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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2020

Chapter 9 - The Theology of the Afterlife in the Early Middle Ages, c. 400–c. 1100

from Part II - Theological Perspectives


Between AD c. 400 and c. 1100, Christian ideas about the afterlife changed in subtle but important ways. This chapter outlines broad trends in thought about the afterlife in this period in the Latin West, and examines the concomitant changes in thinking about the post-mortem fates of souls. Ongoing contemporary discourse around topics such as sin and penance or baptism contributed to developments in the way that contemporaries understood the afterlife, including heaven, hell, and an interim state between death and universal judgement. Significantly, as Christians came to be more certain about some aspects of the afterlife, the possibility of salvation for individual souls was perceived to be less certain. As a result, by the end of the period there is much greater evidence for concern about the post-mortem fate of the soul than there had been at the beginning, laying the foundations for high medieval theological discussions and developments.

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