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date: 20 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Among the few unbroken historical threads traceable across the European Middle Ages is the centrality of home to medieval imaginations. This essay thus focuses on how medieval women and men enacted piety in their various types of households, both imaginatively and physically; how they understood those actions; and the ways in which gender inflected their beliefs and behaviors. It explores practices that have been treated largely in historiographical isolation from each other, including private devotions and sanctified labor; the repurposing of existing structures for pious communities; material enhancements to domestic spirituality; and meditative transcendence of household spaces. In a dazzling constellation of alternatives to the stark choice of either “Mary or Martha,” pious domesticities offered medieval people deeply gendered ways to fuse the active and contemplative, and in so doing, to make Christ at home.

Keywords: Devotion, domestic, home, household, housework, Martha, piety

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