Popular religion in Medieval World.odt
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Temple October 5th
Popular religion in the late medieval world:
Download drop box.
What is popular belief? : Who are we talking about? How do you figure out what people believed?
It is in reference in the broad sense the lay people. (not clerics) How they expressed their faith in a day to
day basis. How they lived out their faith.
Reasons for so many people interested in pop religion in medieval.
Annales school: interest in the late medieval religion. Tracking historical change over long periods of
time. History that wasn’t traditional --> they wanted women's history poor history etc. They tracked
changes in medieval religion.
Reformation research: origins of religious reform
Anthropology: rituals and festivals--> how do outward festivals present themselves as reflections of
Interest in daily life and material culture in historical study in the last 40 years.
After 1450 better records to find answers to some of these questions.
Popular beliefs and practices of the time were shaped and influenced by interaction with the:
notions of gender
Focus on the late 14th and 15th century, (1350-onwards)
Popular belief and the supernatural
•Context – we need to understand that basic struggles influence popular belief. Surviving day to
day life was the most important thing to these lay people. Conditions of life were really bad.
These are people who get up every day and try not to die. No medical care no medicine no
welfare. You are always one bad crop away from starvation and death.
•The supernatural world is the more real world then the one they lived in. They believe that the
supernatural world is more substantial. Their physical bodies can decay but their souls cannot.
Their souls are everlasting.
•This gives them hope of something better beyond the struggles of their material lives.
•They look forward to the supernatural. They dwell upon it.
•They see themselves physically as a fusion of these worlds. Body soul and spirit. They see three
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parts of themselves. Their spirit is their identity personality. Their soul is eternal and separate.
They are a fusion of natural and supernatural. They are an example of how the natural and
supernatural can overlap. Which means that what is beyond them can also have this overlap. The
physical world could also have supernatural elements. God and the devil are present. They care
keen to look for signs of this. See omens portents or signs. God may communicate to you through
astrological signs. They will see natural disasters as supernatural communication. See the will of
God or the harm/evil of the devil.
•Sacramentalism: the fusion of super/natural reaches its highest point in the sacraments
specifically the Eucharist.
•This effects the way people attend church. Mass is very important. Most of the time the eucharist
is only offered to the clerics. It is offered on christmas and easter. They come to see the host on
sundays. They want to see god. To see the sacrament. They use the sacrament/ it offers them
many benefits. Example: If god is present in that wafer presumably it can protect the community
from harm. At planting time there will be a procession where they will go around the communal
land and bury pieces of the host around their fields. The host which has become god will protect
your crop. Transubstantiation.
•Saints: Very special dead. They can be relied upon for protection. For every activity their is a saint
for that. There is a saint for toothaches for butchers for lost children for whatever. Saint has a
specific empathy for something and perhaps intercede with god on your behalf.
Harm as well as help:
Three ways that the supernatural could impact their lives in bad ways:
•the devil himself can enter the world. Not just spiritual but semi-physical. If the devil can walk
the world he is a threat. Two threats: temptation--> tempt them into sin and draw them away from
god. Possession: he can enter into peoples bodies and use them. (there is a belief that saints and
sacraments could protect you from this)(also monks could protect them as well)
•people who die could go to purgatory: The idea is one goes to purgatory and suffers for a time for
their sins until the are pure enough to move on. The lay believe that these people in purgatory will
cause them harm. They will try to help speed the process of purgatory up.
The not quite so dead:
•there are different categories of dead.
•Ghosts exist: those who have died unshriven. They have come back to haunt the living because
they have not confessed their sins. They can be freed by acts of kindness and mercy. You can help
them not be ghosts anymore.
•Revenants- more physicality than a ghost. Example mothers who died in childbirth who come
back to drag their child into death with them or someone close by.
There is a great belief that these supernatural foes can be managed. Examples: thresholds (vamps can't go
into a home without invite) Thresholds can protect you. People will put charms and symbols and statues
of saints at their doors. Crossroads will have religious charms. All saints day and halloween: All the souls
in purgatory are let out for the night. Also they are mad.
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