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The functionality of the supernatural in Medieval England

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  1. Introduction
  2. The locus of supernatural power
  3. The very arrival of ?thelwold
  4. The incorruption of saintly remains
  5. The physical remains of saints'
  6. The world of healing
  7. The Clerics
  8. Sources of supernatural Christian power
  9. Church's provision of supernatural authority
  10. Inextricable entanglement of the religious
  11. The medieval societies
  12. Archeological data
  13. Conclusion

Peter Brown has observed that, in medieval Europe, the supernatural ?was intimately connected with the life of the group on every level. At the same time, however, it was operative because it was thought of as radically different from the human world into which it penetrated.? This is certainly true of medieval England. Medieval English attitude towards the supernatural consisted of a sense of familiarity as well as a sense of exceptionality. The common denominator to all of the forms of the supernatural was its intrinsic power, a power that the entirety of medieval English society could and did interact.
The saint was the one locus of supernatural power that could, alive or dead, intercede on behalf of an individual, a community, or the entire world. The saint's existence was the sacred operating with the world because the saint had privileged access to God's ear.

[...] To house the relics was to house the power that they represented, which raises an important point about the role of the supernatural in medieval society. In considering the sources Bede used for writing his History, Henry Mayr-Harting observes that saints about whom Bede writes were not necessarily the only great figures in the English conversion, but simply those about whom he had accessible information.?[8] This was because ?Bede had most of his miracle stories from the monks and nuns with whom he had friendly contact? and whom would presumably tell Bede of those saints that were ?revered or whose shrines were fostered at [their] particular religious houses, saints who immensely enhanced the prestige of a house and whose presence and power was felt with great immediacy.?[9] The result of these arguably biased sources in writing a history of Britain's Christianity was the continuation of clerics wielding saints' relics as proof of their professional legitimacy. [...]


[...] Watkins, History and the Supernatural in Medieval England. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007) Florence of Worchester, in English Historical Documents, 1042- Edited by David C Douglas. (New York: Oxford University Press pp 225-228) Poitiers Watkins ?Charter the charter handout from class. Peter Brown, ?Society and the Supernatural: A Medieval Change,?141. Genesis 978- 982. would not consider the sacrifice of Cain; that caused strong indignation in the heart of the man: rage arose in the youth's breast, livid hatred, and wrath.? (http://www8.georgetown.edu/departments/medieval/labyrinth/library/oe/texts 1.1 .html) All translations provided from (http://www.archive.org/stream/genesisa15612gut/15612.txt). [...]


[...] Ordination of priests and bishops gives them the spiritual authority to administer the sacraments, baptisms, last rites, etc., all of which ?could apply the supernatural power claimed by the Church to communal and individual needs,? and no doubt ?there was a demand in the localities for that supernatural power which the Church made available through its rituals.?[11] The narratives of William's conquest shed light on the social significance of Church ritual. When describing Harold's accession, Florence of Worchester states that ?Harold, son of Earl Godwine, whom the king had nominated as his successor, was chosen king by the chief magnates of all England,? but also makes the point to mention that ?Harold was crowned with great ceremony by Aldred, archbishop of York.?[12] Florence believes that Harold is the legitimate king not only because he was the legitimate heir, but also because he was ordained into his position with the power of the Church. [...]

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