Paul Halsall

Introduction to the Medieval World

Class 19: The Age of Faith I: Popular Piety and Christian Belief

Assigned Reading:


I. Introduction A. Today - Looking at changes in Catholic belief and practice in the middle ages. "The Age of Faith" Already looked at some manifestations of religion -Crusades, Gregorian Reform, but that was not religion. -there was major changes in peoples experience of religion. The middle ages saw an ever-growing importance and flourishing of popular and intellectual religion. Worth looking at -both for Catholics. -and for anybody who wants to understand the middle ages. -Effects on the reformation and current catholic practice. B. Secular, Religious, and Spiritual Worlds Forms of analysis - 1. Secular - looking at Government, Political ideas Military history Social history Literature As a whole, this forms secular society. 2. Religious - Looking at Church History Church Reform Monastic History Papacy Heresy 3. Spiritual - Looking at Faith Belief Prayer Religious Life C. No Absolute Separation of Church and State Compared with Islam a much greater distinction in Latin Christendom. But the kings, soldiers and peasants all went to church and had some religious beliefs. The popes, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, theologians all lived in villages, towns, cities. They took part in economic life, Came from secular families D. The Clerical - Lay Model of society Was current in the middle ages. Content changed - e.g. for a long time any one who could read was a cleric (=clerk.. But there was considerable interplay and this effected the development of both popular and intellectual forms of religion. II. Popular Piety A. Concept Difference in understanding between educated and uneducated people of religion. -In Hinduism not a problem -But in Catholicism, which is more monolithic, it presents a issue. Especially as the religion was so complicated - remember Monophysitism? cf. simplicity of Islam. B. God - remoteness C. Jesus - concentration on incarnate God over humanity. D. Mary - theological importance, then devotional. St. Bernard Rosary E. Relics F. Saints G. The Bible Council of Narbonne bans it for lay people 1212! H. Sacramentalism Baptism. Most unproblematic sacrament III. The Eucharist A. The Mass -Old rite, great variety, Latin -Meal, sacrifice (word priest., communal gathering B. Popular Piety 1. The Real Presence Body and Blood Miracle of preserving appearance 2. The Host Devotion to the Host Elevation: When - C. Intellectual Response Problems with pop. piety - What if worshipping bread? - How to explain Miracle? St. Thomas Aquinas - Use of Aristotle. Distinction between Substance and Accidents New Theory of Eucharist Transubstantiation - word actually used in 11th century. D. Results 1. Bells and smells 2. Frequency of communion - less and less. Particularly when it got attached to making confession beforehand. 3. Withdrawal of the cup 4. Silent mass: lack of communal feeling. 5. Great Music IV. Confession A. History of Confession 1. Baptism Christians expected to be good Ancient practice of Last minute baptism - risky 2. Major sins - Church Penance 3. Penitentials - 8-9-19-11th centuries Exact canonical penance for each sin. Ranking of sins. 4. Not mandatory: Although most people were expected to be in sin. B. Heresy in 12th century Fourth Lateran Council 1215 - makes confession once a year obligatory. Now its only if you have sinned, but then it was to check against heresy. C. How did Confession work? -by the penance -by the embarrassment involved -by the real act of sorrow - contrition. -ref. . Peter Lombard - by embarrassment of recounting? -ref. Joinville - lay confession on 5th Crusade. Confession to lay people. This was seen as worthwhile - even by Aquinas. D. Popular Practice after Lateran IV. People went to confession: a problem became evident. People were sorry for their sins, but not completely. Sometimes just because they were sacred of hell. People who really got to know this were Friars - people went to strange friars rather than their own priest. [Story of may first confession] A real problem. E. Intellectual Response Friars part of orders with powerful intellects. Some evidence that these scholars began to really consider what since and sorrow were. -e.g. Bishop Grosseteste commented on Aristotle's Ethics. -Confessors Handbooks issued [by the way they insist confessors do not tell penitents about sins they might not have thought of] -Aquinas - comes up with the answer 1240. He distinguished between the Confession, the penance, and the forgiveness. This allowed that contrition might be imperfect, i.e. attrition, but the words of the priest became the required part for the sacrament - which ignored confession in the past. -Led to insistence on the words Ego te absolvi -Later on John Duns Scotus, a Franciscan, argued against lay confession. It died out. F. Indulgences The new theory of confession, particularly, the idea of attrition, gave new force to one of the most popular developments of the middle ages. Indulgences. 1. Crusades Urban II, 1095 at Clermont. But it was not clear what he meant. Most probably thought it was complete forgiveness of sins. But that was not acceptable to the theologians. So they developed a theory. 2. Theory a. Treasury of Merit b. Keys of the Kingdom c. Temporal Punishment Idea comes from canonical penance. The days and years are or bread an water, while alive, not years in Heaven. But it got attached to the idea of time in purgatory. [Catholics believe in prayer for the dead leads to a need for a place neither heaven nor hell. Ref. First Book of Maccabees] 3. How to obtain an indulgence Do a pious act - Crusades etc. Pay money Development of indulgence hawkers in late middle ages. 4. Indulgences and the Dead. In late 14th century - you could apply indulgence to the dead, as a pious act. People start buying indulgences for dead relatives. 5. Popes begin to collect money by selling indulgences -Build St. Peters that way. -Leads to Luther. G. Confessional Boxes Not invented until 16th century by St. Charles Borromeo. V. Marriage A. History -Natural -Civil -Germanic B. Purpose -children -inheritance -property -survival C. Christian -Jesus' teaching -St. Paul's -Church Councils -Clerical Celibacy D. St. Augustine - sex and sin E. A Sacrament? -In Byzantium yes from early on. -Problem in West - how could sin/sex make a sacrament, a means of salvation. F. Church needed to get to grips with popular practice. -Marriage increasingly important as Europe gets richer. -Theory of romance - lover not married to you. G. Two Church Responses 1. Legal - in may respects the prime response. Consummation required for validity. Idea of marriage as Legal contract. No need for a priest (cf. Byzantium.. A binding contract dissolved at death. 2. Divorce - forbidden But marriage after spouse's death allowed. 3. Theological Sex not necessary for Marriage - Look at Mary Church annexes Love to Marriage H. Consanguinity and Affinity - Explain terms -Until Lateran IV - went back 7 generations and three calques of affinity -Changed at Lateran IV VI. Conclusion For most Christians life was not a matter of papal reform or crusades, It was a matter of repeated prayer, mass, confession, and marriage. All had a totally different aspect in 1350 than they had in 1050.

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© Paul Halsall, 1996.

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