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  • Cited by 3
  • Volume 4: Christianity in Western Europe, c.1100–c.1500
  • Edited by Miri Rubin, Queen Mary University of London, Walter Simons, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire
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Book description

During the early middle ages, Europe developed complex and varied Christian cultures, and from about 1100 secular rulers, competing factions and inspired individuals continued to engender a diverse and ever-changing mix within Christian society. This volume explores the wide range of institutions, practices and experiences associated with the life of European Christians in the later middle ages. The clergy of this period initiated new approaches to the role of priests, bishops and popes, and developed an ambitious project to instruct the laity. For lay people, the practices of parish religion were central, but many sought additional ways to enrich their lives as Christians. Impulses towards reform and renewal periodically swept across Europe, led by charismatic preachers and supported by secular rulers. This book provides accessible accounts of these complex historical processes and entices the reader towards further enquiry.

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Contents


Page 1 of 2


  • 1 - Clerical purity and the re-ordered world
    pp 9-21
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Caesarius of Heisterbach combines his relish in telling stories that discomfit priests with a knowledge, even an acceptance of human frailty. For Caesarius celibacy is indeed of paramount importance for both clerks and monks; nonetheless, even those who fail to observe it can count on forgiveness provided they truly repent. The Lateran Council of 1215, and the subsequent dissemination of its canons, set the seal on the new order in the Christian world. The decrees of Lateran IV in effect secured the monasticisation of the clergy. A sinful clergy, insisted Innocent III, is the root of all evil, 'faith decays, religion grows deformed, liberty is thwarted. In Summa confessorum, Thomas of Chobham argues that it was a lesser sin for a cleric to marry secretly than it was for him to have extra-marital sex and to express in more general terms doubts about the legitimacy of enforcing clerical celibacy.
  • 2 - The bishops of Rome, 1100–1300
    pp 22-38
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter discusses the principal components of papal overlordship in the High Middle Ages and the criticisms levelled against overweening Roman might. The twelfth century witnessed the first large 'general' synods since the seminal councils of the fourth to the ninth centuries. Another procedure that added further to the business of the curia and to the prestige and authority of the papacy involved the canonization of saints. The emergence of papal power as an international force in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries could not have happened without the parallel development of two characteristic high-medieval institutions. In the next two centuries, proclamation by a pope was a virtual sine qua non for Holy War, whether directed against Muslims, Cathars, pagans or the political enemies of Rome. The chapter also considers the apostolic see's relationship with peoples on the expanding Latin-Christian periphery and beyond between 1100 and 1300.
  • 3 - Religious poverty and the search for perfection
    pp 39-53
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Poverty, whether spiritual or material through renunciation of wealth, lay at the core of the twelfth century's search for religious perfection and its embrace of apostolic ideals. Monks, nuns, canons, canonesses, lay people and dissidents espoused the same scripture-based ideals. Lay people also aspired to lead a life marked by poverty, preaching, chastity and manual labour. Bernard of Clairvaux and the Cistercians at times dominate the telling of twelfth-century religious history and overshadow Benedictine monasticism. The Cathars, as criticised by Evervin of Steinfeld and later writers, demonstrated remarkable austerity and command of Scripture. An anonymous chronicler of Laon, writing around 1180, compared the Humiliati and the Waldensians for their rejection of oath-taking. Walter Simons' study of beguines in the Low Countries signals the region's advanced level of urbanisation and literacy and women's contribution to economic production. The ideals of poverty and religious perfection motivated twelfth-century Christians across Europe.
  • 4 - Monastic and religious orders, c. 1100–c. 1350
    pp 54-72
