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Anchoress: True Tale of the Medieval Women Entombed for Life

In the Middle Ages, an anchoress was a truly devout woman

In the Middle Ages, an anchoress was a truly devout woman

A Time of Belief

The Middle Ages was a time of mystical beliefs, when men and women believed solely in the will of the Father. A particularly devoted group of women emerged—they called themselves anchoresses.

During this time period, there was much hardship and disease. Many people believed everything was connected to God. The Catholic Church held the population in its grip, and many men and women turned to the religious orders to live out their lives. Some did this out of piety, some out of desperation. The world was a harsh place. Every family, and every turn of life around them was set by God's will. Nobody had any idea that disease was caused by germs, and the howling winds were just part of nature. Each and every natural event must be God's plan, or His anger. Amongst this turmoil, the towns and villages were filthy. People were dying, and pitifully poor.

The local population tried to grow their own crops, sometimes successfully, other times a disaster. Wars ravished the land and out of desperation came the Anchoress.

This is the story of a young woman. Just one of many.

A young girl, brought up in a devout household, suddenly comes of age. She has been praying to God ever since she was a small child, and now, on the cusp of womanhood, decides to take the ultimate leap of faith. Poverty or hardship have worn her down. She is mentally old, her hands are calloused and she is so tired of feeling ill or frightened.

Collecting her things, she goes to see the Bishop. She asks him if she can become an Anchoress. Before she is accepted, she has to undertake a few tests to see if she is physically or mentally suitable for such a dramatic departure from her everyday life. What she is about to do is nothing short of complete bravery.

Because of the test, she will be placed in isolation for a short time to see if she can take the solitude and loneliness.

Then the Bishop, finding her suitable, will try to find out whether there was adequate money to cover her complete withdrawal from life. Somebody had to pay for her to eat.

When he has decided that the girl had passed all of these tests, the Bishop would contemplate where she would spend the rest of her life.

The Bishop, once he was satisfied, called her to him. He explained what was about to happen. After her acceptance, he then performed the ceremony or rite of enclosure. From this day forward he would be in charge of her wellbeing and support.

The Rule of Life: Ancrene Wisse

Also known as the Ancrene Wisse, the Rule of Life stated that the anchoress was the anchor underneath the Church, similar to an anchor of a ship. Because of this, the woman would be placed within the anchorhold, a small building attached to the side of the Church. The Rule stated that the cell should have three windows including a 'squint'. A small peephole that opened into the Church so the anchoress could take Holy Communion and follow the services.

The second window was to serve as a food hatch and it was also where she could talk to her assistant. And the third was for the people to come to seek out her wisdom, prayers and advice. If she had a vision, or mystical experience, the people could come and pray with her.

Anne Katherina Emmerich, an 18th-entury seer who was later made a saint. She was taken to a convent when she suffered Stigmata. This picture captures the essence of the earlier anchoresses.

Anne Katherina Emmerich, an 18th-entury seer who was later made a saint. She was taken to a convent when she suffered Stigmata. This picture captures the essence of the earlier anchoresses.

Enclosure: The Living Entombment and Burial of the Anchoress

The ceremony of entombment was her life into death. When the anchoress enters the cell which will be her home until her physical body dies, the ritual is one of burial. It is an act of binding her body and material possessions to the body of Christ. In effect, she is being buried alive. Officially she is dead to the world.


She will fast for one night and make confession. Then, in the morning she will attend Mass. By this time she would have been feeling either nervous or elated. Then, she would prostrate herself in front of the altar.

Carrying a lighted taper, a procession of the congregation would then chant, and say prayers as they followed her out, and start making their way towards her cell. When the girl entered the dark room, one of the first things she would have seen would have been her grave. Known as the Memento Mori, she would have to take part in her own funeral.

Placing her on a funeral bier, she would then be given the Last Rites. Then, prayers echoeing from the walls, the anchoress would be left alone, staring down at the open grave which would be left until she died.

Through the darkness, as the voices of the congregation began to move away, the only sound she would hear is the noise of the priests, as they hammered and plastered the last bricks into place. She had now been buried alive. The walls, entrance and any other openings were bricked up, and totally sealed.

