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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.

’s admission to a church community. 2 The popularity of the Protestant conversion narrative in this period is allied to a growing eschatological impatience on the part of members of the gathered churches (independent congregations of both separatist and non-separatist believers). 3 These were radical Protestants who had survived the Civil War and witnessed the increasing religious

in Conversions

saved. […] The third purpose is that prayers offered in the church be surely heard. […] The fourth reason for the consecration of the church is to provide a place where praises may be rendered to God. […] Fifthly, the church is consecrated so that the sacraments may be administered there.6 The practice of consecration ensured that the church truly was God’s house on earth and that his eyes and ears would have attendance upon the building and its congregation (1 Kings, 8.29; 2 Chronicles, 6.40). The consecration ceremony enabled the community to ‘communicate with and

in The church as sacred space in Middle English literature and culture
And other questions about gender, race, and the visibility of Protestant saints

Christ’s rule on earth, the publication of Exceeding riches of grace promotes the idea that Sarah Wight is herself an extraordinary conduit of divine grace. The radically religious had a delicate line to walk. They celebrated the extraordinary receptivity of grace of certain members of their congregations, while they also assured most other members of the congregation that

in Conversions
Cookery texts as a source in lived religion

’ use of 136 Textuality and intertextuality primary sources. First, scholars pursuing lived religion bring new questions to traditional sources, reading sermons, for example, not for their expression of the preacher’s theology but for what they suggest about laypeople’s practices. Dawn Coleman has examined how antebellum American sermons can reveal ‘listening’ as a religious practice. Jacob Blosser and Marie Griffith have identified sermons in which ministers castigate congregations for sleeping or chatting during services; these excoriations reveal something about

in Reading and writing recipe books, 1550–1800
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sent Collas [Nicholas] þe mas gane syng, sente Ihon toke þat swete offeryng, And By a chapell as y Came. Mery hyt ys. (lines 5–8) In this ‘chanson d’aventure’ we enter a wonderful space in which the saints have stepped down from the painted walls of the church to officiate the mass and ring the bells, calling the congregation to God’s house on earth. Christ and the Virgin are in attendance, portrayed as prosperous donors offering up richly symbolic gifts: Owre lorde offeryd whate he wollde, A challes alle off ryche rede gollde; Owre lady, þe crowne off hyr mowlde

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

religious experience. It is no surprise that the mid-fifteenth century saw the translation into Middle English of the sections of Durandus’s Rationale that dealt with this very relationship and formed the foundation of medieval thinking about architecture, community, and sanctity. What the Church Betokeneth is a text whose renewed relevance shows just how inseparable the 232 The church as sacred space in Middle English literature and culture material building and its congregation really were and it provides the enthusiastic supporters of England’s fair churches with a

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

with the visual and material decorations of the parish church, taught the laity how to conduct themselves as good Christians, in particular with respect to the space of the church itself. The requirement for yearly confession meant that the laity needed to be able to identify their sins, and a major area of concern was the sins that took place in and around the parish church. This is crucial because it is specifically the sanctity of the church that is threatened by lay misbehaviour. It is the duty of the parish priest to teach his congregation how to behave in order

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

brought about by each congregation member’s individual conversion. As Donne himself puts it: ‘It hath alwaies beene the Lords way to glorifie himselfe in the conversion of Men, by the ministery of Men’ (VI, 10, 205). The traditional conclusion of each sermon – the word ‘Amen’ (from the Hebrew, meaning ‘So be it’/‘Truly’) – attests to the performative potential with which the sermon was believed to be endowed. The preacher was eager to exploit the sermon’s performative power, for example when he urges his listeners to dedicate themselves to Christ at the very moment of

in John Donne’s Performances
The abortive Northern Rebellion of 1663

, there had been a largely passive acceptance of the Commonwealth’s religious regime.30 Although pockets of Roman Catholicism were still seen as an ongoing issue in the Palatinate throughout the period, by the early 1660s it was to be nonconformity and the Baptist congregations, in particular, that were seen as the major threat. In Durham, as elsewhere in the country, religious dissent now tended to be associated with sedition, and the strength of the newly restored Church was soon used to impose some control on the area. The returning bishop, John Cosin, also held the

in From Republic to Restoration