Agnes Blannbekin

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Agnes Blannbekin
Born c. 1244
Plambach, Duchy of Austria
Died (1315-03-10)March 10, 1315 (about 71)
Vienna, Duchy of Austria
Occupation Franciscan tertiary
Language Middle High German, Latin
Genre Revelations
Literary movement Beguine Christian mysticism
Notable works Venerabilis Agnetis Blannbekin

Agnes Blannbekin (/ˈblænbkən/; c. 1244[1] – March 10, 1315),[2] was an Austrian Beguine and Christian mystic. She was also referred to as Saint Agnes Blannbekin or the Venerable Agnes Blannbekin, though never beatified or canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. Her controversial revelations were compiled by her confessor Ermenrich and later published in 1731 as Venerabilis Agnetis Blannbekin. The copies were confiscated by the Society of Jesus, and only two manuscripts survived. One was destroyed in a fire at the Strasbourg library in 1870.[2] The surviving manuscript, currently owned by a Cistercian convent in Zwettl, Austria,[2] was not released until the 20th century.[2][3] Although Blannbekin is best remembered today for her visions, during her life she was known for her ministry to the urban population.[4]


Blannbekin was born in Plambach, Austria to a peasant family.[2] Her surname, which is also sometimes spelled Blanbakin,[3] comes from the name of this village (i.e., Plambachen).[2] At the age of seven or eight, Blannbekin began secretly giving her meals to the poor.[2] By the age of ten or eleven, she began craving the sacramental bread.[5] In around 1260,[1] she joined the Third Order of Saint Francis in Vienna;[2] for the rest of her life she refused to eat meat, claiming the body of Christ was enough meat for her.[6]

During services and prayers Blannbekin began to hear voices which explained spiritual mysteries.[2][5] Her visions were transcribed by the Franciscan monk Ermenrich, her confessor.[2][7][8] Although not all of her revelations were considered obscene, they included visions of monks, women, and Jesus naked.[2][8] In one vision, she claimed to have felt the foreskin of Jesus in her mouth:

Crying and with compassion, she began to think about the foreskin of Christ, where it may be located [after the Resurrection]. And behold, soon she felt with the greatest sweetness on her tongue a little piece of skin alike the skin in an egg, which she swallowed. After she had swallowed it, she again felt the little skin on her tongue with sweetness as before, and again she swallowed it. And this happened to her about a hundred times. And when she felt it so frequently, she was tempted to touch it with her finger. And when she wanted to do so, that little skin went down her throat on its own. And it was told to her that the foreskin was resurrected with the Lord on the day of resurrection. And so great was the sweetness of tasting that little skin that she felt in all [her] limbs and parts of the limbs a sweet transformation.[8]

Blannbekin described herself as continually beset with visions throughout the day, which she described as imber lacrimarum, or a "rain of tears" from God.[2] Many of these visions involved bright lights, and in one she described being "so filled with light within that she could gaze at herself."[8] As with the foreskin occasion, many of her visions involved touch, such as being kissed on the cheeks by the Lamb of God.[2] While eating the Eucharist, Blannbekin claimed to taste Christ;[2] on one occasion, a sexually immoral priest could not find his Eucharist, which Blannbekin claimed to have felt in her own mouth.[5][9] Similarly, she described drinking a "refreshing spiritual drink" from the spear wound of Jesus.[9] Supposed visitations from Jesus himself caused an orgastic reaction:[6] "Agnes herself was filled with an excitement in her chest every time that God visited her that was so intense that it went through her body and that it burned as a result, not in a painful but in a most pleasurable manner."[7]

Blannbekin died in Vienna, Austria on March 10, 1315 in her convent.[2][8][10]


  • Critical edition of her Vita et Revelationes and German translation: Peter Dinzelbacher and Renate Vogeler, Leben und Offenbarungen der Wiener Begine Agnes Blannbekin, Goppingen 1994.
  1. ^ a b McGinn, Bernard (1998). The Flowering of Mysticism: Men and Women in the New Mysticism (1200–1350). U.S.A.: The Crossroad Publishing Co. ISBN 0-8245-1742-3. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Wilson, Katharina M. (1991). An Encyclopedia of Continental Women Writers. U.S.A.: Garland Reference Library of the Humanities. pp. 138–139. ISBN 0-8240-8547-7. 
  3. ^ a b Dunbar, Agnes B. C. (1904). A Dictionary of Saintly Women. London: George Bell & Sons. p. 36. 
  4. ^ Perrin, David B. (2001). Women Christian Mystics Speak to Our Times. U.S.A.: Sheed & Ward. ISBN 1-58051-095-7. 
  5. ^ a b c Elliot, Dyan (1999). Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality, and Demonology in the Middle Ages. U.S.A.: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-3460-X. 
  6. ^ a b Gollaher, David L. (2000). Circumcision: A History of the World's Most Controversial Surgery. U.S.A.: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-02653-2. 
  7. ^ a b Grzymała-Moszczyńska, Halina; Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi (1996). Religion, Psychopathology, and Coping. Atlanta, GA: Rodopi Publishers. ISBN 90-5183-626-0. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Wiethaus, Ulrike (2002). Agnes Blannbekin, Viennese Beguine: Life and Revelations. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer. ISBN 0-85991-634-0. 
  9. ^ a b Bynum, Caroline Walker (1987). Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women. U.S.A.: University of California Press, Ltd. ISBN 0-520-05722-8. 
  10. ^ Raitt, Jill (1987). World Spirituality: Christian Spirituality – High Middle Ages and Reformation. U.S.A.: The Crossroad Publishing Company. ISBN 0-7102-1313-1.