Duffy 2005

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Encountering the Holy

Seasons and Signs

dancing, vernacular prayers, plays: "the introduction of a 'folk' element ... serves to warn us against underestimating the links between liturgical observance and the 'secular' celebratory and ludic dimensions of lay culture at the end of the Middle Ages" (22)

"It is not difficult to undersatnd the importance of the liturgical calendar for late medieval people." -- legal deeds, anniversaries, birthdays all reckoned by religious festivals; rents/leases fell in at Lady Day, Lammas or Michaelmas; marriages couldn't occur during 4 wks of Advent or 6 weeks of Lent

fasting: almost 70 days in the year when adults were obliged to fast (41); fasting during saint's days

tension between religious holidays and need for work to get done;

"Hence considerable variation was the rule in the degree of solemnity of particular days, some requiring the cessation of all work (except activites such as milking cows, feeding livestock, or the saving of crops in harvest), other days requiring only women to abstain from work. Both secular and ecclesiastical authorities througout the Middle Ages showed considerable sensitivity to these sorts of questions, and a tendency to seek to limit the number of holidays. This trend achieved its starkest and most drastic expression after the break with Rome, when in 1536 the Crown abolished most of the local and national festa ferianda occurring in the Westminster law terms and in the busy summer months, on the grounds that the excessive numbers of holidays were impoverishing the people by hindering agriculture. Widespread resentment of this action was a contributory factor in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and subsequent anti-reform feeling." (42-3)

seasons: Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Easter, and Whit; attached to the Whitsun season, the feasts of the Trinitty and Corpus Christi (46)

laity's calendar linked to liturgical calendar, lunar calendar (46)

historians say late June to late November was calm time in Christian liturgical calendar (only feasts of saits "break the unspectacular procession of Sundays after Trinity," 46) (secular half), with Advent through Paschal tide the busiest (ritualistic half); but this is an "oversimplification" -- "to fifteenth-c and early sixteenth-century sensibilities the liturgical year was spread over 12 months, not 6 , and none of it was secular" (47)

The Mass

"sight of the Host ... linked instinctively with the solitary communion of the deathbed, and the lonely journey into the other world for which it was preparation" (120)

  • communal experience; community paid to decorate altar, was one moment in Mass when everyone came together
  • yet individualistic -- reflection on one's own lonely journey
"Communal and individual experience could be held together without tension as the rhythm of the Mass, from procession to prayer to rapt gaze and outwards once again to the bustle of offertory or pax. As we shall see, the solitary character of the medieval experience of the deathbed may itself be questioned. The hour of death was one not of isolation, but itself an experience of community." (120-1)

some historians argue for an increasing polarity between laity who worshipped communally and literate gentry who spent services reading and in private prayer; however, Duffy argues that this division is simplistic: "the illiterate gazing during Mass on a cheap indulgenced woodcut of the Image of Pity was not necessarily worlds away from the gentleman reading learned Latin prayers to the wounds of Jesus, and both of them would have responded in much the same way when summoned to put aside book or block-print to gaze at the Host" (123)

Corporate Christians

The Saints

virgin martyrs; "the English laity looked to the saints not primarily as exemplars or soul-friends, but as powerful helpers and healers in time of need, whether bodily need or the last spiritual extremity of death and the pains of purgatory" (178)

the saint desired pilgrimage to his shrine; offer of candle or coin the best way to get his help (183)

ways to gain protection of saints: coin-bending; holding coin over afflicted body parts; semi-contractual character of saints' cults (183-5)

direct relationship between saint and saint's image (186); didn't believe they were the saints, but closely connected

saints "perceived as part of the economy of grace" (186); "often portrayed as embodying ... tenderness and compassionate humanity" believed to be held by Jesus (186-7); gentle, loving, merciful; appealed to as loving friends (187)

link between saint's healing and the restoration of the Eucharistic community (190)

pilgrimage: seeking the holy embodied in a sacred place, relic or image (191); often undertaken as penance; "temporary release from the constricutions and norms of ordinary living"

ex votos, offerings left

decline of pilgrimages, neglect of shrines on the eve of the Reformation

Prayers and Spells

"Lewed and Learned": The Laity and the Primers

late medieval prayers surviven in large numbers, "jotted in the margins or flyleaves of books, collected into professionally commissioned or home-made prayer-rolls, devotional manuals, and commonplace books, above all gathering into the primers or Books of Hours", which on the eve of the Reformation were reproduced in thousands (209)

primer (Book of Hours): 15 gradual Psalms, 7 penitential Psalms, public liturgy of the 7 monastic Hours; also absorbed Little Office / Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary (210); offered the lay devotee "some approximation to the order and tranquillity of monastic piety" (210); relatively uncomplicated, varied little with liturgical seasons; after print, books varied more as competition increased

  • among the first books to be efficiently mass-produced (211)
  • from Caxton's first printed Horae to appearance of first Protestant primers in 1530s, 114 Latin Horae were published for lay English use, probably more like 500 -- so 57,000 copies in circulation before the Reformation (212)

mostly Latin primers in circulation (English ones suspected of Lollardy) (213); how, then, did lay people say their prayers and read these texts?

