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date: 05 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

It is tempting to think of ‘penitence’ as one thing within Christian culture, but this chapter demonstrates that it involved various different practices, feelings, thoughts, and ideas in a variety of different contexts for a variety of different purposes. The chapter focuses on a series of specific moments in which penitential acts occurred, from late antiquity to the later middle ages; and in so doing, demonstrates that ‘penitence’ was tremendously important, but also extremely flexible in both concept and practice. There is throughout an emphasis on the ‘personal’ experience of penance, to bring into view the fact that ‘penitence’ was, ultimately, something experienced by individual human beings, albeit in a social setting.

Keywords: Reconciliation, confession, medieval individuality, interiority, penitentials, episcopal visitation

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