The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism 1350-1550

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The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism 1350-1550

More than 25 years in the making, this volume illuminates the abundant range and depth of Christian mystical teachings during the late medieval period in Europe. McGinn brings unparalleled insight and expertise to the investigation of the riches of vernacular spirituality.

This magnum opus incorporates more than a century of new research from around the globe, demonstrating how the period from 1350-1550 gave rise to many mystical writers who remain influential today, including Julian of Norwich, Jan van Ruusbroec, and Catherine of Siena.

With an unmatched knowledge of primary works and relevant scholarship, McGinn conveys the unique genius of each mystical teacher and describes how the movement built on individual insights. Specific types of mysticism covered include literature in Middle Dutch, and work in Italian and English in the late Medieval period.

Reviews and endorsements

"The staggering erudition of McGinn's latest volume is no surprise, nor is the lucidity of his expositions of the vernacular mysticisms that flourished in the Low Countries, Italy and England in the late middle ages. What dawns on you as you progress through McGinn's magisterial retrieval of fourteenth and fifteenth century developments in 'mystical theology' is how seriously Ruusbroec, Catherine of Siena, Julian of Norwich and a host of lesser figures have to be taken as theologians. Much more than a history of western Christian mysticism, this volume calls for and supplies a major revaluation of theology in the late medieval Christian church."
Dr. Denys Turner, professor of religion at Yale Divinity School


"McGinn's The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism is an astonishing achievement. No one will approach religious and mystical teaching in the late middle ages (1300-1550) quite the same way again. The broadest and richest account of Dutch mystical writers, a vision of Italian mystical writing that puts Catherine of Siena alongside Marsilio Ficino and Christian kabbalists, a fresh approach to famed English writers (Rolle, Julian, the Cloud author) fitting them into a larger religious world—all this in one volume, with serious attention to thought and theology, a close reading of texts, generous citation of vernacular originals, and weighty bibliographies. It is hard to imagine one person even attempting it, but McGinn has done it."
John Van Engen, University of Notre Dame


Association of Catholic Publishers Award for Theology 2013

Second Place

Hardcover / 864 pages
Dimensions: 6 x 9.25