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Author: Laura Varnam

The church as sacred space places the reader at the heart of medieval religious life, standing inside the church with the medieval laity in order to ask what the church meant to them and why. It examines the church as a building, idea, and community, and explores the ways in which the sanctity of the church was crucial to its place at the centre of lay devotion and parish life. At a time when the parish church was facing competition for lay attention, and dissenting movements such as Lollardy were challenging the relevance of the material church, the book examines what was at stake in discussions of sanctity and its manifestations. Exploring a range of Middle English literature alongside liturgy, architecture, and material culture, the book explores the ways in which the sanctity of the church was constructed and maintained for the edification of the laity. Drawing on a wide range of contemporary theoretical approaches, the book offers a reading of the church as continually produced and negotiated by the rituals, performances, and practices of its lay communities, who were constantly being asked to attend to its material form, visual decorations, and significance. The meaning of the church was a dominant question in late-medieval religious culture and this book provides an invaluable context for students and academics working on lay religious experience and canonical Middle English texts.

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Reading sacred space in late medieval England
Laura Varnam

just as much as Derrida, Foucault, and Žižek. Theory helps us to open texts up and allow them to speak to us.’5 The fourteenth- and fifteenth-century texts that are my focus in this book are just as theoretical as their modern counterparts. From allegorical readings of church architecture to foundation legends, exempla warning against sacrilege to treatises on the relationship between the material and spiritual church, the medieval writers under discussion are themselves asking theoretical questions. What does the church symbolise, how is sanctity produced and

in The church as sacred space in Middle English literature and culture