Sometimes there would be a door that was locked from the outside. But most of the time, they would wall in the anchoress. Left alone in the isolation of her cell, the grave open in front of her, she must have been frightened. Even the most devout would have had a feeling of dread and panic.

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Kneeling down beside her bed, she would have taken comfort in the Crucifix and altar. The only other objects that she was allowed to have in her cell.

Clothing and Everyday Life

All alone, left to contemplate her life and surroundings, she would have been cold and uncomfortable. The winters would have been freezing. Being only allowed to wear a pilch, a triangle piece of material, or a garment to keep out the chill. And in the summer, a kirtle (dress) with mantle, (cloak) black headdress wimple, cape and veil.

Within those walls, she would have eaten vegetables for food that had been passed through the small window, and at the same time, she would pass out her water pot that she had used for waste. Afterwards, for the rest of the day, she would pray and sit in silence. After being there for a while, she would be allowed to sew embroidery, and have writing materials. Many of the famous anchoresses wrote books of prayers and devotions, most of which are still around today.

Her whole life revolved around these acts, mostly giving her time to people who wanted her to pray for them. Sitting at the small window, her only contact with the outside world, the people who wanted her help.

One of the most important aspects of the Rule was that she musn't be allowed to get too comfortable. At all times she must 'flagellate her skin' (whip), wear course garments that itched and scratched her body, and sleep on a hard bed. She must have devotion, compassion, pity, mercy and charity.

Julian of Norwich, famous anchoress

Julian of Norwich, famous anchoress

The Death of an Anchoress

When her body gave up, or she grew old, the anchoress would die in the cell that she had lived in all of her days. Most of the time she was buried in the Anchorhold, occasionally she would be taken out and buried in the churchyard. Each day, when she had been alive, she had to meditate on her own mortality by staring into the grave, and, kneeling down on the cold floor, scoop up some dirt from the hole. She was never allowed to forget about her last days on Earth.

Anchorite cell

Anchorite cell

Fortitude Devotion and Strength

On occasion some anchoresses were allowed out of the cell to attend Mass. But most of the time, they were kept in a closed, walled-up cell. The Bishop would stamp his seal against the wall to signify his authority.

If the town or church was sacked by pirates or looters, the anchoresses would refuse to leave, and many were burned in their cell.

The life of an anchoress was a hard, lonely and painful existence. Not only in terms of physical discomfort, but also in terms of mental anguish. Or was it? We forget how different people were then. To us, today, it seems like an unbelievable torture, not only frightening, but downright terrifying. No sun ever entered her cell, and she would never see the beauty of nature around her. To see the grass grow, or feel the wind on her face.

But maybe back then, when all the other options were just as horrible, the life of an anchoress may well have been an alternative that kept them alive. Both physically and Spiritually.

Thought Experiment

Imagine that the path of the anchoress was still possible today. That a young girl could be sealed inside a tiny cell, never to see the sun again. A chilling thought, indeed.

Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich

One of the most famous anchoressess was Julian of Norwich (1342-1416). Nobody knows her real name as she took the name Julian from the Church that she resided in. At the age of 30, suffering from a severe illness, she began to have visions of Jesus. After she recovered, she became an anchoress. She also became famous as the first woman to write in English, and she produced the Sixteen revelations of Divine Love. She was also known to have been the woman who first introduced us to this famous saying:

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

There were many quotes associated with Julian. This, I believe is the one that you will all recognise.

Julian of Norwich's cell

Julian of Norwich's cell

© 2011 Nell Rose


Nell Rose (author) from England on November 26, 2018:

How fascinating Francis! that's okay, I will take a look on the internet for it, and thank you, who would have guessed they still did it?

Francis on November 24, 2018:

My brother who lives in Malaysia just sent me 17 pictures of a certain Sister Mary of "The Will of Jesus" who underwent the Rite of Enclosure on 21 Nov 2018 at St Joseph's Church, Batu Gajah, Perak, Malaysia. She is enclosed in a cell adjacent to the Church. Yes, she is an Anchoress. I am happy to send you the pictures if you are interested.

