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Placing the people at the heart of sacred space

4 What the church betokeneth: Placing the people at the heart of sacred space In the Middle English translation of the compendium for Lollard preachers, the Rosarium Theologie, the entry for ‘edifiyng’ asks: ‘wilt þou belde þe house of God?’ If so, the reader is instructed to proceed as follows: Giffe to trewe pore men warof þei may liffe and þou has edified a resonable house to God. Men forsoþ duelleþ in beledyngz, God forsoþ in holi men. Wat kynez þerof be þai þat spoilez men & makeþ edifyngz of martirez? Þei made habitacions of men and sturbiliþ habitacions

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

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.

Consecration, restoration, and translation

2 The Book of the Foundation of St Bartholomew’s Church: Consecration, restoration, and translation So al these thyngis that bene seide or shall be seide, they beholde the ende and consummacioun of this document. For trewly God is yn this place.1 This statement appears midway through the Middle English translation of the twelfth-century Latin foundation legend known as The Book of the Foundation of St Bartholomew’s Church. As a foundation legend, the text’s primary aim is to narrate the construction of the church in question: St Bartholomew the Great, in

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

1 The church consecration ceremony and the construction of sacred space The church consecration ceremony was the chief ritual expression of sanctity in the Middle Ages, and the symbolism and practice that the ceremony established were the foundation for all subsequent encounters with sacred space. Despite this fact, surprisingly little research has been done on the ceremony. The most illuminating recent studies are Dawn Marie Hayes’s discussion in Body and Sacred Place in Medieval Europe and Brian Repsher’s The Rite of Church Dedication in the Early Medieval Era

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

5 Reform and the Merovingian Church Ian Wood The Carolingian Church has long been recognised as marking a highpoint in the religious history of the early Middle Ages, though our understanding of that Church has been radically and sympathetically transformed in recent years by a remarkable generation of (predominantly female) scholars, and not least by Mayke de Jong.1 By contrast, the Merovingian Church has been rather less sympathetically treated. The standard picture is that from the end of the sixth century it was an institution that was in need of reform

in Religious Franks

A ROUND the year 1000, the Latin Church in many ways defined western Europe. Through a string of chapels, churches, monasteries and clergy extending from Ireland into eastern Europe and beyond the Elbe and Saale Rivers, from the Scandinavian countries to the northern Iberian peninsula, and especially in the European heartlands of Italy, France and the German Empire, the Latin Church was beginning physically to dominate the landscape of western Europe. It also began the immense task of trying to reshape the thought patterns of its many peoples. Led by the

in Reform and papacy in the eleventh century
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Epilogue By a Chapel as I came is a little-known fifteenth-century carol in which the narrator happens upon Christ, who is on his way to church: And By a chapell as y Came, Mett y wythe Ihū to chyrcheward gone Petur and Pawle, thomas & Ihon, And hys desyplys Euery-chone. Mery hyt ys in may mornyng, Mery ways ffor to gonne.1 The narrator falls into step with Christ and his disciples as they make their way ‘chyrcheward’, and what they discover inside the chapel is truly marvellous: the saints are performing the liturgy. Sente Thomas þe Bellys gane ryng, And

in The church as sacred space in Middle English literature and culture
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Pastoral care in the parish church

3 Sacred and profane: Pastoral care in the parish church The fourteenth-century conduct poem How the Goode Wife Taught Hyr Doughter begins by establishing the centrality of the church in the life of the medieval laywoman. Good conduct on the part of the daughter is founded upon supporting the parish church: spiritually, financially, and through good behaviour. Doughter, and thou wylle be a wyfe, Wysely to wyrche in all thi lyfe Serve God, and kepe thy chyrche, And myche the better thou shal wyrche. To go to chyrch, lette for no reyne, And that schall helpe thee

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

Wyclif’s views on the church and the papacy were recorded systematically in two roughly contemporary treatises, On the Church (1378–79) and On the Power of the Pope (late 1379). His conception of the church, like his understanding of the nature of Scripture, was underpinned quite conspicuously by his philosophical realism, which privileged the eternal over the finite and ephemeral. In the first chapter of On the Church , in response to his initial desire to describe the quiddity of the church, he therefore claims simply that the

in John Wyclif
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Reading sacred space in late medieval England

glased. Goth up and doth yeur offerynge. Ye semeth half amased’.1 The Pardoner and his companions gaze ‘half amased’ upon the stained glass and, perhaps unsurprisingly given their status as the ‘lewdest’ pilgrims on the road to Canterbury, they are unsuccessful in deciphering the iconography. But crucially, they do try. Even men in a state of sin are conditioned by their pastoral instruction to read the stained glass and to interpret the architecture and symbols that surround them when they enter the medieval cathedral. The church building is at the heart of lay piety

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