The body in Medieval spirituality: a rationale for pilgrimage and the veneration of relics

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Abstract

Christian pilgrimage was one of the most striking phenomena characterising medieval societies. A physical encounter with the relics of saints often constituted the spiritual summit of the pilgrim’s journey. In order to understand the importance of physicality and the rationale behind the veneration of relics, it is necessary to consider the philosophical recategorisation of the human body and the Christological reflections of Christian writers during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. This article presents some exemplificative texts, which show the
emergence of a Christian philosophy within which the human body assumed a new dignity and new powers. When juxtaposed to these metaphysical and theological discourses, the acts of veneration towards the bodies and relics of saints become intelligible, suggesting that this aspect of medieval spirituality should be seen not merely as a fideistic and irrational phenomenon but rather as the manifestation of an internally coherent cosmolog.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Pages (from-to)2-20
Number of pages19
JournalInterdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion
Volume14
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Christian pilgrimage
  • Medieval spirituality
  • relics

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