God bless


Nell Rose (author) from England on November 13, 2015:

Thanks Duane, yes you are right! lol!

Duane Townsend from Detroit on November 10, 2015:

What a sobering read. Great Hub.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 03, 2015:

Hi ocean, yes we are aren't we? its so hard to imagine, we always think history is so romantic, but the reality is far from it, thanks so much for reading, nell

Paula from The Midwest, USA on January 03, 2015:

Hi Nell, this is so interesting yet sad. Thanks for sharing this part of history with us. It's hard to imagine a time when life was so hard, we are so spoiled now in comparison I think!

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 03, 2015:

Hi Audrey, its an amazing and bizarre lifestyle, thank goodness it was centuries ago! lol! to be a Nun or Monk yes, but Anchoress? No, I think I will pass! thanks for reading!

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on January 03, 2015:

I found this hub to be so very interesting. I knew nothing about the Anchoress. What brave women!

Thanks for adding the photo of the cell. It drew me right in!

Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and will share.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 03, 2015:

Thanks Jo, yes I totally agree with you, back then it was fanatical, whether in a good way or bad, just remember the Spanish Inquisition! lol!

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 03, 2015:

Hi MaryTill, yes I remember reading that not many people join to be nuns or monks these days, its definitely a different world isn't it?

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 03, 2015:

Hi Bobbi, thanks for coming back, yes back then things were so different weren't they? Have a great New Year.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 03, 2015:

Thanks Mary, thanks for reading, yes its pretty strange isn't it? but the good thing was they never caught diseases! lol!

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on January 03, 2015:

I must have missed this incredible hub. Pure insanity, why is it that something that is suppose to be based on love such as religion, cause so much misery? Fascinating as always.

Mary Craig from New York on January 03, 2015:

Isn't it amazing how the human spirit adapts itself? These women chose a life of solitude and deprivation, some for their own betterment, others to pray for the world.

You are right Nell, it is hard to imagine in this day and age. Even nuns who live normal lives are seeing a huge decline in their population. Where will this all leave us in the future?

Great read! Voted up, useful, and very interesting!!

Happy New Year.

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on January 03, 2015:

Nell Rose,

I had to read this again---and what a world we live in where things strange happens and is accepted by others seemingly to be normal.

Have a great New Year of 2015,

Bobbi Purvis

Mary Hyatt from Florida on January 03, 2015:

Oh, my goodness! These poor women. I guess they knew what they were getting into to become an Anchoress, right? I've never heard of these women; fascinating subject, I enjoyed reading.

Voted UP, etc. and shared.

Nell Rose (author) from England on September 11, 2014:

Thanks so much Kim, I am glad you liked it, things were so much different back then weren't they?

இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу from Niagara Region, Canada on September 11, 2014:

Nell, as usual you paint quite a picture with your writing. Your articles are always very interesting and you do an incredible job.


Nell Rose (author) from England on September 11, 2014:

Hi Bobbi, thanks for the comments, yes those women were amazing weren't they? mind you at least they never caught the plague! lol!

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on September 10, 2014:

Nell Rose,

I would say these women were brave beyond the call of duty. I would not do it.

You have the most interesting stories---I just love them. You have a great Thursday.

Bobbi Purvis

Nell Rose (author) from England on April 17, 2013:

Thanks so much midget, yes, their beauty was the wonder of their souls, amazing women, thanks for reading, nell

Nell Rose (author) from England on April 17, 2013:

Hi Jools, yes it gave me claustrophobic too, she was a brave woman, thanks so much for reading, nell

Nell Rose (author) from England on April 17, 2013:

Hi Sharkye, thanks so much for reading, yes you are right, the local people probably found great comfort in visiting her, and helped with the prayers, and of course there was an added bonus, if there was plague or illness the Anchoress wouldn't catch it! lol!

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on April 17, 2013:

I always found the stories of the Anchorites to fascinating, in an exceptionally creepy way. Even though i am familiar with the story reading about it again in your hub gave me goosebumps. I can understand why they felt that the practice was right considering the mindset of the period. and who knows? Perhaps in a way they were helping. From a religious point of view, their sacrifices may have truly empowered their prayers for others. From a psychological point of view, the people on the outside probably found strength and comfort in knowing they had these 'anchors' praying for them.

