Hadewijch of Brabant
(Hadewych of Antwerp)
circa 1220-1260
Beguine, Religious Epistemology

Kate Lindemann's 

Women Philosophers


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Hadewijch of Brabant, is also known as Hadewijc of Brussels and Hadewych of Antwerp. Although the name Hadewych of Antwerp is used frequently. It appears that she was not from Antwerp but appears to have come from the Duchy of Brabant which is in Belgium. You can read more about the history of this Duchy at Opentopia: http://encycl.opentopia.com/term/Duchy_of_Brabant

We know little of her life - only the information that can be gleaned from her letters and writings. We are not sure of the year of her birth or her death. Most scholars give the approximate dates: 1220 - 1260.

it appears from her writing that she was of the upper class and had read some of the major philosophers and theologians e.g. St. Augustine of Hippo, Saint Bernard, William of Saint Thierry, Hugh of St. Victor and Richard of St. Victor (Source: Ria Vanderauwera, "The Brabant Mystic Hadeqwijch" in Medieval Women Writers ed. by Katharina M. Wison. Universty of Georgai Press, 1984. p. 187.)

Her works:

Her letters appear to be written to members of a community of women to which she once belonged. This community is not a group of nuns (women in a monastery ). Some scholars think that it may have been a community of Beguines. It also appears from the tone and content of the letters that she may have held a position of authority in the group.

The writings also indicated that like Mechtild of Magdeburgh she seems to be the object of criticism. Some scholars think that Hadewijch of Brabat was forced out of the community of Beguines with whom she had lived.

Hadewijch of Brabant is considered to be an important figure in Dutch literature of the thirteenth century because her poems that are in the troubadour tradition of courtly love are one of the few such extant texts in Middle Dutch. And her prose work is one of only two very early prose texts in the vernacular. Most Dutch text books that deal with the history of Dutch literature include her work.

Hadewijch of Brabant's work is all about Love. ( I was struck when I was reading her work just how many women philosophers, beginning with Diotima of Mantinea wrote about love.  Might this be an apt subject for a philosophical anthology or other secondary source study in philosophy?)

Hadewijch of Brabant is known as a 'minnemystik", a mystic who is centered on 'minne' or love. This from appears to have originated with St. Bernard, the reformer and founder of Cistercian branch of the Benedictine Order. But her approach to the task is unique.

Her writing shines with a clarity and animation of spirit not often found in philosophical texts.

Most scholars hold that Jan van Ruusbroec was influenced by her work.


You can read excerpts of her works in English

Some poem translations can be found at:

1. Hadewijch of Brabant: Poems

2. To read her works in Dutch, go to: Hadewijch of Brabant

In print: Hadewijch: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality)

This page was last updated 12/12/14

Hadewijch of Antwerp/Brabant is one of more than 100 women featured in A Pictorial History of Women Philosophers photo album and is among the 40 philosophers featured in Busted!! A Pictorial History of Women Philosophers DVD Volume 1.

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