Named for St. Mechtilde of Hackeborn, Mechtild was born to a noble Saxon family, and claimed to have had her first vision of the Holy Spirit at the age of 12. In 1230 she left her home to become a Beguine, and live a life of prayer and mortification under the guidance of Dominican friars. Around 1270, she joined the Cistercian nunnery at Helfta, where she lived the final years of her life favored by all who came to see her, and where she finished writing down the contents of the many divine revelations she claimed to have experienced.
Mechtild's writing is exuberant and emotional: her descriptions of her visions are filled with passion. Her images of Hell are believed by some scholars to have influenced Dante Alighieri when he wrote The Divine Comedy, and Mechtild is thought to have been represented by Dante in that work, in the character of Matelda.