The Use and Abuse of Sacred Places in Late Medieval Towns

The Use and Abuse of Sacred Places in Late Medieval Towns

Paul TRIO
Marjan DE SMET
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Leuven University Press
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qdzbb
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  • Book Info
    The Use and Abuse of Sacred Places in Late Medieval Towns
    Book Description:

    Church buildings dominated the medieval towns. Higher and stronger than most buildings in town, and often easily accessible because of their central position, they offered a venue for various kinds of activities. Naturally, the faithful first and foremost flocked towards the parish and monastic churches and chapels to attend masses, to receive the Sacraments, to offer up their prayers. But not all uses were strictly religious. Secular authorities, from the ruler to the town government, the trades or guilds, made --sometimes extensive-- use of these ecclesiastical buildings, usually for practical or socio-political reasons. Indeed, ecclesiastical buildings were used for storage or preservation purposes (arms, documents, treasure, ...), for defensive reasons, for accomodating large gatherings, ... They were also perceived to lend a kind of sacral aura to all proceedings taking place inside, and were consequently the ideal setting for ceremonies such as crownings, for elections, meetings, ..., emphasizing the legitimacy and the solemn nature of these (socio-)political activities. Apart from a mere enumeration and description of the different uses, the authors of this book also try to explain why these 'sacred spaces' were such appreciated venues for various kinds of secular activities, and why some churches and monasteries were more popular than other. Moreover, it will become clear that, in some cases, sacred space itself was adapted to the needs of the secular community. Naturally, the local clergy or ecclesiastical authorities could greatly influence the actual use made of these buildings, by either granting or denying the secular world the right to 'invade' their sacred spaces. This book discusses uses made of churches and monasteries by secular authorities in the Low Countries, the German regions and the British Isles, focussing on the late medieval period. In this way, the reader is offered a view across borders and periods, as well as across different levels of society. Symbolic uses of churches for reasons of prestige, legitimacy or solemnity are confronted with the down-to-earth (ab)use of sacred spaces in order to survive. Long-term, traditional uses which were continued for centuries, are set against improptu decisions in answer to occasional needs or emergencies. More in particular, the topics discussed for the Low Countries range from the everyday use of parish churches (Kuys), over the use of ecclesiastical buildings for peace-proclamations (van Leeuwen), to the abuse of these buildings in times of war (De Smet), and to the representation of patronage on the paintings with which they were decorated (Dekeyzer). For the German regions, the function of these buildings for royal representation (Rahel Oesterle) and the church as a space for communication (Signori) are discussed. The London Mendicant monasteries (Röhrkasten) and a Cistercian monastery (Jamroziak) were situated within the sphere of influence of several secular authorities --among which was the court-- while also the influence of urban ceremonies (Sweetinburgh) and noble patronage (Stöber) on ecclesiastical buildings in more peripheral regions receives the attention it deserves. This book represents for the Low Countries a first attempt at the study of this subject.

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-115-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction

    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. vii-xii)
      Paul TRIO

      Secular authorities used ecclesiastical buildings and lands for non-religious or only partly religious purposes from the beginning of the Middle Ages. One of the many reasons for treating ecclesiastical property in this way was that in the Middle Ages, religious spaces – and particularly those outside the closed world of the monasteries – were not always considered a completely different world, but were often seen as part of the space where more secular activities and events were commonplace. We need not look far for an initial explanation of this phenomenon. Ecclesiastical and secular societies often intertwined and were less strictly...

  4. Low Countries

    • HEAVENLY QUIET AND THE DIN OF WAR: USE AND ABUSE OF RELIGIOUS BUILDINGS FOR PURPOSES OF SAFETY, DEFENCE AND STRATEGY
      (pp. 1-26)
      Marjan DE SMET

      Ideally, the world of thebellatoresnever invaded the peaceful domain of theoratores– ideally. In reality, religious and ecclesiastical persons, institutions and places often became involved in, and suffered the consequences of, the violence that riddled late medieval society. The peaceful atmosphere within monasteries and churches was often brutally shattered by soldiers and swordsmen, cannons and fire.