Let us just be perpetually thankful that we don't have to face choices of this kind today! Excellent hub, and truly beautiful.

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on April 17, 2013:

Nell, found this absolutely fascinating. The photo of the cell gives a real sense of the claustrophobic space - all in the name of religion...don't get me started!

Michelle Liew from Singapore on April 16, 2013:

Wow, I'm Catholic...but I never knew about this division of beautiful women! Beauty in ultimate takes a great leap of faith indeed to do this. Great share, Nell!

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 21, 2012:

Hi, Mark, I love history, and can't help but write about it, it may not be well known or particularly interesting to the general population, but I can't help it! lol! thanks again, nell

Mark Pitts from United States on January 21, 2012:

I love your writings bcause of the intrest they show for lesser known bits of history. Amazing,

Nell Rose (author) from England on July 15, 2011:

Hi, beth, I will have to get it, Toyah was a punk singer in the seventies over here, I think its the same one, her name is Wilcox though, thanks for coming back, cheers nell

Beth Perry from Tennesee on July 15, 2011:

Nell, yes it was filmed in black and white and there is an actress named Toyah Wilson in it. If she's also a singer I was ignorant about that, lol But yeah, great film..and btw, the actor playing the part of the Reeve is pretty darned hunky, too :)

Nell Rose (author) from England on July 15, 2011:

Hi, beth, I haven't seen it yet, I think there is only one film about it? is it the one with Toyah the singer in it? black and white, I believe, my dvds broken at the moment so I can't get it yet! everything electronic seems to break at the same time in my house! lol thanks for reading, cheers nell

Beth Perry from Tennesee on July 15, 2011:

Nell, this is an interesting piece, although I tend to think that anyone who would commit themselves to such a life is either mentally ill or has a very strong aversion to the society she's in. Anyway, I enjoyed the historical info you provided here!

Have you watched the film "Anchoress"? Its about a young woman who did this very thing and came to regret it. It is a powerful story, though I'm not sure die-hard Christians would appreciate the underlying pro-feminine and pro-sexuality messages. But you might enjoy it.

Nell Rose (author) from England on July 05, 2011:

Hi, healthp, thanks for reading, I really appreciate it, cheers nell

healthp on July 05, 2011:

interesting topic, thanks for sharing

Nell Rose (author) from England on July 03, 2011:

Hi, attemptedhumour, it certainly was different then, I wonder what was going on in their minds when they did this? but of course the people loved to see her, especially back in those dark and not very hygienic days, thanks again nell

attemptedhumour from Australia on July 02, 2011:

And i think i'm devoted because i cooked dinner tonight. It seems a bit too devoted to me. But it was back in the bad old days and hopefully the honour of applying would overcome the hardships. I'm sure the congregation would have appreciated the sacrifice and gained from the wisdom that was dispensed. Cheers

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 30, 2011:

Hi, Mary, yes you are right, the way of living back then was so different, we always seem to forget that, devotion to God was the norm, and it was a great honour, but how differently we do things today! thanks again nell

Sister Mary from Isle of Man on June 30, 2011:

Hi Nell Rose

This is a very interesting read. I can understand why such a life of pure devotion would seem attractive to a poor starving girl back then. Life was so precarious and the though of food and shelter for life must have been at some level tempting. Devotion to God was much more strictly followed with hell and damnation always to the forefront. It also would have brought some honour to the family I expect just as having a son or daughter in a religious order was not so long ago in many countries.

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 28, 2011:

Hi, Jlava, I am so glad you liked it! these women fascinate me, to be able to hide yourself away like that, without going completely mad, is unbelievable! I'd last two minutes! thanks again nell

Jennifer Vasconcelos from Cyberspace and My Own World on June 27, 2011:

Simply Awesome! I have never heard of this and I was completely drawn in. Thanks for always enlightening me with your articles!

