Medieval Religious Culture and Fear Essay

2858 Words12 Pages
To What Extent were Responses to Death Characterised by Fear in Medieval Religious Culture? This investigation will analyse responses to death in medieval religious culture. Relationships with death arguably varied between social classes, making it difficult to assert a generalised response to death. Death was commonplace amongst peasants and therefore few sources document it. Responses to death can be inferred by sermons, which were influential to the beliefs of lower classes. The nobility on the other hand, provided accounts of deaths and from these sources responses can be asserted. Similarly, it is difficult to assert a general definition of death as in the medieval period the concept of death was multidimensional. Death was both…show more content…
Therefore, additional primary sources must be utilised, such as ‘The Book of Hours’, looking specifically at the ‘Office of the Dead; and ‘Ars Moriendi’. These popular texts provide a better indication of societies response to death. Nonetheless, these sources are still somewhat limited to presenting the responses of the upper echelons of society. This essay will evaluate the nobility’s response to death, analysing accounts of Edward IV’s funeral and cadaver tombs. Most of the primary sources available only indicate the nobility’s responses and consequently it is difficult to assert the responses of ordinary society to death. The analysis of sermons and prayers provide a better indication of wider societies response to death. Debate surrounds the extent to which medieval religious culture was characterised by negative aspects, of fear as opposed to positive aspects, such as mercy and forgiveness. Delumeau’s early scholarship propagates that fear of sin was central to religious culture of the period whereas later scholarship argues that death was regarded as a welcomed release from the sinful temporal world. This essay will argue that responses to Death were largely characterised by fear in the medieval period, evident through doctrine, sermons, literature and cadaver tombs. The Prayer Book of 1552 presents death in the lexis of fear, describing the
Open Document