Journeys to holiness : lay sanctity in the Central Middle Ages, c.970-c.1120

Cornell du Houx, Adrian and Hayward, Paul Antony (2015) Journeys to holiness : lay sanctity in the Central Middle Ages, c.970-c.1120. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This dissertation analyses a collection of Lives (vitae) of lay saints from western Europe who were neither martyrs nor from a royal family, to find that lay sanctity was a significant phenomenon throughout the eleventh century. Previously historians (notably André Vauchez) had assumed that the Gregorian Reform hampered its emergence until the twelfth century. In fact lay sanctity was a complex category of sainthood that both underscores and challenges historians’ narratives of this reform. The principal, linking feature of its texts is found to be the saints’ dedication to pilgrimage and voluntary exile at a time when the laity were increasingly exploiting the benefits of spiritual travel. The first part of the dissertation consists of a series of local and individual studies, the most detailed of which pertain to southern France and northern Italy. These demonstrate, among other things, how lay sanctity was promoted during the Peace of God movement (chapter 1), the overlap between secular and spiritual heroic ideologies on pilgrimage routes (chapter 2), a reformist centre at Lucca venerating ‘exotic’ saints (chapter 3), and the emergence of a new asceticism in line with larger developments in eremitism and the evangelical revival (chapter 4). The second part argues for a vital link between pilgrimage, in all its forms, and lay sanctity, locating the vitae within both medieval beliefs about pilgrimage and modern explanations of ritual, especially anthropological models of liminality (chapter 5). This part also addresses the overlap between the laity and hermits, as well as the situation of knightly converts: these ‘quasi-lay’ saints were finding new ways to express their devotion and they too sought pilgrimage as a solution to their spiritual crises (chapter 6). The conclusion relates the findings to the twelfth century and beyond: following discussion of the cult of Homobonus of Cremona (d. 1197), it warns against simplistic attempts to construct grand narratives for the development of lay sanctity in the Middle Ages.

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18 Jun 2015 06:18
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26 Jan 2024 00:59