Indulgences and Medieval Pilgrimage, ca. 700 - ca. 1400
Medieval indulgences are generally studied as products of the crusades, papal policy, and scholastic theology. The conceptual roots of indulgences, however, antedate these phenomena. On the other hand, scant attention has been paid to the relationship between indulgences and medieval pilgrimage, even though forgiveness of sin was a (if not the) major factor in the motivation of medieval pilgrims. In fact, during the centuries before the crusades, Christians across Europe were taking charge of their afterlives: both purgatory and indulgences were taking form, not under the scrutiny of scholars or the impetus of popes, but as spontaneous developments from evolving ideas of divine justice and the individual’s agency in his or her own redemption. This history seminar will focus on the role of indulgences – eventually formal, but at first popularly conceived and informal – in the development of pilgrimage. At the same time, we will explore the role of pilgrimage in the development of concepts of sin and forgiveness, especially the instrument of the indulgence, over the course of several centuries.
The seminar will begin with an overview of recent and classic studies of the development of the indulgence (including review of the necessary basic theological/sacramental background). We will then broaden our inquiry to include studies and primary sources reflecting a change in attitudes towards concepts of penance and absolution. The majority of the course will find us exploring miracle collections, song lyrics, “visions” of the afterlife, saints’ lives, excerpts from theological treatises and biblical glosses, vernacular literature, Romanesque sculpture, and, eventually, indulgence “treasuries,” with an eye to establishing a “popular history” of indulgences. Most of these materials are relatively short and will be made available as photocopies or on reserve. All required primary sources will be available in English as well as in the original languages.
Participants: Stephen Bruner, Loyola University Chicago; Elizabeth Casteen, Northwestern University; Andrew Donnelley, Loyola University Chicago; Caijtan Gainty, University of Chicago; Thomas Green, Loyola University Chicago; Courtney Kneupper, Northwestern University; Katelyn Mesler, Northwestern University; Loretta Northcutt-Williams, Loyola University Chicago; Dan O’Gorman, Loyola University Chicago; Nickie Prussing, Northwestern University; Laura Walsh, Northwestern University
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