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Title: The development of the notions of penance, purgatory and the afterlife in Anglo-Saxon England
Author: Forbes, H. G. F.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2009
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Renowned medievalist Jacques Le Goff claims ‘Purgatory’ was not ‘born’ until the late twelfth century, but all the functions of purgatory are regularly referred to in Anglo-Saxon writings, and the interim was clearly an important concept.  For clergy and laity alike, the commemoration and obligations owed to the dead resulted in the perception of the interim as a place of interaction between living and departed. Far from being ‘born’ in the late twelfth century, therefore, purgatory was by then a child whose future and direction was discussed in great detail: it had existed since much earlier. Penance ties into the interim in the context of the rites for the sick and dying, but was also an occasion for teaching and learning; the priest catechised the penitent as part of the confessional process, and the afterlife was the first teaching a penitent Christian should learn. The practical and social aspects of pastoral care are crucial to the understanding of the post-mortem interim, especially so since the later Anglo-Saxon Church grouped the laity according to where they confessed and performed penance. This work begins by exploring the ideas of the interim and afterlife which circulated in the early Church. An investigation of the organisation and nature of the church in England in this period seeks to establish by whom and for whom Anglo-Saxon religious texts were written, and how information was disseminated and received. Following this, I examine the ways in which Anglo-Saxons responded to, adapted and reproduced medieval Christian ideas of death and dying, from the importance of confession and penance in life, to the rites of the sick and dying and the funerary liturgy, and ultimately to perceptions of death and the beyond.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available