Communities of religion
in Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns, c.1350–1560
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This chapter examines townspeople’s participation in parishes, guilds, and the burghs themselves. Each of these groups employed religious symbols to express a sense of community and each deployed religious mechanisms to strengthen communal endeavours. Although their memberships were frequently overlapping and sometimes also contested, for the most part the various communities of religion in Scottish towns were seen as mutually reinforcing rather than mutually exclusive. The smooth and harmonious unity within and between groups that was espoused in theory was sometimes punctured in practice by conflicts arising from the messy realities of day-to-day life, but when this happened Scottish townspeople sought to heal the rift through reconciliation enacted in religiously significant space. Thus for most Scottish townspeople different religious communities and their various goals tended to be complementary in principle. Even if there were in practice certain areas of tension and occasional instances of outright hostility between different religious groups, devotion within the parish and the guild was, nonetheless, generally seen as intrinsic to the welfare of the town.

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