      In what follows, we will concentrate on the way in which urban religious buildings – mainly churches and monasteries – functioned within the town’s defensive system or figured in its strategies, and on the (ab)use that was made of them by...

    • WELTLICHE FUNKTIONEN SPÄTMITTELALTERLICHER PFARRKIRCHEN IN DEN NÖRDLICHEN NIEDERLANDEN
      (pp. 27-45)
      Jan KUYS

      Als Bischof Hartbert von Utrecht (1139-1150) nach seiner Rückkehr von einem Romzug den Einwohnern von Groningen, die sich während seiner Abwesenheit in einer Schwurgenossenschaft gegen ihn zusammengeschlossen hatten, seinen Willen wieder auferlegen wollte, musste er militärisch eingreifen. Als Reaktion darauf verschanzten sich die Einwohner in der Groninger Walpurgiskirche, so dass der Bischof sie mit Hilfe von Belagerungswerkzeugen von dort vertreiben musste. Der Verfasser der um 1232/1233 entstandenen anonymen ChronikQuedam Narracio de Groninghe, de Thrente, de Covordia et de diversis aliis sub diversis episcopis Traiectensibusschreibt empört, dass die Groninger das Haus Gottes zu einem Haus des Krieges gemacht hätten.¹...

    • PRAISE THE LORD FOR THIS PEACE! THE CONTRIBUTION OF RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS TO THE CEREMONIAL PEACE-PROCLAMATIONS IN LATE MEDIEVAL FLANDERS (1450-1550)
      (pp. 47-70)
      Jacoba van LEEUWEN

      Recently, medievalists have given attention to the communication of power. The emphasis in this research is not on power but on the representation, the performance or the staging of power.¹ The rise of the State at the end of the Middle Ages has made the analysis of the symbolic communication of rulers seem particularly important. Besides political strategies, various ceremonies were employed to further State formation, such as the elaboration of festive Joyous Entries and the ruler’s participation in town spectacles like tournaments and banquets. After a conflict, rituals of reconciliation and submission were performed to demonstrate the ruler’s triumph.²...

    • FOR ETERNAL GLORY AND REMEMBRANCE: ON THE REPRESENTATION OF PATRONS IN LATE MEDIEVAL PANEL PAINTINGS IN THE SOUTHERN LOW COUNTRIES
      (pp. 71-101)
      Brigitte DEKEYZER

      ‘In the great works of art of the fifteenth century, notably in the altar-pieces and tombs, the nature of the subject was far more important than the question of beauty. Beauty was required because the subject was sacred or because the work was destined for some august purpose. This purpose is always of a more or less practical sort. The triptych served to intensify worship at the great festivals and to preserve the memory of the pious donors. The altar-piece of the Lamb by the brothers Van Eyck was opened at high festivals only’.¹ Joos Vijd and Elisabeth Borluut are...

  5. German Regions

    • THE LITURGICAL DIMENSION OF ROYAL REPRESENTATION
      (pp. 103-115)
      Jenny Rahel OESTERLE

      The tenth and eleventh centuries, the time of the Ottonian and Salian rulers, are often described as a period of sacred, divine kingship, expressed in German as ‘Sakralkönigtum’.¹ The king in the Early Middle Ages represented himself as ‘vicarius Christi’, as the vicegerent of Christ on earth. Through his coronation and in particular his anointment, he ensured the status which Ernst Kantorowicz described as the ‘king’s two bodies’:² he was the ruler on earth and the future heavenly co-ruler. The king was therefore a half-sacred and half-political person, with no definite limit between his political and sacred roles.

      For Ottonian...

    • SAKRAL ODER PROFAN? DER KOMMUNIKATIONSRAUM KIRCHE
      (pp. 117-134)
      Gabriela SIGNORI

      Wenig menschliche Tätigkeiten sind religionsübergreifend so eindeutig als profan zu erkennen, wie Geldwechsel oder Handel. Sie stehen unverkennbar in Widerspruch zur Dignität, zur Sakralität des Kirchenraums, den Christus dem Lukas- und Matthäusevangelium zufolge als Gebethaus begriff.¹

      Mircea Eliade geht davon aus, dass die Unterscheidung zwischen profan und heilig zum Wesen des Religiösen gehört. Es seien zwei streng von einander getrennte Welten, zwei verschiedene Arten des In-der-Welt-Seins, die mit unterschiedlichen Raumkonzeptionen verbunden seien. Das Profane sei homogen, das Sakrale hingegen basiere auf der Erfahrung der räumlichen Heterogenität. Für den Menschen fassbar, sichtbar und erkennbar werde das Heilige erst mittels Zeichen. Später...