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 25, 2011:

Hi, Erin, these have always fascinated me, and I really liked doing all the research on it, thanks for liking it, cheers nell

Hi, Sa'ge, yes you are so right, it got me thinking too! lol I am glad you liked it, thanks again as always, nell

Sa`ge from Barefoot Island on June 25, 2011:

Great hub Nel, always a great work that comes out from you :) When I read something like this my mind extends t the far reaches and so much pours like the less people know the more they can be controlled and how much control religion has over how people think, what they learn and how they live. We all make choices as to how we live by what we have learned about the world. In those times people knew so little and the church had so much control over peoples thoughts, ideals and lives.

Knowledge seems to be the key a better life and yet we forget to look at the future consequences that can come from how we use that knowledge, like nuclear power etc.

see what your hub did to my brain. LOL took me from ancient church and people to modern knowledge and people do with it. ignorance comes with many faces even to those who know a lot.. and that goes for me too. voted up and away girl... :) hugs :)

Erin LeFey from Maryland on June 24, 2011:

Nell, you never cease to find a really interesting story that I have never heard of! You are a top notch detective and researcher. I loved this article. Its amazing what some people will do for faith or protection - or maybe some other driving force or even paranoia. Wonderful hub and thanks for broadening my horizons!!! But be sure, this is one adventure I would not volunteer for!

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 24, 2011:

Hi, DzyM, it must have been so hard in those days, no wonder someone would put themselves away like this! lol but of course they were so much more religious in those days, not knowing anything else, thanks again nell

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 24, 2011:

Thanks Enlydia, I love doing all the research! it makes me feel as though I am back at college or uni! lol it is surprising how much info is not on the internet just yet, about any topic, if you can find a hole in the niche then you will start off a world wide search! ha ha happened to me with my Sleeping Girl of Turville hub, nobody else had put it on here! and that was all around the world! thanks again nell

Enlydia Listener from trailer in the country on June 24, 2011:

I love it when you can find old books that have information not usually found on the internet. That is going to be one of my hobbies when I find time. Search through the 4 floor college library and look for old stuff. Some of the books were printed a couple hundred of years ago. Thanks again for your diligent reading and writing.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on June 23, 2011:

I had never heard of such a thing before. As with many ancient practices, I found it quite disturbing, but in light of other, even worse practices, probably not entirely surprising.

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 23, 2011:

Hi, Enlydia, I am glad you liked it, it was your fault you know! ha ha I found some on the internet, and some more in an old book I had, took me at least three days to do this one! phew! I will start doing easier ones from now on! lol it was trying to get images that was the problem, but I got them in the end! thanks again nell

Hi, tebo, yes you are right, but maybe it was lack of contact with people that kept the germs off! lol thanks again nell

tebo from New Zealand on June 23, 2011:

Really interesting and I too have never heard of these women. It is difficult trying to imagine what it would be like living that way. They seemed to live a reasonable length life too without all the things we consider necessary like sunlight, fresh air and exercise.

Enlydia Listener from trailer in the country on June 23, 2011:

Wow, not quite how I pictured it, but thanks for doing the did you get your hands on the information? My interest is even more piqued. Saint Julian's writing sounded so peaceful and happy, it is hard to associate the two images.

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 23, 2011:

Hi, Pras, thanks for reading, it was a really strange way of living back then, glad you enjoyed it, cheers nell

Hi, Lily, ha ha hee hee! why not, oh let me please! lol thanks for the laugh!

lilyfly on June 23, 2011:

They're sounding like loose women all the more, bolster yourself woman, we cannot truck with their like! Love ya! lily

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on June 22, 2011:

Beautiful story of a great woman and the history behind this. I had never heard about this and thank you very much for let me know this for sure. I always know I will be greeted with nice hub when I visit your hubs. Good job, Nell. My VOTE only for you. Cheers....

