Outside Orders : Religious Faith and Practice of the Laity in Twelfth and Thirteenth-Century France Based on Chansons de Geste of the Charlemagne Cycle

Smith, Kay Lynette (2006). Outside Orders : Religious Faith and Practice of the Laity in Twelfth and Thirteenth-Century France Based on Chansons de Geste of the Charlemagne Cycle PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Smith, Kay Lynette
Thesis Title Outside Orders : Religious Faith and Practice of the Laity in Twelfth and Thirteenth-Century France Based on Chansons de Geste of the Charlemagne Cycle
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2006
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Moorhead, J. A.
Total pages 309
Collection year 2006
Subjects L
440207 Religion and Society
780199 Other
Abstract/Summary The centuries under discussion in this thesis, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, were a time of great change in practice of the rituals of the Christian church in Europe as well as in the development of their underlying theology. And the society that this thesis will investigate, the French speaking people of north western Europe, was the theatre in which much of that debate and change took place. The opinions and arguments of the erudite from that time and place are well known. Studies of their interactions illustrate the existence of many schools and individuals whose deliberations were written down, and which supply ample material to modern scholars who research the theological development of the time. However, what is not so abundantly documented is the impact that religion had on the lay and sometimes illiterate Christians of the day. If, in fact, they did debate their religious beliefs and practices, their debates were not written down for posterity to read. Their opinions can only be accessed obliquely. This thesis takes the form of small social history, history from the lower echelons of society rather than the higher, that plumbs the experiences of ordinary people whose opinions were not important enough to occupy the scholars and administrators of the day. In this case a branch of their literature in the vernacular will be used as source material. I propose drawing out a picture of what the people of the time believed, and how they expressed that belief in action, through a close reading of the popular medieval genre of the chanson de geste. The subject has been broached before, by Carl Josef Merk in 1914, Adolphe Jacques Dickman in 1926, Marianna Gildea in 1943 and J-L. Roland Bélanger in 1975. This study will differ from previous studies in its concentration on only one cycle of poems and the depth of examination of those poems. Where Merk, Gildea and Dickman used many poems, almost the entire available corpus, and Bélanger used a mixture of the poems of the Loherain Cycle and other earlier chansons, this study will be confined to the poems of the Charlemagne Cycle. The poems of one cycle grew out of a common store of subject matter, in this case stories surrounding the great eighth and ninth century king, Charlemagne. By the time of the production and recording of chansons, Charlemagne had acquired legendary status and been credited with conquests and journeys that he never made in his lifetime. He represented an ideal of kingship and his actions were the actions of the ideal Christian conqueror, a monarch who, with his people, was loved by God and guided and assisted by God in all he undertook. For the most part the stories about him involved the conquest and conversion of non-Christian people. Consequently, although the poems are not overtly concerned with religious teaching or religious practice, their subject matter is imbued with religious language and significance. It is the religious significance of the language and subject matter of these poems and the similarity of the hierarchical structure of the society described to the conjectured celestial structure that makes these poems suitable as subject matter for this study. Eleven poems have been chosen for study, nine concerned with conquest of non- Christian people and two with the existence of traitors among the followers of the king. These two poems add the dimension of loyalty to one’s monarch and preservation of the status quo to that of warfare against non-Christians. The findings are set out in two sections, one concerned with rituals that mark the milestones in the protagonists’ lives and the other with more spontaneous expressions of faith. Conclusions are drawn from each section and then melded to give an overall picture of the faith of the laity of the time. Where parallels or contrasts with the practice accepted and prescribed by the ecclesiastical establishment are detected, these are examined in the relevant chapters.

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:01:16 EST