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Death in Fifteenth-Century Castile: Ideologies of the Elites

Death in Fifteenth-Century Castile: Ideologies of the Elites

Series: Monografías A
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Death in Fifteenth-Century Castile: Ideologies of the Elites
    Book Description:

    The theory of the three estates made clear distinctions between the functions of the two estates which comprised the elite of medieval society: the oradores (ecclesiastics) and the defensores (warriors or nobility). They had different lifestyles, clothing and ways of thinking about life. With regard to death, the responses dictated by Christian theology conflicted with the demands of the defensor ideology, based on the defence of individual honour, the pursuit of fama and the display of earthly power. This book charts the progress of the dying from their preparations for death, through their 'good' or 'bad' deaths, to their burials and otherworldly fates and also analyses the responses of the bereaved. Through the use of pre-fifteenth-century texts it is possible to demonstrate that the conflict between the orador and defensor ideologies did not begin in the fifteenth century, but rather had a much older origin, and it is suggested that the conflict continued after 1500. Textual sources include the Siete partidas, wills, chronicles, religious works such as the Arte de bien morir and literary works such as Cárcel de Amor and Celestina.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-063-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-26)

    Death and the fifteenth century have long been closely associated in the minds of historians and literary critics. Johan Huizinga, for example, stated that `No other epoch has laid so much stress as the expiring Middle Ages on the thought of death. An everlasting call ofmemento moriresounds through life’ (1924: 124). Huizinga’s influence has been considerable: for example, Erna Ruth Berndt referred to him when she argued that `Ninguna otra época, con excepción, quizá, de la nuestra, ha dado tanta importancia a la consideración de la muerte como los siglos XIV y XV’ (1963: 74), adding that in...

    (pp. 27-98)

    Dying was not a value-free process: the manner in which it occurred was likely to be categorized as either good or bad, either a `buena o mala muerte’ (Martínez de Toledo 1979: 244).¹ Within these broad categories, however, there were many different forms, each possessing its own characteristics. Thus Centurio could speak of his `reportorio en que ay sietecientas y setenta species de muertes’ (Rojas 1998: 316). This interest in the precise nature of any given death was due to the fact that the cause of death, where it took place, the social status of the deceased, and their attitude...

    (pp. 99-135)

    Although the manner of an individual’s death was generally considered extremely important, a theologian such as Fray Juan de Alarcón (d. c. 1451) could challenge the existing views of different types of deaths, as outlined in the previous chapter, by asserting that whether a death was good or bad depended on the life lived and, more importantly, the destination of the soul:

    digo con Sant Agustín que non es muerte mala, sinon si la vida que alante pasó era mala; non es mala la muerte sinon por lo que se sigue después de la muerte, […] entonces es mala la...

    (pp. 136-177)

    So far in my examination of the process of dying and its consequences for the deceased, the living have received relatively little attention. They have not been entirely excluded, for deaths occurred in a wider social context and it was living people, not dead ones, who wrote accounts of deaths and made recommendations on how to die. I have also shown how the form of an individual’s death could affect the social status of their family, particularly if they had died a bad death. The physical consequences for the corpses of many of those who had died bad deaths have...

    (pp. 178-184)

    In my investigation oforadoranddefensorattitudes to death, from those of the dying to those of the bereaved, I have described two coherent and distinct ideologies which I believe co-existed and came into conflict in fifteenth-century Castile. Though I have drawn my evidence mainly from written sources, we have also seen that the division between theoradoranddefensorideologies can be detected in the visual arts. The most striking images of death created in the fifteenth century were probably those of dancing skeletons and hideous beckoning corpses, but while some individuals may have believed that the macabre...

    (pp. 185-188)
    (pp. 189-204)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 205-211)