WHO WAS MARGERY KEMPE?

(c1373 - after 1438)

Margery Kempe's spiritual biography is often called the first autobiography in English and is the subject of The Book of Margery Kempe, which Margery claims to have dictated -- over a considerable period and after at least one unsuccessful trial run -- to an amanuensis. Unlike Julian of Norwich, whom Margery consulted for spiritual advice at one stage, Margery was not a recluse but a married woman who attempted to live a life devoted to Christ, and who sought official Church recognition for her status as a spiritual woman and mystic, while continuing to live and travel in the secular world. She experienced intense emotional visionary encounters with Christ, which have at times a strikingly homely quality, and her Book not only records these visions but also her travels in Europe and pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her particular spiritual trial, according to her Book, was to be misrepresented, persecuted, and rejected by many of her clerical and lay peers. The recording of her spiritual life, despite severe difficulties and her own illiteracy, became a symbolic act in itself, representing both her claim to spiritual status and evidence of her special relationship with God.

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