The Anchoress' Rule f.48r
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
Anchorites were ascetic monks who lived in alone or in small groups in enclosures attached to churches, never emerging. Anchoresses were women who sealed themselves away, their funerals being celebrated upon their enclosure, signifying their death to the world. In the 13th century, increasing numbers of religious men and women were seeking a personal and total devotion, leading to an increase in anchorites and anchoresses. As did all monks and nuns, anchorites followed rules governing daily activities and subordinating individual will to that of the community and God. The Ancrene Riwle (Anchoress' Rule) was originally written for three young noblewomen, probably in north Worcestershire, who were embarking on this religious exile from the world. About 1300 Matilda de Clare, the Countess of Gloucester, gave the book to the Augustinian canonesses at Canonsleigh, Devon.
This page shows the beginning of the third section of the rule. Each section begins with a large letter in blue, outlined with red. The section is identified in the upper margin. Later notes are written between the lines and in the margins, in Latin and English. Paragraphs are indicated with red marks, resembling a reversed figure '7'. The book is of a small size, comfortably held in the hand or carried, a feature which connects it with its actual use as an individual guide to immersion in prayer and contemplation.