Author Archives: Sita Steckel

About Sita Steckel

Juniorprofessorin (Assistant professor) of Medieval history, High and Late Middle Ages, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster.

Frances Cook: Feedback Training school “Passionate Devotions”

Amongst many other positive outcomes, the Training School has offered me ideas for how I could conceptualize my research. The papers presented by the different speakers discussed a wide variety of source material – devotional texts, images, places and literature – and examples were given of how emotions could be elicited from these sources using a range of approaches grounded in disciplines such as, for example, anthropology, neuroscience and social psychology. Some of the most pertinent approaches for my work, that were mentioned in the sessions, are summarized below.

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Ella Kilgallon: Feedback Training school “Passionate Devotions”

Over the course of a three-day workshop, papers on diverse time periods, regions, and with different methodological approaches revealed intersecting ideas and complimentary devotional practices across medieval and early modern Europe. At the same time, each paper highlighted different aspects of the subject of emotion. With regards to my own research, centred on devotional space and emotion, two areas were particularly provoking. Christina Lutter’s analysis of Caesarius of Heisterbach and Andrea Mancini’s discussion of Nicholas of Osimo raised questions of emotional excess and control, encouraging the group to think about acceptable and measured emotions. In particular it led me to question how the protagonists of my own research, Angela of Foligno and Rosa of Viterbo, women without a monastic education, came to understand what appropriate emotional expression was. This has encouraged me to think more systematically about how emotional schemas would have been transferred from clerical thinkers to lay religious, and how these might have been adapted or changed by the individual. Continue reading

Call for Applications: Training school “The role of media in the rise of new religious movements in late medieval and early modern Europe”, Emden, 26.-28. June 2017

7th Training School COST Action IS1301

 Organisation & Aims

COST Action IS1301, studying „New Communities of Interpretation. Contexts, Strategies and Processes of Religious Transformation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe“ is a research network uniting over 120 researchers from 25 European countries. To contribute to the creation of research networks within and outside academia, it furthers connections between experienced scholars, regional and national archives and libraries as well as the upcoming generations of researchers.

The COST Action is proud to present its seventh Training school on “The role of media in the rise of new religious movements in late medieval and early modern Europe” Under the influence of (biblical) Humanism a movement of religious renewal arises at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. From a confessional point of view this movement is still rather unpronounced at that time. It is however clear that the Bible plays a central role as the most important source of personal faith. Within this movement there is ample room for (critical) reflection upon the message of christianity and the position of the church, but separation from the church is of no interest to the people yet. From the thirties on, groups begin to manifest themselves, in which, independently from the Church, Bible study and discussion of new ideas on central theological issues – such as the Eucharist – occupy an important place, displaying the first confessional diversification. In this development the printed media (text and image) have a crucial role, but the oral tradition (singing songs, preaching, conventicles) should not be underestimated. Repressive measures resulted in various religious migration flows, resulting in new concentrations of refugee communities. Within these communities – anabaptist, lutheran, reformed and catholic – a clear need existed for further shaping and development of own identity, to create and strenghten a distinct profile. Continue reading

Lauren Mulholland: Feedback Training school “Passionate Devotions”

The Passionate Devotions training school provided three days of stimulating and lively discussion, bringing together scholars working on a wide range of topics, spanning different timeframes and using diverse sources. Despite the breadth and diversity of our topics, it was very interesting to note the similarities in our approaches to our various projects and to discover that we face similar challenges in engaging with the history of emotions. Some key questions that arose frequently during the training school were as follows: Continue reading

Matko Matija Marušić: Feedback Training school “Passionate Devotions”

“There is a lot to digest!” This simple phrase stated at the closing discussion of the workshop by one of the participants, best describes the deep intellectual impact the Münster days will have on our future research. Skimming through the notes I have written down during the presentations and discussions, I became aware of the fact how difficult it is to write a short overview of the event. Apart from the vast time span (twelfth to eighteenth century) and original sources composed in different languages (Latin, Mid-Dutch, Occitan…), what still strikes me the most are different approaches to the questions related to emotions in devotional practices. The various topics of modelling, instigating, provoking, shaping, and censoring of emotional responses, have all proved to be highly stimulative for discussions following the presentations, but as well in informal occasions during the meals and post-dinner brewery visits.

