun’s way of life as a clear opposition to the Beguine’s, she is also adamant that, “Nuns were steady supporters of the beguines. Frequently women’s monasteries loaned land to groups of beguines on which they could establish their informal communities, and sometimes monasteries also assisted with construction costs. Nuns were also great defenders of the beguines against charges of lewdness or

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