  • "primers were both more and less than texts (213);
  • ornamented as sacred objects, pictures had special character, rubric text and use of cross symbol tied them to books used in church (214);
  • masses offered "microcosm of the liturgical year" (215) and the Gospels "carried an element of the numinous" (217);
  • intrinsic value to Latin prayer words, even if not understood (218)
  • Office of the Dead most familiar to most (220-221)
  • with a little Latin, some literate readers could use the text to launch them into prayers knwon by heart (different kind of reading) (221)

supplementary devotional material copied directly into primers by owners; devotional pictures stuck into them

"a wide spectrum of lay people using and supplementing the latin devotions of the primers with familiarity and freedom. Their Books of Hours, in which they copied the details of births and deaths just as later generations would do in the family Bible, were very much their own, and the devout scrawls which embellish or disfigure so many of the surviving 'Horae are eloquent testimony to their centrality in the devotional lives of their owners." (225)

complicated correspondence between image and text in cheap manuscript versions; not illustrated in detailed, images paste in at the "wrong" locations (225-6); images can take on independent existence

woodcut made it possible to produce cheap but richly illustrated Horae; "this meant that an interpretative scheme could be sustained through whole sections of the text, rather than relying on the impact of single images to 'colour' or direct the reading of the text that followed" (227)

primers "formed an important bridge between lay piety and the liturgical observance of the church", enabling lay people "to associate themselves with the prayer of the clergy and religious" (231)

The Devotions of the Primers

explosion in lay devotion; demanding more material, and in the vernacular in c14-15

Passion of the Christ dominated; Devotion to the Wounds of Jesus one of the most popular cults in late medieval Europe (238), the Image of Pity; side of Jesus had particular fascination and devotional power, as giving access to his heart -- symbol of refuge in his love (244) -- five as a number of significance

Words of Jesus on the Cross (7) (248)

Devotion to the Virgin (256)

importance of numbers: 12 articles of faith, 10 commandments, 5 wounds, 7 deadly sins, 7 corporal works of mercy, 5 bodily wits, &c

late medieval devotions show "the democratization of the tradition of affective meditation on the Passion which was the staple of the religious practice of the devout and the religious elite" during the period (265)

Charms, Pardons, and Promises: Lay Piety and "Superstition" in the Primers

prayers to be freed from enemies, both spiritual and earthly; come close to charms, spells

"Deus propicius esto", for the protection of angels; sign of the cross acts as exorcism (271)

invocation of the Cross "Crux Christi sit (semper) mecum"

invocation of the names of God "Omnipotens + Dominus + Christus"; permutations of God's name to protect the devout (274-6)

prayers inscribed on medicinal or magical rolls, long strips of parchment with prayers and promises worn around the waist by women in labour and others in danger (276)

Charlemagne prayers

clearly concern amongst theologians, pastors and inquisitors about the prayers/charms of simple people

"it would be a mistake to see even these 'magical' prayers as standing altogether outside the framework of the official worship and teaching of the Church. The world-view they enshrined, in which humanity was beleaguered by hostile troops of devils seeking the destruction of body and soul, and to which the appropriate and guaranteed antidote was the incantatory or manual invocation of the cross or names of Christ, is not a construct of the folk imagination. Such ideas were build into the very structure of the liturgy, and formed the focus for some of its most solemn and oppularly accessible moments." (279)

read the Horae in context of charms and incantations; sign of the cross, direct address to devils being exorcized, rhetorical strategy all borrowed from Church's official practice (282); "rhetoric and rationale at work in such incantations cannot sensibly be called pagan" but "represent the appropriation and adaptation to lay needs and anxieties of a range of sacred gestures and prayers" -- not paganism, but lay Christianity (283)

pardon: remission of penance or temporal punishment still due God after a sin was repented, confessed and forgiven (288); grew out of harsh penances of pilgrimages and fasting in early Middle Ages

indulgences: applicable to souls in Purgatory, to shorten their torments (288), granted in return for donations to restore church buildings

  • indulgences devotions in editions of Horae; advertised on title-pages or colophones; pious person could clock up tally of days of pardon
  • could not be gained without inner devotion (290)
  • could not remit sin; given in exchange for prayer

Now, and at the Hour of Our Death

Last Things

late medieval obsession with death is "not to call people away from social involvement but to promote virtue and sociability in this world" (303)

danse macabre, image arrived in England in 1440s, painted on walls

seems out of character, not spiritual -- perhaps brought about by Black Death -- but in fact was used as a way of getting the living to pray for the dead in purgatory; "broader didactic purpose" (308)

religious complex of death, judgement, Hell, Heaven

Everyman (every man, every woman) is unprepared for death (309)

fear of sudden death -- being swept to Hell without being able to ask for forgiveness

fear of anointing, since it signaled death -- many believed if the anointed person recovered, he/she was simply an animated corpse; priest's job to comfort at the end of one's life

guides advising lay people how to assist neighbors and friends on their deathbeds (prayers, wills, etc.) circulated in manuscript and print

Ars Moriendi, how to die well; became popular and influential blockbook across Europe

deathbed as communal event, not private; many helpers, both living and dead

Christocentric prayers at deathbed and in wills

focus on memory -- remember the dead, mind the dead, All Soul's Day, giving gifts to church, named entered on bede-roll, insuring a form of immortality linked with the unity and perpetuity of the church

The Pain of Purgatory