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Report: Training school “Passionate Devotions. Emotions in Late Medieval and Early Modern Religious Texts, Images and Music”, WWU Münster, 26.-28.4.2017

The latest Training school organized by COST Action IS1301 discussed „Passionate devotions. Emotions in Late Medieval and Early Modern Religious Texts, Images and Music“. It built on the impression that the study of late medieval and early modern religious culture and the emerging history of emotions have strong links, and continue to be combined in interesting ways by younger scholars. For the event at Muenster, taking place in the beautiful historical Kaminzimmer of the Haus der Niederlande (see photos on Twitter), ten doctoral or MA participants and five guest lecturers (including my co-organizer Ragnhild M. Bø, my Muenster collaborator Stephanie Kluge and myself) came together for three intense days of discussion (see the programme)

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Frances Cook: Sanctity and Material Culture: Female Saints and their Devotees in Late-Medieval England

Life of St Margaret, opening folio. Hart MS 41020, f. 167r. Photo F. Cook. Courtesy of Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, 2017

Life of St Margaret, opening folio. Hart MS 41020, f. 167r. Photo F. Cook. Courtesy of Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, 2017

Many extant material and visual artefacts bear witness to the flourishing cults of a variety of female saints in late-medieval England. How can an examination of these artefacts and associated texts inform our understanding of the way devotees responded emotionally to such cults? This is the central question my paper seeks to address. St Margaret of Antioch, and two artefacts associated with her cult, will form the framework for this enquiry. Continue reading

Joanka van der Laan: The performance of emotion in late medieval Passion mediations

Late medieval devotional literature was one of several interacting media (images, preaching, drama, sculpture etc.) through which the late medieval believer could engage with the figure of the suffering Christ. These texts may function as scripts: often written in the first person singular, they provide the reader with the appropriate words and sometimes postures or gestures for their time of prayer (McNamer 2010). My research looks at a broad range of devotional texts from the long fifteenth century, written in the vernacular. I examine how a mode of reading that I call ‘performative reading’ involves the reader in a process that ultimately contributes to the development of religious knowledge. This knowledge is certainly not limited to intellectual knowledge; it includes learning of specific habits and skills that make up the identity of a religious reader within his/her community. An important component of this knowledge is the use of the body and emotions in devotional practices. Continue reading

Renske Hoff: I could cry over that: an anthropological approach to the arousal of affectus in vernacular songs of the Devotio Moderna

The Devotio Moderna has left us with an extensive textual heritage of various sources that offer us insight into the norms, values, devotional practices and daily life in this religious movement of the 14th and 15th century. Among the texts are vitae, sermons, theoretical texts and prayers, of which many are written in the vernacular. Part of this heritage is also a large and varied corpus of vernacular, devout songs. In spite of their popularity, we know very little about the way the songs have functioned in devout life in the late Middle Ages. What made them ‘work’ so well as instruments in devotion and why have they been so surprisingly widespread? Continue reading

Dorottya Uhrin: The cult of virgin martyrs in medieval Hungary

The popularity of the virgin martyrs reached its peak in late medieval Europe, including Hungary. The legends of these saints represented an important model for women from the high Middle Ages. Their legends center upon a confrontation where a pagan man threatens the saint’s virginity with an offer of marriage or with his intention of making her his concubine. The saint refuses the proposal because of the Christian idea of sexual purity. The rest of these stories describe the passionate love that she feels for Christ and the various torments that she suffers because of this love. These torments often include sexual assaults and physical tortures. The saint endures her suffering and finally  gets beheaded and her soul is received in the Heaven. Continue reading

Andrea Mancini: Emotions and Penance. The penitential summa of the Franciscan Observant Nicholas of Osimo

Penitential literature is a valuable source for the study of emotions in relation to sin, custom and morality. The development of the private sacramental penance after the IV Lateran Council (1215) promoted an increasing production of penitential texts which were meant to provide confessors the necessary knowledge to administer the sacrament of penance. Penitentials’ composers resorted to the scholastic analysis of human emotions in order to describe to confessors the condition of of the sinners and make them recognisable during the auricular confession. My contribute discusses how emotions are expressed and categorised in the handbook for confessors of the Franciscan Observant Nicholas of Osimo, Supplementum Summae Pisanellae (1444). The definitions of sins in Nicholas’ handbook are composed resorting to the thirteenth-century theologians, such as William Peraldus and Thomas Aquinas. Confessors’ activity can be considered a tool for the circulation and popularization of the scholastic tradition to the laity. Continue reading

