This paper explores the popular perception of revenants in medieval England and the material methods by which suspect bodies were contained. Utilising the wonder tales in the Historia Rerum Anglicarum (c. 1198), I will explore the interrelation between the greater, textual traditions of corpse management and the local, practical methods for dealing with ‘bad’ death. That is, I will illustrate how entrenched, unwritten habits concerning the existence of the walking dead could build upon and subvert the practices and beliefs advocated by the Church. The prevalence of the belief in revenants in local religious culture can only be understood through an examination of both the textual and archaeological data.
By the later Middle Ages, an appeal to the Virgin Mary was widely perceived as the optimal means of evading the consequences of sin and counteracting the justice of her Son. This paper will explore how the notion that Mary could circumvent divine justice and subvert ecclesiastical authority is reflected respectively in the worlds of theology and popular piety. I shall examine how theological justifications Mary’s mediatory role, which had already reached a certain sophistication in the later Byzantine Fathers, were further developed by prominent theologians in the Medieval West, such as Anselm of Canterbury, Bernard of Clairvaux and Bonaventure. I shall then consider the subversive role that the Virgin plays in popular piety through an examination of a variety of texts, primarily Medieval miracle stories by the likes of Caesar of Heisterbach, Gautier de Coinci, and Jacopo di Voragine.
This paper examines the case of a secular political figure (the patrician, Hector of Marseilles) who is imagined to have been purged of sin in the afterlife. This scene is a small chapter in the hagiographic Life of Bishop Leudegar of Autun (St. Leger), a member of the 7th-century Frankish political elite. My interest in this case relates to uncovering the very earliest history of purgatory in the Christian West, and in particular, the moment at which the theological idea of purgatory crossed into the public arena and into political discourse. The context for the imagined purging is the desire by Leudegar’s hagiographer to clear him of the guilt of having associated with a persona non grata. This paper examines the moment when the idea of post-mortem purgation found a use beyond the purely theological.