Love and peace,

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 22, 2011:

Hi, lily, glad you liked it, I have never heard of the Sibyls of Cumae, I will have to go investigate! lol good luck with the poem, thanks nell

Lillian K. Staats from Wasilla, Alaska on June 22, 2011:

Oh, this tells me much! This is what I am! Minus the Bishop, and the windows! I adore this, but why, oh why did Bishops have to put his stamp on things? This reminds me of the Sibyls of Cumae, of which I have an inordinate fascination... and there is a poem in this too, Sweetpea! Excellent, excellent hub.... lily

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 22, 2011:

Hi, Hello hello, yes you are right, another one of their crazy ideas way back when! lol thanks again nell

Hi, Rose, pitch black more like! ha ha thanks again nell

Hi, Kathi, it just goes to show the differences between then and now, but you never know, maybe somewhere around the world they are still doing this in one form or another, thanks again nell

Hi, Taj, yes that is so true, thanks

Hi, Simone, history always seems to be finding out strange practises from those times, amazing stuff though, must have been very hard, thanks for reading it, cheers nell

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on June 22, 2011:

Whoah, this is absolutely fascinating! O____O

Just when you think history can't get any weirder.......

TajSingh from United Kingdom on June 22, 2011:

It's remarkable how strong were the devotion of Anchoressess.

Kathi Mirto from Fennville on June 21, 2011:

Hello Nell, Hard to imagine the life of an Anchoress and the devotion or desperation that led one to such a least their life had an honorable purpose to serve others.

Well written and easy to follow!

Rose West from Michigan on June 21, 2011:

Wow, I can't even imagine what it would be like to be an Anchoress! No wonder they called it the Dark Ages!

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 21, 2011:

Hi, Chatkath, I expect they will say how barbaric we all are! lol thanks so much nell

Hi, europe, thanks for reading, cheers nell

Hi, david, thanks, I am not sure why these women did it, probably because of poverty and hardship, but back then they were really religious, they must have been very strong, cheers nell

Hi, jpc, yes you are right, many people even today live lives that most people can't understand, but it is their religion, as long as they are happy, cheers nell

Hi, Qudsia, you always make me laugh! lol and you hit the nail right on the head! thanks so much nell

Hi, Case, neither would I! lol thanks again, cheers nell

Hello, hello, from London, UK on June 21, 2011:

I never knew that but I can't see that God would want that. It another crazyness from the church.

CASE1WORKER from UNITED KINGDOM on June 21, 2011:

i can say, without fear of contradiction, it is not a job I would have volunteered for!

QudsiaP1 on June 21, 2011:

Oh my goodness, this scared the hell out of me.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on June 20, 2011:

I can surely say I can't go through what you have described in your hub. Faith touches people differently. Likewise, people express their faith differently. In the end we are saved by the grace of God through faith.

davidseeger from Bethany, OK on June 20, 2011:

Thanks for hub. I'm glad to have read it. There is really nothing for me to say about the practice. There are more things in this world than we have ever dreamt of. In your hub I didn't see anything that suggested that this was not of her own free will. So how do we associate this with the oppression by men? I suppose this was an excape from oppression?

europewalker on June 20, 2011:

Very interesting hub. A great read.

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 20, 2011:

Hi, Just Life, thanks for reading it, cheers nell

Hi, drk, I would have been very claustrophobic! lol but some people would have been very spiritual in those days, maybe we have lost something along the way, thanks for reading, cheers nell

Hi, Ruby, yes it a time where men ruled everything, there wasn't a lot of choice for women, its a chilling thought that the only alternative was this! thanks again nell

Hi, Laura, thanks for reading, we where so different then, thank goodness we have more choices now, cheers nell

Hi, Gerber, thanks so much! cheers nell

Hi, Pamela, yes a little known subject, perhaps we are just trying to forget how women were treated in those days! lol cheers nell

Hi, Jama, yes you are right! maybe the other nuns did, but these seem to be much more devoted, or maybe mentally in need of comfort, thanks nell

Hi, Spirit, yes, it was strange, I wonder who came up with the idea! thanks as always, nell

Hi, Alastar, they must have either been very mentally strong, or completely round the twist by the time they died! lol thanks again, nell

Hi, Martie, yes, they were a very sad and lonely lot of women I would think, I think I remember reading that one of them left the anchorage, then asked to go back! and she was told that, if it didn't work out this time, she would be excommunicated! nice lot back then! do you really believe that you may have been there back then? please, write a hub, it would be amazing, thanks nell

Hi, Hattie, I am glad that you found it interesting, thanks nell

Hi, Cardisa, yes your right! glad it was back then! lol cheers nell

Kathy from California on June 20, 2011:

Most interesting Nell, I always learn something new every time I visit your hubs, so much history. Religious practices were so incredible, it really makes one wonder what will be said about our times in thousands of years. What will they say? Fascinating - voted up and awesome.

