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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

. Furthermore, increased competition among the parish churches, cathedrals, and pilgrimage sites of medieval England meant that sanctity was increasingly valuable as a form of symbolic capital that could improve a church’s social as well as sacred status in the world. Sacred spaces such as Canterbury Cathedral were a multimedia project and a community concern. They were constructed out of a fusion of architecture, iconography, material culture, and narrative practice. Master builders and artists worked together to create sacred spaces from stone, stained glass and sculpture

in The church as sacred space in Middle English literature and culture
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A context for The Faerie Queene
Margaret Christian

directed to the laity. Although Tacitean and other more skeptical modes of history were in competition with popular providentialism in Renaissance England,8 in pulpit discourse, God was usually understood to be responsible for all events, those of secular as well as biblical history.9 Oneself and one’s contemporaries no less than biblical figures were characters in God’s story. The traditional Christian approach to biblical exegesis was already well established when Nicholas of Lyra applied the label “four-fold method” to the range of readings (the four are the literal

in Spenserian allegory and Elizabethan biblical exegesis
Consecration, restoration, and translation
Laura Varnam

The final section of this chapter will show how this map places St Bartholomew’s in direct competition with its ecclesiastical neighbours. Promoting the sanctity of the church as more potent than that of St Paul’s, Westminster Abbey and even Canterbury Cathedral, the text makes clear that St Bartholomew’s is not only the most sacred space in medieval London but in the world of Christian pilgrimage. All roads lead to St Bartholomew’s and to the confirmation of The Book’s assertion that ‘trewly God is yn this place’. The architexture of The Book of the Foundation: The

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

(meanings) may vary considerably’ among participants.36 This is compounded because the ritual process also acts as a space for social negotiation and competition, functioning as what Mary Louise Pratt has called a ‘contact zone’ in which ‘peoples geographically and historically separated come into contact with each other and establish ongoing relations’.37 Pratt’s concept is rooted in imperial encounters, which The construction of sacred space 39 frequently involve ‘conditions of coercion, radical inequality, and intractable conflict’, but it can be adapted to see the

in The church as sacred space in Middle English literature and culture
Placing the people at the heart of sacred space
Laura Varnam

churches of the parish in this poem, but stands in direct competition, not only draining the financial resources of the laity but endangering their spiritual lives. The Lanterne declares that ‘þe fendis chirche pursueþ Cristis chirche in malice bi weye of sclaundir & sleeyng’ but Christ’s church ‘pursweþ yuel lyuars in charite bi weye of amendement’ (p. 133). Amendment is a keyword in Pierce the Ploughman’s Creed. The friars try to trick the narrator into ‘amending’ their houses by making financial donations, a purely material interpretation of amendment that compounds

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

imagines Satan’s crime as a failure to accept sovereign checks on his power and limits upon his territorial ambitions. The latter stages of the poem reveal Satan’s post-lapsarian pursuit of space and territory as he operates a rival kingdom in hell and laments the fact that Adam and Eve will one day claim and settle his former habitations in heaven. Themes of territorial competition, expansion, and inheritance manifest in various wider traditions concerning the fall of the angels, too. Irish vernacular adaptations in particular depict how Satan views humankind as rival

in Rebel angels
Jill Fitzgerald

-Saxon Christian subjectivity. 17 Themes of territorial competition, expansion, and inheritance manifest themselves in various Insular traditions concerning the fall of the angels. Irish vernacular adaptations make for an instructive comparison with those in Old English, because the Irish interpreted the narrative in relation to culturally specific social and legal customs, and also because the Irish drew directly on a particular apocryphal source, the Vita Adae et Evae (‘The Life of Adam and Eve’), which seems to have had limited influence at best in Anglo-Saxon England. In

in Rebel angels
Mary A. Blackstone

gentry and nobility. It also included religious diversity. Many would have been the same folks that attended local parish churches but, as Jewell noted, knew ‘not, neither what they leaue nor what they should receiue’. We know, however, that some were staunch recusants who would not have been found in any Protestant church.15 Paul Whitfield White has argued that even Protestants of the Puritan persuasion would have gone to plays.16 Puritans who were especially vocal in citing the theatre as direct moral and performative competition with religious belief and church

in Forms of faith
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Jill Fitzgerald

) by making smoke arise from that spot ‘of ðam wangstede … rec astigan’, ll. 793a–94b) where the Cross is buried. In associating Christ’s Cross with a goldhord , Cynewulf invokes the idea that buried treasure, like spiritual knowledge, is being placed back into circulation. There follows a dramatisation of a dispute over the ownership of a hoard, competition for a space deemed sacred and valuable to Christians and demons alike. To become fully Christian, Judas must reclaim a goldhord , the contested space that the devil believes his own possession. Once the Cross

in Rebel angels