Ancrene Riwle (also known as Ancrene Wisse) is a "manual for anchoresses", explaining the different aspects of religious rule and devotional conduct. It was written in the early 13th century (c.1230) and is addressed to three sisters. The author, a chaplain, may according to some theories have been an Augustinian priest of Wigmore Abbey in north-west Herefordshire.
In eight sections, different aspects of the anchoresses' life are dealt with in an accessible way. Both the psychological and physical elements of devotion and conduct are discussed, reflecting the changes that took place in religious doctrine in the 12th century: The rules of formal prayer were subordinated to the private meditations of the individual.
Important linguistic and thematic features link it to the texts of the Katherine Group.
Ancrene Riwle is a sophisticated work of great charm and accomplished style, widely considered to be the greatest Early Middle English prose work. The fact that seventeen manuscripts of the text survive (eleven of which in the original English, four in Latin and two in French) illustrates its great popularity which certainly was also due to the expressiveness of the work, enlivened with graphic details of everyday life, brief allegories and exempla.