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 20, 2011:

Hi, Christopher, thanks for reading it, a very strange time indeed! not for me though! lol

Hi, schoolgirl, I believe that some Anchoresses chose to live more openly, still living in a cell, but being allowed to walk around the church etc, but most, especially at the beginning, did it this way, thanks nell

Hi, Audrey, wow! can you imagine if you had? yep, two days at the most! lol thanks again nell

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 20, 2011:

Hi, CMHypno, great minds think alike! lol seriously, they really fascinate me, what on earth was going on in their minds? unbelievable! cheers nell

Hi, Docmo, thanks so much! glad you liked it, I don't think anybody's mental state could put up with it these days, thanks nell

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on June 20, 2011:

Hi Nell,

This Anchoress bit is very daunting. Imagine being locked in that cave like cell for ever. Though grateful for those in history, I am glad I was not around to undertake the task.

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 20, 2011:

Hi, agusfanani, yes you are right, it must have been a different world back in those days, a very strange existance, thanks again nell

Hattie from Europe on June 20, 2011:

Very fascinating, as much as I have studied over the years of saints, and the catholic religion, I have never come across this. Something more to look into. Thanks for sharing, love learning about things they did in history. :)

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 20, 2011:

Hi, SilverGenes, I didn't know a lot about them, but then I remembered Toyah Wilcox mention on TV that she had been in a film called Anchoress, that started me of thinking ages ago, and so I thought I would look into it more, brave women, or maybe just desperate! thanks again nell

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 20, 2011:

Hi, Luis thank you for reading it, and I am glad you enjoyed it, cheers nell

Nell Rose (author) from England on June 20, 2011:

Hi, quotations, it does seem really bizarre even for the Middle Ages, the people of the day's mindset must have been so different, amazing to think it happened, thanks so much nell

Martie Coetser from South Africa on June 20, 2011:

I remember how shocked I was when I heard for the first time about those practices in the Middle Ages. I was in Utrecht where one was buried in the wall of a church. She was in fact fathered by a priest. Can’t remember the woman’s name – it begins with a B – I do have a book about her – perhaps I should write a hub about her to add to this one of yours, Nell. This kind of stories make me extremely sad, angry, perplex, all in one. And to think that was the norm. Those women acquired admiration and respect in that horrible way; they were envied by other women who had to bore and raise children in precarious circumstances; they were regarded as ‘close to God’ and therefore they had the power to make the lives of wives and mothers more tolerable through prayers. Tragic! With all the wars of that era there were not enough men for all the women. Woman and children found refuge in the church.

I’m so grateful to live in this era. But when I read stories like this, I can swear I’ve lived that kind of life once upon a time.

Nell, this is a heartbreaking tale, very well presented. Voted up and awesome.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on June 20, 2011:

Anchor of the church. Absolutely eerie. Visions a- plenty in a situation like that no doubt. And as if this wasn't enough - get a little too comfy and out comes whatever one used back then for some flagellattion in addition to the grave staring. Did the church believe this would bring God's favor on their church or what? One can either admire or pity these women. Entombed it was and thank you Nell for this pro looking and most interesting hub.

Xavier Nathan from Isle of Man on June 20, 2011:

Wow, what a great read! This was such an interesting hub about something I had never heard about. I would love to know more about why the church came up with this form of devotion in the first place. It is hard for us to imagine why a girl would choose such a life but then again that was another time. Thank you Nell.