  6. British Isles

    • SECULAR USES OF THE MENDICANT PRIORIES OF MEDIEVAL LONDON
      (pp. 135-151)
      Jens RÖHRKASTEN

      The secular use of mendicant convents in the Middle Ages was not unusual.¹ Examples from different European regions show that friary precincts were made available to urban authorities for a variety of purposes and that secular rulers would on occasion also make use of the buildings and the space provided by a mendicant priory, occupying convents with their household or providing accommodation for guests. Mendicant houses were used to store records or to serve as a venue for political and diplomatic negotiations. The German royal election of 1292 was held in the Dominican convent of Frankfurt, the Franciscan convent of...

    • ST. MARY GRACES: A CISTERCIAN HOUSE IN LATE MEDIEVAL LONDON
      (pp. 153-164)
      Emilia JAMROZIAK

      The Cistercian house of St Mary Graces, the last foundation belonging to that order in England has not received much scholarly attention despite its intriguing history and its role in the city of London in the late Middle Ages.¹ The results of the extensive excavations conducted in the 1980s by the Museum of London also have not been utilized by historians. St Mary Graces was an unusual monastery in two ways. Not just because of its location, but also because it was founded at the time when the Cistercian order was decidedly unfashionable and eclipsed, certainly in terms of the...

    • MAYOR-MAKING AND OTHER CEREMONIES: SHARED USES OF SACRED SPACE AMONG THE KENTISH CINQUE PORTS
      (pp. 165-187)
      Sheila SWEETINBURGH

      Churches were ubiquitous in medieval England, their buildings and grounds used for a multiplicity of purposes by different groups and individuals. Urban churches might provide sites for civic ceremonies, possibly large-scale pageants and processions, like those in the cities of London, Coventry, Bristol and York, but equally in small towns, at the sole parish church, perhaps.¹ This essay examines the role and place of such rituals in the small Kentish towns of Hythe, New Romney, Sandwich and Dover. Together these towns comprise four of the five head ports (the fifth, Hastings, is in Sussex) of the Cinque Ports Federation, an...

    • THE ROLE OF LATE MEDIEVAL ENGLISH MONASTERIES AS EXPRESSIONS OF PATRONAL AUTHORITY: SOME CASE STUDIES
      (pp. 189-207)
      Karen STÖBER

      Monasteries and nunneries were an integral part of the medieval landscape of Christian Europe, and of medieval society. In England, as in the rest of western Christendom, the local lay community was involved with the communities of religious men and women on several levels and in many ways, which varied from mere trading contacts to frequent, close and personal relationships. The contacts which arose between the lay party on the one hand, and the religious community on the other inevitably raise the question whether, and to what extent, different forms of behaviour were compatible with the religious life: there is...

  7. Conclusion

    • CONCLUSION
      (pp. 209-226)
      Koen GOUDRIAAN

      Quam terribilis est locus[…]iste. Non est hic aliud nisi domus Dei et porta caeli’(‘How awesome is this place. This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven’; Gen. 28, 17).¹ With these words the patriarch Jacob commented on the dream vision in which he saw a heavenly ladder and angels descending and ascending on it. The words have been included in the mass with which the consecration of a church is celebrated.² It is through consecration that church buildings receive their sacred character.³ Basically, it is the divine presence that...

  8. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 227-230)
  9. INDEX LIBRORUM MANU SCRIPTORUM
    (pp. 231-231)
  10. INDEX LOCORUM
    (pp. 232-240)
  11. INDEX NOMINUM
    (pp. 241-245)
  12. INDEX OPERUM
    (pp. 246-247)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 248-248)