Antonio Chemotti: Music at exequies in Italy (1550-1650): official regulations, social meaning, and affects

Trying to reconstruct the history and geography of polyphonic music pro mortuis in Italy between 1550 and 1650, we face a situation full of contradictions, where theory and practice, official regulations and extant sources rarely agree. In order to gain a proper understanding of the role of plainchant, polyphonic music and instruments during death rituals, my research brings together different kinds of sources: liturgical books like caeremonialia and ritualia, diaries of masters of ceremonies, festival books and, obviously, musical sources. Even if official Tridentine caeremonialia forbid the use of polyphonic music and instruments during the liturgy for the dead as such, the reality of liturgical practice was far more complex. On which basis was polyphonic music allowed? Is it possible to identify common trends in Counterreformation Italy? Which parts of the liturgy were more often musically elaborated? Tackling these questions, I address the fundamental issue concerning the role of polyphonic music pro mortuis, reflecting upon the meaning of its presence (and its absence) during death ritual. It becomes clear that a musicological perspective can shed light on some of the goals of the liturgy for the dead in Counterreformation Italy. Continue reading

Matko Matija Marušić: Thirteenth-Century Crosses and the Strategies of Affective Piety

Third crucifix from Zadar, c. 1200

In my paper I intend to reflect upon the pious response to the thirteenth-century monumental crosses once enshrined in the churches of the Eastern Adriatic city of Zadar. The up to date literature on these objects has devoted much attention to their stylistic kinship and artistic provenance, while arguably their most appealing feature – the text etched on the cross – has not yet been fully examined. By placing inscriptions in the centre of attention, my intention is to situate these objects in their devotional setting with particular reference to the nexus of devotion and emotions in imagery and text. More generally speaking, it is the emphasis on possible responses these crosses engendered that will offer new insights into the strategies of affective piety of devoted individuals who were praying before later medieval devotional objects. In order to analyse the Zadar crosses as active agents, rather than passive elements in devotional practices, I intend to examine their several components: imagery, textuality and materiality. Continue reading

Ella Kilgallon: The role of emotion in the creation of devotional space: the case of early female Franciscan tertiaries

The power of place to incite an emotional response in either an individual or a community is a defining aspect of all cultures. Certain spaces are synonymous with the emotional response tied to them: the childhood home conjures longing and nostalgia, while the poorly lit alleyway might evoke fear and unnerving. Of course the emotional response is tied up, and completely inseparable from, memory. It is the memories held within a childhood home that imbues the space with an emotive potency. These personal memories can be combined with historic and communal narratives to powerful effect. Alongside the individual and communal memories evoked by a space, its materiality, natural or man-made, directs the emotions of those within.

In the history of the emotions to date, the body, as the site of performance, has been at the focus of much discussion. However, as Margrit Pernau discussed in her 2014 article ‘Space and Emotion: Building to Feel’, the affected body does not exist outside of the spaces and places of a particular society. Emotional responses whether within, or created by, particular spaces are culturally specific, endowed with social meaning and grounded in ritual or habitualised behaviour. Continue reading

Lauren Mulholland: The Marian Lament as Jerusalem Lament: Grieving the Holy City in Thirteenth-Century Occitania

Despite its centrality in Christian religious teaching, in the Middle Ages many believers were unable to ever visit Jerusalem. How, then, did they imagine the Holy City? What tropes were used to embed Jerusalem in the imagination of those in the West? How did the capture and subsequent loss of Jerusalem during the Crusades impact upon Christian understanding of – and emotional response to – both earthly and heavenly city? These questions have been the focus of recent scholarly work (Berriot-Salvadore, 1995; Chareyron, 2000; Kühnel, 2015), with art, architecture, and liturgy receiving particular attention. However, depictions of Jerusalem in vernacular lyric remain under-examined.

This paper analyses representations of Jerusalem in the anonymous Occitan Marian lament De gran dolor cruzel ab mortal pena (‘A most cruel pain, a mortal wound’) and in the Occitan version of the planctus Mariae. These laments form part of a wider culture of Marian devotion that developed quite rapidly in Occitania – as it did in other parts of Europe ­– during the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. This Occitan devotion was manifested in a range of ways, including the number of churches and shrines dedicated to the Virgin, and the prevalence of statues of the Vierge Noire in Occitania, which usually depicted mother and child. Continue reading