Marguerite in Champagne

2017 The Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures  
The life of Marguerite, dicta Porete, is more than elusive. The only sure evidence we have regards the date of her condemnation and that of the book she wrote, both pronounced on May 31, 1310 by the Dominican inquisitor William of Paris. Handed over to the Paris provost, her execution took place the next day, on the Place de Grève. The fact is recorded by the Saint-Denis Benedictine continuator of William of Nangis, the semi-official voice of the Capetian crown, who adds that her "noble and
more » ... ut" behavior brought pious and tearful compassion to the hearts of eyewitnesses. 1 The inquisitor's sentence indicates that she had been kept in custody for "almost a year and a half", refusing to take an oath and respond to the interrogation, and that an earlier condemnation of her book had taken place at Valenciennes while Guido da Collemezzo was bishop of Cambrai. 2 According to the dates of his presence in his diocese, this action must have happened between summer 1297 and autumn 1305. 3 A recent study has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that Marguerite is indeed the author of this Mirror of Simple Souls. 4 Various evidence, both historical and linguistic, indicate her strong degree of relationship to Valenciennes but no family ties have ever been identified there with any certainty. Her book must have been completed by the time it was praised by Godfrey of Fontaines, master of theology at Paris, whose extended stay in Liège is attested in 1301-03. All further precision is mere speculation. Her birthdate is sometimes suggested as around 1250 but there is no compelling reason to prefer that date to any other year up to, say, 1275. The only criteria for such dating is that the Mirror records a complex spiritual experience that went through different phases and is not likely to have been produced by a woman under the age of 25. Yet, the argument I wish to pursue in this article is that more information can be obtained by pressing more consistently a number of clues. The
doi:10.5325/jmedirelicult.43.2.0135 fatcat:duy4m2q6afbjlkqyqbentbzajy