England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075-1225

By Robert Bartlett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Religious Life

I. CONCEPTS OF THE HOLY

Hallowing

Like most religions, medieval Christianity designated certain persons, places, objects, and times as holy. They were to be treated with special reverence and were exempt from many of the normal rules that applied to the mundane. The Church possessed an extensive repertoire of rituals designed to set aside people, buildings, and objects in this way. In his service book a twelfth-century bishop had directions not only for ordaining clerics and dedicating churches but also for consecrating bells, candles, church ornaments, branches for distribution on Palm Sunday, salt for use in baptism, a pilgrim's staff, a knight's sword, and the fire and water used for trial by ordeal.1 If they were blessed in the proper ritual way all these things could be given a special and sanctified status. They became officially holy.

A good example of the ritual designation of a site in this way is the episcopal dedication of a church. When a bishop dedicated a church, he marked out the circuit of the sacred place by leading a procession around the building six times before entering it. Inside, he traced with his staff on the floor of the church a great 'X' made up of the letters of the Greek and Latin alphabets, and then mixed a holy concoction of salt, ashes, water, wine, and chrism (holy oil), with which he sprayed the interior and exterior walls three times. This was to drive away phantasms and demons. He then drew the sign of the cross on the inner and outer walls in chrism in twelve places before proceeding to enclose relics in the altar, bless the altar-cloth, and then, in fresh vestments, celebrate mass and preach a sermon.2

The elements used in the ceremony themselves needed to be exorcized before they were safe to use in blessings:

I exorcize you, creature of water, in the name of God the Father omnipotent and in
the name of Jesus Christ his son and the Holy Spirit, so that every strength of our
adversary, every assault of the devil, every phantasm and all powers of the enemy be

1Magd. Pont., passim.

2 Ibid., pp. 98–124.

-450-

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England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075-1225
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • General Editor's Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Contents xi
  • Plates xiv
  • Figures xv
  • Maps xvi
  • Tables xvii
  • Abbreviations xviii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter I - Political Patterns 4
  • Chapter 2 - England and Beyond 68
  • Chapter 3 - Lordship and Government 121
  • Chapter 4 - The Aristocracy 202
  • Chapter 5 - Warfare 252
  • Chapter 6 - The Rural Foundations 287
  • Chapter 7 - Towns and Trade 331
  • Chapter 8 - The Institutional Church 377
  • Chapter 9 - Religious Life 450
  • Chapter 10 - Cultural Patterns 490
  • Chapter 11 - The Course of Life 543
  • Chapter 12 - Cosmologies 624
  • Chronology of Political Events 701
  • The Sources 703
  • Index of Persons and Places 715
  • Index of Subjects 773
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