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Elite practice
Paul Fouracre

This chapter shows how resources dedicated to the lights were institutionalised in the different parts of Europe. This was against a background of an increasing shortage of olive oil. Miracles which related to the shortage are analysed. Frankish charters of immunity receive close attention for they show how rulers invested the lights. The situation in France, Italy and Spain is compared in order to investigate what the social consequences were of making people contribute to the costs of the lights.

in Eternal light and earthly concerns
Belief and the shaping of medieval society
Author: Paul Fouracre

In early Christianity it was established that every church should have a light burning on the altar at all times. This unique study is about the material and social consequences of maintaining eternal lights. Never before has the subject been treated as important to the political economy, nor has it been explored over the whole medieval period. The cost of maintaining the lights meant that only the elite could afford to do so, and peasants were organised to provide funds for the lights. Later, as society became wealthier, a wider range of people became providers and organised themselves into guilds or confraternities in support of the church and with the particular aim of commemorating their members. Power over the lights, and over individual churches, shifted to these organisations, and, when belief in the efficacy of burning lights was challenged in the Reformation, it was such people who were capable of bringing the practice of burning eternal lights to a sudden and sometimes violent end. The study concludes that the practice of keeping a flame on the altar did indeed have important material and cultural consequences. Because it examines the relation between belief and materiality at every turn, the book also works as a guide to the way in which Western Europe developed, from the decline of the Roman Empire to the advent of the Protestant state.

Abstract only
Paul Fouracre

The Introduction establishes the scope of the subject. It examines previous work in the area and asks why the subject of providing for the lights has not had more attention. It argues that the topic is certainly worth sustained investigation and sets out a plan for the study as a whole

in Eternal light and earthly concerns
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The ‘Carolingian moment’
Paul Fouracre

It is shown here how the Carolingian rulers of Francia legislated to make every community contribute to the cost of the lights. It begins with Charlemagne’s conquest of northern Italy and his appropriation of oil supplies from the region. This shows how providing for the lights was associated with power, and the chapter traces this out in the evidence of laws and church councils. Since there was a determined effort to spread the costs of lighting throughout society, it becomes possible to see a response at community level. It is seen that categories of people became tributaries to the church with a hereditary obligation to provide for the lights.

in Eternal light and earthly concerns
Paul Fouracre

This, the longest chapter in the work, examines in more detail how peasants on estates were organized to provide resources for church lights. There is a particular focus on church estate records (polyptychs) from the mid-ninth century onwards, the aim being to identify the social range of people who paid for the lights on a hereditary basis. The emergence of the guild is also examined. A sort of ‘middling group’ of people who contributed to the lights are identified and traced in France, Italy, Spain and England. Resistance to the forced cultivation of olives is discussed in relation to a famous case from Italy. The chapter closes with a survey of the social structure underpinning the supply of materials for the lights across Europe.

in Eternal light and earthly concerns
Paul Fouracre

Here the social consequences of maintaining the lights are examined in greater detail. The discussion builds on the results of Chapter 4. At issue are two kinds of people: censuales, or cerocensuales in Germany and colliberti in France. Were they both hereditary tribute payers, formed as a group by the need to supply the Church? A lengthy discussion concludes that the censuales were a group called into being by the needs of the Church in this way, but that the colliberti were not. The discussion contributes to a long-running debate about the nature of servitude, manumission and obligation. The chapter ends by looking at the conditions under which the censuales lived and how their standing changed as towns grew and social distinctions were relaxed.

in Eternal light and earthly concerns
From devotion to destruction
Paul Fouracre

The last chapter traces the high-point of giving for the lights as guilds and confraternities mushroomed. A solid belief in Purgatory encouraged people to give in order to earn time off this pain. The use of wax for the lights grew until it was necessary to import wax into Western Europe. By the early sixteenth century, the cost of the lights was met predominantly by voluntary associations. The censuales and other tributary groups declined in a predominantly urban environment. Urban associations, however, gained control of much church funding, and they were instrumental in determining responses to reform teaching. When the belief in Purgatory came to an end, funding for the lights ended abruptly. This is the final twist in the relationship between belief and termaiality.

in Eternal light and earthly concerns
A sixteenth-century response to Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft
Editor: Eric Pudney

This book is the first published edition of a previously unknown manuscript treatise on the theological underpinnings of witchcraft belief in late sixteenth-century England. The treatise comprises a point-by-point response to the most famous early modern English work on witchcraft, Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584). It was written by a personal friend of Scot’s, and internal evidence demonstrates that it offers critical feedback on a now-lost draft version of the Discoverie prior to the publication of that book, providing a rebuttal to Scot’s arguments in much greater detail than any other extant text, and showing precisely why his views were so controversial in their own time. The treatise is also a highly original and sophisticated theoretical defence of witchcraft belief in its own right, and the author’s position is based on detailed scriptural and theological arguments which are not found in any other English writings on the subject. The treatise’s arguments connect witchcraft belief to Reformed Protestant ideas about conscience, the devil, and the correct interpretation of scripture, and demonstrate the broader significance of witchcraft belief within this intellectual framework. It thereby provides evidence that the debate on witchcraft, as represented by the more dogmatic and formulaic printed works on the subject, shied away from the underlying issues which the author of the treatise (in a work never intended for publication) tackles explicitly.

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Eric Pudney

The introduction describes the manuscript treatise, providing detailed arguments as to its date and authorship. It highlights the treatise’s relationship to Scot’s Discoverie, showing that the treatise is a response to a draft version of that book, and that it was written by a personal friend of Scot’s. It goes on to discuss the significance of the treatise in relation to the witchcraft debate that began at this time, and shows that the treatise reveals a more complex and nuanced view of witchcraft than the views typically expressed in printed works on the subject.

in A defence of witchcraft belief
Abstract only
Eric Pudney

The text of the treatise comprises a list of numbered responses to ‘reasons’, which correspond closely to sections of the printed version of Scot’s Discoverie. The text is provided together with excerpts from the relevant parts of the Discoverie for comparison, and is fully annotated. The author uses a variety of theological sources in addition to biblical quotations, including St Augustine, Calvin, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Cyprian, and Chrysostom. The treatise touches on a range of issues in relation to witchcraft, including the veracity and causes of witches’ confessions, the question of whether accused witches are mentally ill or not, whether witches are guilty of idolatry and apostasy, and the circumstances under which execution is justified. The author presents a thorough critique of Scot’s method, as well as his conclusions.

in A defence of witchcraft belief