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter shows that the twelfth and thirteenth centuries manifest an embarrassment of riches: the number, variety and development of monastic and religious orders in this period is overwhelming. It also discusses traditional Benedictine monasticism, and considers the changes that came in the twelfth century. The Cistercians were one of the great historical enterprises of Western monasticism. The Premonstratensians belongs to the family of Augustinian canons. In the Augustinian mould the Premonstratensians combined community life with a pastoral mission. The Cistercians were more positive in their dealings with the Templars. In 1119 Hugh de Payns, a knight from Champagne, organised his companions into soldier-monks. Their founder Bruno, a teacher at Cologne, was fascinated by the stories of the hermits of the desert in Late Antiquity. The foundation of the Franciscans and the Dominicans shortly after 1200 resulted from a new surge of religious feeling and desire for vita apostolica, in imitation of the lives of the apostles.
  • 5 - The theological framework
    pp 73-88
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The thirteenth century was one of the most theologically vibrant periods in the history of the Christian church. It was in this period that the subject matter of theology was more closely defined, and that theology became a subject for study in educational institutions. One of the features of the Renaissance was urban life, which experienced a growth and popularity it had not known since the Roman era. By 1200, anyone who aspired to the best education in theology made their way to Paris. Under Aristotelian influence, it was easy to produce theologies that were pantheistic or subsumed incorporeal individuals into a single undivided intelligence. As Christian theologians grew more knowledgeable of Jewish biblical interpretation, commentators from that tradition, especially Maimonides and Rashi, were quoted with admiration, and even given preference over some Christian readings of texts. Over time, philosophical theology was confined to an increasingly narrow academic ghetto, and science and rationality moved to conquer the world.
  • 6 - The legal underpinnings
    pp 89-98
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The legal underpinnings of the Western church experienced a major transformation during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This was a period in which papal legislation found its stride, in the form of conciliar decrees and papal decisions. Canon law collections provide a window into the rediscovery of Justinian's compilations, because they incorporated snippets of Roman law as it became available. Later papal legislation appears in other similar collections, including the Liber sextus of Pope Boniface VIII. Law professors at Bologna and elsewhere lectured on the collections of decretals, producing commentaries and summas. Medieval legal procedure relied heavily on both Roman and canon law. With respect to the laws of the church, the move towards complexity was also a product of the encounter with Justinian's Roman law. The thematic scope of canon law was in the main laid down with the Gratian's Decretum, which took its cue from the wide range of matters that French bishop Ivo treated in the Panormia.
  • 7 - Material support I: parishes
    pp 99-106
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The thirteenth century saw the triumph of the Gothic style in architecture in the building of great cathedrals all across Europe, a phenomenon much celebrated by modern art historians. The material support offered to ecclesiastical institutions is probably most often explored by historians with regard to aristocratic patronage and to donations made in connection with the preparations for a 'Good Death'. The Fourth Lateran Council, for example, apparently dealt with the issue by decreeing that all sacraments had to be administered for free, contrary to customary practice. The papacy not only tried to control lay payments to local churches more vigorously but ecclesiastical expenditure also became the object of scrutiny and legislation in the thirteenth century. The earliest English examples show that initially bishops who approved such grants considered them to be temporary and required owners to attend parish services as well. One document from the city hospital in Vienna can illustrate the new directions of material support.
  • 8 - Material support II: religious orders
    pp 107-113
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The twelfth and thirteenth centuries saw great changes in the nature of the material support for institutions within the monastic and religious orders. Early medieval material support for monastic houses came from a number of sources. For some religious houses a further source of material support came from pilgrims and visitors to their saints, shrines and relics. The friars came to attract the material support that had hitherto been lavished on the monastic order. Monastic endowments continued to be made, patrons continued to seek burial in monasteries, men continued to become monks and canons, and women nuns. Charters also indicate that those providing material support for the monastic order were now likely to be more demanding in return for their generosity. Monks were not the only ones who could pray for salvation. This could be done by a priest or chaplain employed by a family, in a parish church, or for a guild or lay confraternity.
  • 9 - The Word and its diffusion
    pp 114-132
  • View abstract

