Monthly Archives: April 2017

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

Rouven Wirbser: Ad poenitentiam movere. The role and use of emotions in Jesuit popular missions

In 1715, the Jesuits introduced a new form of popular mission to the duchy of Jülich-Kleve. Two Southern German Jesuit preachers, Georg Loferer (1680–1756) and Konrad Herdegen (1670–1724), who had studied the so-called apostolic method (or Segneri method) in Italy conducted the first mission according to the new method in the town of Jülich in May 1715.[1] As the missionaries wanted to move their audience to penitence, the mission was marked by several outstanding features which aimed at the emotional involvement of the lay populace such as nocturnal penitential processions, intense self-flagellations of the missionaries and the use of torches and skulls to underline the contents of the sermons.[2] In reports to their superiors Loferer and Herdegen describe the positive response of the populace to these features: As a consequence of the new method an extraordinarily high number of participants confessed and received the sacrament in the aftermath. Continue reading

Announcement: Upcoming blog-post series for the Training school „Passionate Devotions. Emotions in Medieval and Early Modern Religious Texts, Images and Music“, University of Muenster, 26.-28.4.2017

In two weeks, the University of Muenster will host the next Training school run by COST Action IS1301, co-organized by us, Ragnhild Martine Bø (University of Oslo) and Sita Steckel (Münster). While the full programme is listed below, this post also announces further activity on the blog: Over the next few days, it will be our pleasure to host brief texts written by the ten early stage researchers participating in the Training school, in which they will set out their themes and approaches to the nexus of religion and emotions. While the resulting mini-series of texts also kicks off our own methodological discussion, it is expressly intended as an invitation to participate to the scholarly audience, offering both an overview of the intriguing work currently being done by younger scholars and the opportunity to comment or participate. The plan is to end the first part of the mini-series with a report on the discussions of the Muenster event, though some further posts by younger scholars working in the thematic area may follow. The series is, in principle, open to interested other scholars, though submissions need to be closely related to the Training school’s theme.[1]

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