The church as sacred space in Middle English literature and culture

By Laura Varnam

The church as sacred space in Middle English literature and culture


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4356-3
  • Pages: 280
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £21.00
  • Published Date: September 2019
  • BIC Category: Literary studies: ancient & classical, Christian Churches, denominations, groups, History of religion, Religion, RELIGION / History, Medieval Literature, RELIGION / Christian Church / History, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, LITERARY CRITICISM / Medieval, Society & social sciences / Cultural studies, Humanities / History of religion, Humanities / British & Irish history, Humanities / Church history, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: classical, early & medieval
  • Series: Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture


This book presents an exciting new approach to the medieval church by examining the role of literary texts, visual decorations, ritual performance and lived experience in the production of sanctity. The meaning of the church was intensely debated in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The book explores what was at stake not only for the church's sanctity but for the identity of the parish community as a result. Focusing on pastoral material used to teach the laity, it shows how the church's status as a sacred space at the heart of the congregation was dangerously - but profitably - dependent on lay practice. The sacred and profane were inextricably linked and, paradoxically, the church is shown to thrive on the sacrilegious challenge of lay misbehaviour and sin.


'The Church as Sacred Space is a tour de force. Its overall shape is cleverly conceived and Laura Varnam is to be warmly thanked for not only bringing together a rich plethora of Middle English sermons, miracle stories, treatises, and the record of a church foundation, but also sourcing insights from contemporary architecture, material culture, and liturgy. its an invaluable and thoroughly engaging introduction and points the reader to further study by offering a painstakingly prepared bibliography of primary and secondary texts, and online resources.'
A Journal of Christian Spirituality

'An excellent example of the insightful scholarship that emerges from interdisciplinary approaches
to medieval studies... Its engaging prose and compelling insights make it difficult to put down. The book contains extensive chapter endnotes and a comprehensive bibliography. Varnam's arguments are well worth
consideration, and its interdisciplinary approach to sacred space makes it a study with a broad academic appeal.'
Journal of English and Germanic Philology


Introduction: reading sacred space in late medieval England
1 The church consecration ceremony and the construction of sacred space
2 The Book of the Foundation of St Bartholomew's Church: consecration, restoration, and translation
3 Sacred and profane: pastoral care in the parish church
4 What the church betokeneth: placing the people at the heart of sacred space
5 Epilogue


Laura Varnam is Lecturer in Old and Middle English Literature at University College, Oxford

The church as sacred space in Middle English literature and culture

By Laura Varnam

Paperback £21.00 / $30.95

Hardcover £85.00 / $130.00

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