DISCIPLES OF THE DEEP DESERT: WINDESHEIM BIOGRAPHERS AND THE IMITATION OF THE DESERT FATHERS* M athilde van D ijk Abstract This article examines how biographers from the Chapter of Windesheim con- strued their brothers and sisters as the new desert fathers. In the Devotio Moderna, these ﬁ rst hermits, monks, and nuns were regarded as the epito- mes of what true piety was about. Windesheim biographers like John Busch put their subjects forward as the new practitioners of true piety, as it had been coined by the desert fathers. But what did this mean to them? How did they interpret the desert father material? How did they use it to create new examples for religious practice? Introduction In the Devotio Moderna, the concept of “Egypt” had two opposing meanings. On the one hand, it was a metaphor for that which the truly religious should abandon. John Busch of Windesheim used the concept in this sense in De viris illustribus , the biographies of the ﬁ rst brothers of his community of Regular Canons. He praised several among them for having left Egypt behind. 1 According to him, they had completed a metaphorical Exodus, having achieved the aim of
Church History and Religious Culture (formerly Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis) – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2006
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