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Author: Mairi Cowan

This book examines lay religious culture in Scottish towns between the Black Death and the Protestant Reformation. Part I looks at what the living did to influence the dead and at how the dead were believed to influence the living in turn. It shows that the living and the dead shared a reciprocal relationship of obligation and assistance, and that the bonds between the two groups were especially strong when they involved blood or guild kinship. Part II considers the overlapping communities in Scottish towns where people could personalize religious expression in a meaningful social context. Part III focuses on the period between 1350 and 1560 as one of disruption and development. It assesses weaknesses in the Scottish ecclesiastical structure and instances of religious dissent, and then it considers the Scottish Church’s response to these challenges. Two main arguments run through the book. The first is that most laypeople in Scottish towns continued to participate in orthodox Catholic practices right through to the mid-sixteenth century. The second major argument is that Catholic religious practices in Scottish towns underwent a significant shift between 1350 and 1560. This shift, which is most easily perceived when Scotland is considered within the broader European transition from the medieval to the early modern period, brought with it a kind of pre-Reformation reformation in religious practice.

Mairi Cowan

ritual in the parish church, but it was not the only one. The first religious ritual for most people would have been baptism, for while adult baptism had probably been common among the earliest Christians, infant baptism was the norm by the late medieval period in Europe. 50 As articulated in the charters from the church of St Nicholas, Aberdeen, baptism was seen as transformative and spiritually life-giving to people born into a

in Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns, c.1350–1560
Mairi Cowan

century, speaks of how it is right and just that the living should remember the identities and accomplishments of the deceased patrons of the church ‘whose names are in the book of life in heaven, but almost forgotten on earth’, so that ‘from their good work and their devotion those who are to come may take example’. 5 In this way, the dead were teachers to the living, guides for socially

in Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns, c.1350–1560
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Mairi Cowan

apostolic life in imitation of the original followers of Jesus, and a stress on the inner life of the pious individual. Although, as this book will discuss, the religious culture of Scotland was broadly in line with the rest of Europe, there were nevertheless a few structural elements of the Scottish Church that set it somewhat apart. At the beginning of the twelfth century, the ecclesiastical province of

in Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns, c.1350–1560
Mairi Cowan

accountability by asking for help directly from God – ‘Thy power defend ws, thy wisdome direct ws, thy fathirly piete correk ws; and send ws ane gracius life and ane blissit ending’ – but also for God’s help in the self-direction of a good life – ‘Iesu, gif ws grace to ordour our life and the werkis of our saule and body with actual entent.’ 2 People in the towns of Scotland ordered their individual religious

in Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns, c.1350–1560
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Mairi Cowan

authorities knew, certain persons in the south of Scotland were destroying churches, religious places, and the ornaments of the same, and they requested that the burgh authorities take charge of the church’s vestments and altar-plate until the ‘uproir and tumilt war put to tranquilite be the antient and wyse counsell of the realme’. 2 The personnel of St Nicholas were not alone in their concern over the

in Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns, c.1350–1560
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Mairi Cowan

standards of clerical behaviour, but he accepted the intercessory role of the Virgin Mary and rejected the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone. 2 In short, Lyndsay had complex views befitting a complex time. As a Catholic critic of the Catholic Church, he was not alone in early sixteenth-century Scotland. Contrary to what many books on Scottish history would suggest, religious life in pre

in Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns, c.1350–1560
Mairi Cowan

inspired urban Scots to seek a good death and long remembrance. A good life and a good death People’s desire for salvation (and their associated fear of damnation) is critical to explaining much of lay religious practice in late medieval and early modern Europe. 20 They believed that while God did not determine any soul to be damned, once a person was dead nothing that could

in Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns, c.1350–1560
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Mairi Cowan

in asserting their individual identities, with their frustrations in the face of systemic weaknesses and their repeated efforts at reform. This bell survived the Protestant Reformation only to be fractured and recast in the nineteenth century. 1 Like the religious culture it once represented, the bell can now be heard only as through a glass, muffled; the overtones of its peals come to us in the form of scattered evidence

in Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns, c.1350–1560
Author: J. J. Anderson

This book is an open-ended critical account of the Gawain-poems. The four poems of MS Cotton Nero A.x, Art. 3 are untitled in the manuscript, but titled by modern editors, in manuscript order: Pearl, Cleanness (or Purity), Patience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The poems testify that he was cultivated, with an appreciation of the finer points of chivalric life, and also deeply religious - a cleric, no doubt, given his biblical knowledge, his interest in Christian doctrine, and his understanding of sermon style. Pearl is a religious dream-vision in which the dream is largely taken up by dialogue between the narrator or dreamer, as a figure in his dream, and a woman who is a fount of divine wisdom. Cleanness combines discussion of a religious virtue with retelling of stories from the Bible. Its three main stories are from the Old Testament, and they centre on Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Belshazzar's feast. Patience is a poem that combines discussion of a moral quality with biblical narrative, in the case of Patience, one narrative only, the story of Jonah.Sir Gawain is a record of, and tribute to, the beauties and pleasures of chivalric life. Pearl, Cleanness, and Patience suggest that for the poet national events may have merged with events in his own life to challenge his faith. With Gawain too it is possible that the public and the personal intermingle to shake his faith in chivalry and the feudal model of social order.