Research

The Ruusbroec Institute is active in a unique domain of research. Nowhere else has the history of spirituality in the Low Countries been studied on a long-term, structural basis in such a specialised and, at the same time, multidisciplinary manner.

The Institute’s research activities can be roughly divided, albeit artificially, into three main areas. Nonetheless, the three areas are complementary to each other:

  • Making religious texts available through critical editions, repertories, codicological and bibliographical studies, glossaries, etc.
  • Study and interpretation of mystical and devotional texts
  • Religious history

For more information on each of these activities, see below.

For more information on individual research projects, see research projects undertaken at the Ruusbroec Institute since 2000.

Text editions of mystical and devotional texts

The Ruusbroec Institute cherishes its philological tradition. Its researchers make textual sources available (through text editions, repertories, codicological and bibliographical-analytical studies), and describe, analyse and interpret these source texts. This approach has always been a central strength of the Institute. 

Important text editions by (or with cooperation from) members of the Ruusbroec Institute:

Edition projects by members of the Ruusbroec Institute currently being undertaken:

  • The complete works of Hadewijch
  • Several collections of sermons (Een nuttelijc boec den kerstenen menschen; Hendrik van Santen ofm; the Arnhem mystical sermons)
  • Die grote euangelische peerle

Study and interpretation of mystical and devotional texts

Since its foundation, research at the Ruusbroec Institute has been known for its focus on two topics, both reflecting all three research activities:

The study of mysticism

The Ruusbroec Institute is well known for its expertise in the study of mysticism. Its influence on the study of mysticism in the Low Countries and on the international study of mysticism from the Low Countries cannot be overestimated. From the early days onwards the famous Brabantine mystic Jan van Ruusbroec has been at the centre of attention at the Institute, and it was Jozef Van Mierlo's zeal that put the mystic Hadewijch, who was still relatively unknown at the beginning of the twentieth century, on the map. Through editions and studies of their works, and the works of other mystics the network of medieval mysticism in the Low Countries and neighbouring regions  was brought to light. The study of anonymous mystical texts from the sixteenth century (Den tempel onser sielen and Die grote euangelische peerle) even resulted in the 'discovery' of a sixteenth century mystical renaissance in the Arnhem region, after Kees Schepers found a third mystical text - the Arnhem mystical sermons - that was written in the same convent.

The study of the religious textual culture in the Low Countries

 

Religious history

The focus on the philological study of religious and mystical texts at the Ruusbroec Institute traditionally goes hand-in-hand with research about the historical context in which these texts functioned. Focus is not limited to literary texts, rather it concerns religious culture in its entirety. Several members of the Institute published about historical topics, e.g. Jozef Andriessen about the history of the reformation. The Ruusbroec Institute Library was created to facilitate historical research and now harbours a unique collection of primary and secondary sources on the religious culture in the Low Countries (and neighbouring regions) from the late Middle Ages until the twentieth century. Current historical research projects about miracle books in the ancien régime and European stigmatics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries continue this historiographical tradition and make use of the wealth of this collection.