Under particular circumstances always related to the strategies chosen by the central powers, Visigothic sources inform against different sorts of Pagan practices (magic, Astrology, devilish worship, etc.). These sources show that pagan practices do not proceed entirely from the peasantry: women, slaves, secular elites, and even the clergy are reported erring in this terrible sacrilege. These excessive or divergent practices had to be created and kept by certain socially shared mechanisms. In the paper I will intend to show that domestic powers, in their way to perpetuate their authority inside the domestic unit, produce some practices that could clash with important guidelines unfolded by the King and the Church.
Ælfric’s hagiographic work Lives of the Saints was written against the backdrop of a changing society and a land which was, at varying times either in perception or reality, under siege by outside forces, both temporal and spiritual. The renewed and repeated assaults and invasions by Norse forces of largely Danish origin prompting this besieged mentality were perhaps the most explicitly jarring of the numerous factors which influenced contemporary writing, helping to motivate a growing clerical support for a just war waged against heathen invaders. Simultaneously, a growing interest was developing among the literate warrior aristocracy in the heroic past expressed through poetry and historical writing, and it was two such aristocrats, ealdorman Æthelweard and his son Æthelmær, who commissioned Ælfric’s work of hagiography. The military leaning of a sizeable portion of Ælfric’s Lives has been noted by scholars, with over a third of the saints included falling into categories of royal or military lay saints, many of them containing lessons which could be seen as applicable to the situation faced by the Christian English warrior in the late 10th century. However, scholarship addressing this military aspect has tended to focus on textual transmission and comparisons with earlier Anglo-Saxon or Continental hagiographic traditions. In my paper, I examine the specific themes and wording used by Ælfric in narrating the deeds of martial saints in the literary context of the late 10th century, and suggest that Ælfric intentionally used certain literary cues to catch the attention of an aristocratic warrior audience and direct them towards examples of heroic behavior for an ideal warrior of Christ. Taking the lives of Saints Martin, Maurice, and the Forty Martyrs as the subjects of my analysis, I seek to demonstrate a resonance with the rhetoric of contemporaneously popular heroic literature.
Calls for reforming the Church were widespread in the 15th century. In this period, various church-political protagonists were actively engaged in reforms. These include the Bohemian theologian and preacher Jan Hus (c. 1370–1415), the Italian Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498), and the humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405–1464), who became Pope Pius II in 1458. All of them were willing to pursue their reformist objectives, even if they had to risk their own lives. Even though their visions of reform were manifold, one shared central reference point can be emphasised: their reversion to the early Church. Analyzing textual sources written by various church-political protagonists from the 15th century, this lecture addresses the notion that their reflection on the beginnings of the Church led to a greater presence of the idea of martyrdom.