    Summary

    In the late twelfth century, the church formulated a pastoral mission which sought to Christianise Europe anew and, through preaching, to diffuse the word of God to all the lands that lay on Christendom's frontiers and well beyond. The Cistercian preaching mission to the Cathars signals a volte-face in the history of monastic preaching, but not one that was altogether unfamiliar. Innocent's pontificate was marked by its attentiveness to the laity's need for spiritual nourishment, the ministry of the word through preaching. Words, even Bernardino's persuasive words, were not always enough to lead the public away from vices. Observant Franciscans were masters of a genre which fused together image, word and gesture in a spectacular new way. As preaching events developed into spectacles, so the theatre of preaching evolved to accommodate the diffusion of the Word. With the advent of printing in the fifteenth century, sermon collections, among the first texts to be printed, were initially printed in Latin editions.
  • 10 - Christians and Jews
    pp 133-148
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Like Muslims, Jews were outside the Christian faith but, unlike the Muslims, they were present within Christian society. The concept of boundary and that of the imagined Jew are both keys for deciphering the code of the relations between Christians and Jews in the Middle Ages, particularly in the thirteenth century. Medieval ecclesiastical legislation upheld the rights of Jews to protection and to an existence with a modicum of honour in the Christian world, and several popes issued protective bulls. An important milestone in the attitude of the church towards the Jews was the Fourth Lateran Council, convened in the Lateran Palace in Rome by Pope Innocent III. In the Middle Ages conversion generally operates in a single direction, from Judaism to Christianity, and traditionally the church continued to oppose forced conversions. The first recorded instance of Jews being accused of the ritual murder of Christians is in the mid-twelfth century.
  • 11 - Christendom and Islam
    pp 149-169
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The relationships to Islam of the many Christians who lived in Muslim lands, for example, were very different from those of Christians living in orthodox Christian Byzantium or Catholic Latin Europe. This chapter focusses on those lands that came to think of themselves as 'Christendom': that is, Catholic Western Europe, from the Iberian to the Hungarian kingdoms. The actual content of the Saracens' faith was irrelevant to Sophronios, who was interested in elucidating the Muslims' role in Christian sacred history. Engagement with Islamic texts did not alter Christian understandings of Islam because this engagement was largely structured by polemic. Iberian Muslims living under Christian rule are called 'Mudejars', and they represent a novel and important phenomenon in Islamic history. Certainly most Mudejar scholars felt that theirs was a culture in decline. The importance of polemics to Muslims living within Christendom reminds us of my earlier conclusions about Christian encounters with Islam.
  • 12 - Christians and heretics
    pp 170-186
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter discusses the principal archaeological remains, namely the large numbers of manuscript books which contain the church's views of the topic. It also shows how these groups were fashioned and reshaped in these texts. During the twelfth century the texts proliferate. They combine the older language and themes with the notion that there were new heretics and heresies, and some contain the direct description or refutation of a specific new heresy. During the thirteenth century there is amplification, for example the 1184 decretal forms part of the section on heresy in Gregory IX's Five Books of the Decretals. The chapter explains a more direct description of the two major heresies of the period, those of the Cathars and the Waldensians, while continuing to use the church's vocabulary. The chapter relies on these texts to access the two major heretical movements of the High Middle Ages, and finally provides comment on the main distortions of these texts.
  • 13 - Women and men
    pp 187-199
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter examines the liturgical performance of gender, the ways in which the differences between men and women were acted out in the recurrent ceremonies of the medieval church. The liturgical commentators' explanations for this distinction played on the common association of women with sin. The moment during the mass specifically devoted to 'union, charity, peace, and reverence' within the Christian community provided another opportunity for the performance of gender difference. The order of kissing during the ritual of peace further reinforced notions of social hierarchy within the Christian community. In the early thirteenth century, Sicard of Cremona claimed that it was the 'custom of the Romans' that menstruating women not enter a church 'out of reverence'. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, however, as theologians and pastors began to pay greater attention to unorthodox belief, they interpreted more and more biblical references to women in terms of heresy.
  • 14 - Heaven, hell and purgatory: 1100–1500
    pp 200-216
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Religious authorities, who were often political powers too, functioned at all levels, from the papacy to the parish, and also shaped personal attitudes towards heaven and hell. The chapter discusses hopes, fears and calculations of the religious community. In the centuries from 1100 to 1500, Christian ideas about the afterlife trace three great developments. The first is the democratisation of conscience. Second is the increased focus on 'the interim', the time between one's death and the general resurrection and Last Judgement at Christ's Second Coming. Third, as time passed, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, purgatory, suffrages and issues related to the interim became problematic in their own way. Another stabilising influence from the early Middle Ages is an analogy that informs virtually all medieval eschatology. Saint Patrick's Purgatory publicises a place to which the penitent might travel in order to structure their repentance. Beneath the level of papal declarations, Parisian theologians worked to articulate a consistent afterlife.
  • 15 - Sacramental life
    pp 217-237
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Some time between 1445 and 1450 the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden painted three oak panels which have come to be known as the Seven Sacraments Altarpiece. Sacraments made palpable and visible the invisible and mysterious workings of grace. From Christ's life, through apostles who founded churches, and later through the pope of Rome, Peter's successor, a chain of sacramental action was created. The early medieval centuries saw relatively little discussion of sacramental theory, although individual sacraments did receive some attention and elaboration. In his treatise on the sacraments the Augustinian scholar Hugh of St Victor distinguished between the type of sacrament that prevailed in each phase of history: under natural law, under written law and under grace. Around 1250 Jean de Joinville composed a treatise on the sacraments before he embarked on Louis IX's crusade. The most important events were illustrated: baptism and the eucharist.
  • 16 - Religious soundscapes: liturgy and music
    pp 238-253
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Music played a crucial role in the world of medieval Christianity. In the High and Late Middle Ages, musicians continued to cultivate the traditional genres of chant and also created new kinds of music for performance both inside and outside the liturgy. This chapter shows the place of these musical trends in religious culture. The revision and composition of liturgical music continued unabated throughout the period 1100-1500, creating a vast legacy of late-medieval chant that remains largely unexplored by scholars. Many sung Latin rhythmic poems from the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries reflect doctrinal concerns of the time such as Marian and incarnational theology; the musical settings aptly convey the ideas in the texts. Some Latin songs have secular texts that offer a glimpse of contemporary religious polemics and can be tied to university milieu. A particularly vivid example of interaction between sacred, secular, Latin and vernacular is the early-fourteenth-century manuscript of the Roman de Fauvel with musical interpolations.
  • 17 - Images and their uses
    pp 254-282
  • View abstract

