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Belief and the shaping of medieval society
Author: Paul Fouracre

In early Christianity it was established that every church should have a light burning on the altar at all times. This unique study is about the material and social consequences of maintaining eternal lights. Never before has the subject been treated as important to the political economy, nor has it been explored over the whole medieval period. The cost of maintaining the lights meant that only the elite could afford to do so, and peasants were organised to provide funds for the lights. Later, as society became wealthier, a wider range of people became providers and organised themselves into guilds or confraternities in support of the church and with the particular aim of commemorating their members. Power over the lights, and over individual churches, shifted to these organisations, and, when belief in the efficacy of burning lights was challenged in the Reformation, it was such people who were capable of bringing the practice of burning eternal lights to a sudden and sometimes violent end. The study concludes that the practice of keeping a flame on the altar did indeed have important material and cultural consequences. Because it examines the relation between belief and materiality at every turn, the book also works as a guide to the way in which Western Europe developed, from the decline of the Roman Empire to the advent of the Protestant state.

Paul Fouracre

1025: 2 denarii or 2 denarii worth of wax to be paid annually, and the censuales to remain free, like the other tribute payers. But what was referred to in 837 as the ‘way’ or ‘condition’ ( ratio or conditio ) in which they would exist henceforth has in the 1025 charter become the lex under which they would live. The change in terminology, from conditio to lex , may reflect the way in which the censuales had become consolidated and recognised as a distinct category or group of persons, and reading out from the 1025 charter, it was a consolidation

in Eternal light and earthly concerns
Elite practice
Paul Fouracre

gifts to churches, do mention olives or oil or lighting, and sometimes all three together. Typical of simple appurtenance clauses that mention olives is the phrasing ‘land, vines, meadows, cultivated and uncultivated, olive groves, woods, orchards’. 58 The amounts of land given could be small, such as ‘half a casa ’. 59 The term casa refers to a peasant holding, and it is sometimes coupled with the word tributaria which means that the inhabitants of the land owed some kind of rent or services. It can be specified that the tribute payers were part of the gift

in Eternal light and earthly concerns
From devotion to destruction
Paul Fouracre

tabernacle. 19 In the last chapter it was shown that the categories of people who were obliged , often on a hereditary basis, to pay a charge for the lights and for other forms of support for the churches and monasteries were in decline in the central Middle Ages, although tithes, of which a part was assigned to payment for the lights, continued as a supposedly universal obligation. The hereditary tribute payers, and in particular the censuales or cerocesuales in Germany, lost their identity as privileged but dependent or ‘semi-free’ persons. This happened either

in Eternal light and earthly concerns
Paul Fouracre

commemoration in the form of eternal lights, and through the instigation of anniversary feasts. I will then introduce the evidence of estate surveys (polyptychs), an early example of which was seen in the last chapter in the lists of dues owed to the monastery of Bobbio. Polyptychs are important for showing the existence of tribute payers dedicated to the provision of light. For the first time they allow us to see a social layer between the nobility and the dependent peasantry. This layer, it will be argued, forms the constituency of those making small voluntary

in Eternal light and earthly concerns
Janet L. Nelson

been attacked by the Northmen for a number of years, were made into regular tribute-payers. The Northmen also got control of the islands all around Ireland, and stayed there without encountering any resistance from anyone. 4 Lothar, Louis and Charles sent envoys to Horic, king of the Danes, ordering him to restrain his own people from their attacks on Christians: otherwise

in The Annals of St-Bertin
David A. Warner

This chapter contains the annotated and translated text of The Chronicon of Thiermar of Merseburg.

in Ottonian Germany