Eternal light and earthly concerns

Belief and the shaping of medieval society

By Paul Fouracre

Eternal light and earthly concerns


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-1400-6
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: April 2021
  • BIC Category: Religion, Medieval History, History, Social & cultural history, History & Archaeology, European history: medieval period, middle ages, European history, Europe, CE period up to c 1500, c 1000 CE to c 1500, Archaeology by period / region, HISTORY / Europe / General, RELIGION / History, HISTORY / Social History, HISTORY / Medieval, Humanities / History of religion, Humanities / Religion & beliefs, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Humanities / European history, Medieval European Archaeology, Humanities / Medieval history


In early Christianity it was established that every church should have a light burning on the altar at all times. In this unique study, Eternal light and earthly concerns, looks at the material and social consequences of maintaining these 'eternal' lights. It investigates how the cost of lighting was met across western Europe throughout the whole of the Middle Ages, revealing the social organisation that was built up around maintaining the lights in the belief that burning them reduced the time spent in Purgatory. When that belief collapsed in the Reformation the eternal lights were summarily extinguished. The history of the lights thus offers not only a new account of change in medieval Europe, but also a sustained examination of the relationship between materiality and belief.


'[A] meticulously documented survey'.
The Journal of Religious History


1 Beginnings
2 Consolidation of provision: elite practice
3 Light and power: the 'Carolingian moment'
4 Lighting, lords and peasants in post-Carolingian Europe
5 Lights and social formation in the central Middle Ages
6 Lights in the later Middle Ages: from devotion to destruction


Paul Fouracre is Professor Emeritus of Medieval History at the University of Manchester

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