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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.

virtue (human agency), Christian marriage and the monastic or religious life. Their commentaries thereon are heavy with implications for religious porosity, and at the same time suggest that the path back to porosity coincides with Taylor’s distinction of the ‘open’ immanent frame which describes how buffered interiority can be responsive to a transcendent meaning and purpose from without. 1 It would be wrong to reduce the complaints of the French and English Catholic authors about secular morals simply to a lament over moral decadence in

in Catholic literature and secularisation in France and England, 1880–1914
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A world of difference: religion, literary form, and the negotiation of conflict in early modern England

Hoghton Tower and organized by Richard Wilson, ‘Lancastrian Shakespeare:  Religion, Region, Patronage and Performance’, was hugely influential in calling attention to the extent to which Catholicism formed an important part of the intellectual and cultural landscape of England in the Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods. The Lancashire conference, which probably did more than any other single event in the past two decades to fuel a desire among literary scholars and historians to explore the religious life of early modern England, resulted in two important volumes

in Forms of faith

communities, populations in flux etc. – tended to contribute to the privatisation and compartmentalisation of religious life and to the organisation of activities by the State. Religiosity might arguably create a more favourable environment for resistance to secularisation, but, again as we have argued, secularisation is more reliably identified by the tendency to place private religious authority over the ecclesial. In this sense, the towns, with their more fragmented communities, arguably provided more propitious conditions in which secularisation could flourish

in Catholic literature and secularisation in France and England, 1880–1914
Placing the people at the heart of sacred space

involved all levels of society, from the rich donors who could afford to fund stained glass windows to the everyday laypeople who left money in their wills for the upkeep of the church fabric. The parish church was not simply a building to be read, or a sign of orthodox belief, or an indictment of contemporary corruption, it was a crucial part of a living, breathing community. Not only was the parish church at the very heart of religious life, it had a place in the heart of its parishioners. Dives and Pauper, the fifteenth-century treatise on the Decalogue, exemplifies

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

revenged on the whole pack’ (Twelfth Night, 5.1.365). Shakespearean theatre may have helped ‘gentleness’ prevail over ‘strong enforcement’; but if its evocation of those ‘better days’ before the Reformation, when ‘bells have knolled to church’ (As You Like It, 2.7.103–​13), was meant to sound ecumenical, why did this compel the men in black to object, as does Jacques, that it is from the ‘religious life’ of sequestered ‘convertites’ that more is ‘to be heard and learned’ (5.4.170–​4)? And if Catholic allusions, such as the report of Portia lingering ‘By holy crosses

in Forms of faith

and Bethshemites was also bubonic plague. Thus, the Bible story was made to allegorize the 1563 London plague, just as Spenser would create allegorical equivalents for moments of England’s national and religious life. Grindal’s expectation, that his hearers would easily decode and apply the individual details of the biblical story to England (“Did not we wretchedly leese the Ark?”), suggests that such services trained them well to decode and apply the details of Spenser’s fiction. When the plague returned to London in 1593, the prayers and composite psalm together

in Spenserian allegory and Elizabethan biblical exegesis