Medieval Religious Culture and Fear

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To What Extent were Responses to Death Characterised by Fear in Medieval Religious Culture? This investigation will analyse responses to death in medieval religious culture. Relationships with death arguably varied between social classes, making it difficult to assert a generalised response to death. Death was commonplace amongst peasants and therefore few sources document it. Responses to death can be inferred by sermons, which were influential to the beliefs of lower classes. The nobility on the other hand, provided accounts of deaths and from these sources responses can be asserted. Similarly, it is difficult to assert a general definition of death as in the medieval period the concept of death was multidimensional. Death was both physical and spiritual to medieval religious culture. Additionally, medieval religious culture was diverse. This investigation will approach these problems by utilising specific religious sources, for both lower and upper classes and analysing their content to decipher whether responses to death were characterised by fear. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were plagued by devastating events including; The Great Famine (1315-1322), The Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453), the Wars of the Roses (1455-1487) and the Black Death (1348-1350). Society adapted to cope with the abundance of the death and this is evident in the numerous primary sources commenting on death in this period. Death was approached by medieval society from varying social and religious angles. For example, the Danse Macabre can be presented as either a social satire or a comment on religious culture. For the purpose of this essay, it is important to be selective of the abundant sources available, referring to sources with specific re... ... middle of paper ... ...ars: traditional religion in England, c. 1400-c. 1580 (Yale University Press, 2005). Fletcher, A., ‘Unnoticed Sermons from John Mirk’s Festial, Speculum, Vol. 55, No. 3 (Jul., 1980), 514-522. Ford, J., John Mirk's Festial: Orthodoxy, Lollardy, and the Common People in Fourteenth-Century England (DS Brewer, 2006). Huizinga, J., The Waning of the Middle Ages (Dover Publications, 1999). James, T., Black Death: The lasting impact (BBC History, 2011). Langmuir, G., ‘Review: ‪Sin and Fear‬: ‪The Emergence of a Western Guilt Culture, 13th-18th Centuries’, Medieval Academy of America, Vol. 67, No. 3 (1992), 657-659. ‬‬ Liguori, A. M., Preparation for Death Or Considerations on the Eternal Maxims (St Athanasius Press, 2010). Ross, C., Edward IV (Yale University Press, 1997). Rubin, M (ed)., Medieval Christianity in Practice (Princeton University Press, 2009).

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