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

By Megan McLaughlin | Go to book overview

1 THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD

Early medieval rituals for the dead present a rich and, at first glance, bewildering array of meanings. The texts of prayers touch on the joys of heaven, the terrors of hell, and the dangers of this world. They describe the unworthiness of those praying and the fidelity of those prayed for, the sufferings of Job and the triumph of the martyrs, the justice and the mercy of God. Ritual actions serve to cleanse bodies awaiting burial; align them with other bodies near the walls of churches, in doorways, or near altars; and make tombs sacred with incense. Often it is difficult to understand the connections between the many different ideas found in liturgical texts, let alone between texts and ritual actions. The same diversity of meanings is evident in the writings of the theologians, church leaders, and even those few ordinary Christians who have left us written interpretations of prayer for the dead.1.

Yet at a deeper level, beneath the widely disparate images presented by early medieval rituals for the dead, there runs a common theme, which structured those rituals and, to a large extent, determined the ways in which they were used. This is the theme of spiritual relationship--both the vertical relationship between the individual Christian and God, and the horizontal relationships within the Christian community. These might be understood in terms of ritual kinship, ties of patronage between saints and ordinary men and women,

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1.
See Chapter 5 below.

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Burial of the Dead 24
  • 2 - Commemoration 55
  • 3 - The Laity and the Liturgical Community 102
  • 4 - Familiaritas 133
  • 5 - The Ideology of Prayer for the Dead 178
  • Epilogue 250
  • Appendix A - Liturgical Privileges in Royal Acts, 768-1108 261
  • Appendix B - Grants of Liturgical Privileges by Five Religious Communities, 800-1099 263
  • Works Cited 269
  • Index 299
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