    Summary

    In the first half of the twelfth century, all Benedictine monks, penned defences of Christian art. This chapter discusses the three functions, namely didactic, affective, anagogic, were those most frequently evoked by medieval theologians. Yet these approaches barely begin to describe the manifold uses to which images were put. The chapter offers the role of images in high-medieval Christianity. It also provides such traditional art-historical considerations as patronage and commission, style and iconography, and shows how people viewed and used the images around them. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, sculptures and paintings seemed to absorb the holy powers traditionally attributed to relics, inspiring quite new kinds of image-based venerations. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were the heyday of the religious image. Image-based devotions had always had a strong tactile element, and in the later Middle Ages art more than ever facilitated the physical expression of religious feeling.
  • 18 - Mary
    pp 283-296
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The artistic and devotional effects of interrelated emphases are still visible throughout Europe, in the pilgrimage churches built to house the many miracle-working statues of the Virgin as the Throne of Wisdom, as well as in the many paintings and sculptures of Mary suffering under the Cross or being crowned heavenly Queen. At stake in exchange was far more than simply Mary's obedient willingness to become the mother of God. The antiphons and psalms sung for the Marian office reinforced this emphasis on Mary's literally all-encompassing role with respect to creation. God knew from the first day of creation that it was through this woman's body that he would effect his entry into the world. It was right to praise the Virgin Mary, or so medieval European Christians insisted in their devotions and prayers, because it was Mary who, by giving birth to him in the flesh, made the God-man visible in his human form.
  • 19 - Mysticism and transcendence
    pp 297-308
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter starts with Augustine because his work sets the agenda for the mysticism of the high and late Middle Ages. The chapter also provides reference to this earlier work, which provides the background against which monks, nuns, members of the religious movements and eventually the laity lived, practised, and thought about the mystical life. More accurately, perhaps, his descriptions, in the Confessions and elsewhere, of the transcendence, transience, ineffability, and communal nature of mystical experience provide the parameters within which medieval Christians understand experiences of God and of union with God. Medieval Christian mysticism can be understood as a series of ongoing experiential, communal, and textual commentaries on and debates about the possibilities and limitations Augustine sets for the earthly encounter between God and humanity. Medieval Christian mysticism can be understood as a series of ongoing experiential, communal, and textual commentaries on and debates about the possibilities and limitations Augustine sets for the earthly encounter between God and humanity.
  • 20 - On the margins of religious life: hermits and recluses, penitents and tertiaries, beguines and beghards
    pp 309-323
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter examines a diverse but important group of people who defy easy categorisation yet were all loosely associated with religious life. As hermits and recluses, lay 'penitents', beguines and beghards, their status was ambiguous, straddling the border between the lay and monastic categories of society. Antecedents to this way of life reach far back, to the sacred widowhood of early Christian women, for instance, and hermits stood of course at the basis of monasticism itself. By the fourteenth century, when male eremitical life began to decline, female solitaries had become a common sight in many cities and towns, primarily those of the Low Countries, England, France and Germany. Groups of 'brothers and sisters of penitence' in the Romagna adopted common customs known as the Memoriale Propositi in 1221. The natural tension between institutional and informal sources of power has always been a creative source of reflection and rejuvenation in Christian religious life.
  • 21 - Saints and pilgrimages: new and old
    pp 324-339
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The Middle Ages played an important role in the religious life of the faithful, through the cult rendered to the martyrs and the confessors. In parallel with changes in conceptions of sainthood, there was a significant shift both in the development of the idea of sanctuary and in the geographical distribution of sanctuaries. Until the Carolingian period, there seem to have been relatively few places that were considered holy by the Christians of the West and that attracted large numbers of pilgrims. Increased control over the cult of saints by the hierarchy was accompanied by a process of verification, and hence definition, by the papacy on behalf of the Roman Church. The modernisation of the Roman sanctoral was one of the principal manifestations of this new attitude to the cult of saints on the part of the church. Historians still debate the reasons for the explosion of the Marian cult in the final centuries of the Middle Ages.
  • 22 - Crusade and conquest
    pp 340-352
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The crusade is a feature of medieval Christian civilisation with a decidedly contemporary resonance. The crusades are also highly relevant to current academic debates about the relationship between core and periphery in later medieval western European culture. As early as the Second Crusade in the 1140s an attempt was made to synchronise multiple crusade expeditions on three general fronts: in the Middle East, in Spain and in north-eastern Europe. The theological bases and the popular reception of the various formulations of the crusade indulgence are both hotly debated by historians. Western pilgrimage to the East had already been picking up in the eleventh century, and the success of the First Crusade made possible a veritable pilgrimage boom. In terms of facilitating expressions of religious devotion, the most noticeable effect of the crusades was the Latin control of Jerusalem and the Holy Places between 1099 and the Muslim reconquest under Saladin in 1187.

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