Consorting with Saints: Prayer for the Dead in Early Medieval France

Consorting with Saints: Prayer for the Dead in Early Medieval France

Consorting with Saints: Prayer for the Dead in Early Medieval France

Consorting with Saints: Prayer for the Dead in Early Medieval France

Synopsis

In this book, Megan McLaughlin explores the social and cultural significance of prayer for the dead in the West Frankish realm from the late eighth century through the end of the eleventh century. She argues that the primary function of funerary and commemorative rituals in the early middle ages was to sustain the dead as members of the Christian community on earth, and to link them symbolically with the community of saints in heaven.

Excerpt

During the funeral, when grief was fresh and concern for the well-being of the dead at its height, the corpse and the tomb became centers for a flurry of ritual activity. After the corpse had been buried this intense activity began to taper off until, with the mass of the first anniversary of death, the funerary rites proper came to an end. This did not mean that the dead were forgotten, however. One of the most striking features of late antique and early medieval liturgical history is the growth of nonfunerary prayer for the dead, prayer performed whether a death had occurred recently or not. Such services were not simple acts of intercession, independent of the other ritual activities of the church. They developed as part of the general expansion of the liturgy that began in late antiquity; throughout the early middle ages they were treated as an integral part of the regular round of prayer.

THE EXPANSION OF THE LITURGY IN LATE ANTIQUITY

At the center of early Christian worship lay the celebration of the eucharist, the ritual meal within which Christ's redemptive sacrifice was reenacted. At first this seems to have been a deeply serious, but still relatively informal ceremony, conducted in a domestic setting with improvised prayers. In the first two centuries, it took place . . .

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