M. A. Hall
Creating, inviting, and repurposing sacrality was a fundamental quest of social behaviour in the medieval period. From the major shrines of cathedrals down to the portable sanctity of amulets, the pursuit of sacredness affected the everyday lives of Christian believers, helping to fashion memories and create heirlooms. Drawing on history, art history, anthropology, and folklore under the broad umbrella of material culture, this contribution takes a socially informed and trans-disciplinary approach to archaeology and seeks a holistic interpretation of the medieval past, one that does not neglect the intangible. This contribution seeks to underline the value of recent, new perspectives in this area and to broaden their application. Three overlapping themes are considered: relics, places, and mobility.
An understanding of medieval pilgrimage can be informed by the application of archaeological approaches to the physical evidence. This chapter outlines the evidence of pilgrimage within the historic landscape, demonstrates the existence of an infrastructure for the support of pilgrims, and applies a functional approach to interpreting the sometimes fugitive remains of shrines. Consideration is also given to the impressive material culture of pilgrimage souvenirs, and the evidence that this provides of pilgrims’ travels at home and abroad. Extraordinary insights can also be gained into the life experiences and personal faith of medieval individuals from the excavation of pilgrim burials.
Kate Giles and Aleksandra McClain
In the later Middle Ages, the parish churches of England were populated not simply by parishioners and clergy, but by a community of images: paintings on the walls, depictions in stained glass, and sculptures carved in wood, alabaster, or metal. Lit by beeswax and tallow candles and adorned with gifts of rosaries, textiles, and votive offerings, they held the gaze of worshippers, forming a series of devotional foci within the parish church. In England, most of these images have disappeared, swept away by the reforms and iconoclasm of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They survive as references in contemporary written sources, in decorative schemes exposed during nineteenth-century restoration works, and in museum and art gallery collections. This chapter considers the evidence and assesses the archaeological contribution to current understandings of imagery in medieval religion and belief.