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on June 20, 2011:

If living in isolation may have been less harsh than life outside the cell, I think I'm glad I didn't live in the age when this practice was considered "normal". Also can't help but think that the population in general would've been much better served if these women had been allowed to travel the countryside, rather than requiring believers and troubled souls to visit with them through a hole in the wall.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 20, 2011:

This is a part of history that I didn't know and it is absolutely fascinating. You explained the whole procedure very well and I enjoyed this hub very much. Certainly their lives did seem pretty barbaric and yet they were being true to their beliefs. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

Charlotte Gerber from upstate New York on June 20, 2011:

A wonderful hub on an interesting subject. Thanks Nell!

Laura Deibel from Aurora, CO on June 20, 2011:

Interesting topic. It does seem kind of barbaric, but then those were very different times.


Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on June 20, 2011:

Nell, This is chilling. In our time we would definitely label the women mentally ill and depressed. I see it as Man's unjustifiable rule over women. I know that was not even considered back then, but it should have been. I really did enjoy the article, i'd never heard of this practice.


drkathleenfuller on June 20, 2011:

Neil- This was fantastic. I could contemplate on having or imagining what it would be like to experience this type of devotion and silence. Do you think you had a past life as an Anchoresses If you believe in past lives then imagine what an Anchorness learned practicng this 24 hrs. for the years she lived.

Just Life on June 20, 2011:

I had never before heard of this. Intetresting and thought provoking. Rated up.

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on June 20, 2011:

I tend to think that devoting oneself to religion of any kind is a kind of "protection" from the real world. Believe it or not, when I was in my late teens, I considered being a nun - don't think I didn't see that dial a nun number up there either~ Unfortunately, in my case, I'm afraid they would have kicked me out within a day or two for behavior unbecoming a nun. Very interesting piece, Nell and definitely hard to live that way in my humble opinion!

Rosemary Amrhein on June 20, 2011:

As you say in your article, the women did this willingly...I recall St. Therese of the Child Jesus who as her 5 or 6 sisters did, became a Carmelite nun who are cloistered..which not all nuns are, she had a strong desire to be Jesus' spouse, a calling for a vocation it's called, she begged the bishop to be admitted at age 15. Yes, there must be a special calling to make one desire to be isolated and pray like this. Agreed with christopheranton this must have been a spiritually richer time than the age we now live in.........It's interesting...but reading your account of the anchoress is weird cause I never heard of it quite like that, perhaps that was the beginning-more hardcore- of cloistered nuns..but yes there are people who want to do things like is odd though

Christopher Antony Meade from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom on June 20, 2011:

Self sacrifice, and the tradition of praying for others has always been a feature of the catholic religion.

I'm sure these anchoresses are in Heaven now, and a lot more have been saved because of their intercessions.

Thanks Nell for the reminder of a time, that may have been very harsh in some particulars, but spirtually was probably a lot richer than the age we now live in.

Mohan Kumar from UK on June 20, 2011:

Fascinating bit of history. Illustrates the intensity of belief and self discipline that must have been involved. conventional psychology may have other opinions to say about the mental state of such self induced imprisonment, even in the name of God. Brilliant bit of writing Nell. voted up.

CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on June 19, 2011:

I think that we must be telepathic or something Nell, because I was thinking of Julian of Norwich the other day and wondering whether it would make a good hub! Interesting article on the anchoress. The ascetic, religious life does look very unattractive to us these days, but as you say, people's perceptions and expectations were very different back than.

agusfanani from Indonesia on June 19, 2011:

A very interesting story. It must have been very hard to live in such seclusion and I think only people with strong piety could make sacrifice like that.

SilverGenes on June 19, 2011:

This is new to me. I had no idea such things were practised but as you say, it may have been a much better existence than the one outside the walls depending on one's situation in life. It is truly amazing what we humans are capable of doing. Very interesting hub! Thank you, Nell - I learned a lot :)

Luis E Gonzalez from Miami, Florida on June 19, 2011:

Excellent hub, and composed quite well, especially from a historical viewpoint.

Robert P from Canada on June 19, 2011:

Nell, as usual you have shed light on a very interesting episode in history. It is difficult to understand the weird perversion of belief that would have led people to volunteer for this, and for the rest of the Christian community to participate in it. I am sure that they did this from the best of motives, but this practice is clearly contrary to all Christian teachings, so it is amazing to me that it became widespread.

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