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Medieval Christianity in Practice.

Medieval Christianity in Practice. Edited by Miri Rubin. Princeton Readings in Religions. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2007. xvi + 346 pp. $80.00 cloth; $22.95 paper.

This volume is a welcome addition to the Princeton Readings in Religions series. Following Religions of Late Antiquity in Practice, it presents primary sources from Western Europe from circa 600 to 1500. Most of the forty-three contributors are eminent scholars, and the commentaries that accompany the selections provide valuable surveys of topics as varied as penance (chapters 18-20), stigmatization (chapter 35), and the girl of tears (chapter 38). Healing is an important theme. Charms to ward off murrain (chapter 9), prayers (often accompanied by indulgences, chapters 21 and 22), amulets and charms (chapters 24 and 25), and the passage on spiritual healing (chapter 29) should be compared with each other and with the discussion of the causes of disease in chapter 14. The section "Pursuit of Perfection" comprises almost a third of the book and treats a variety of ways in which a commitment to religion might be expressed. Saints are prominent throughout the volume, as their vitae are important primary sources. Women are well represented, and the selections chosen to illustrate male and female hermits are telling. Stephen of Obazine (chapter 38) departs to the "desert," but his career culminates in the abbacy of a monastery. The endowment charter for a female anchorhold, where a woman would be enclosed (chapter 39), reflects the concern of a layman for his soul. The availability of an appropriate holy woman is assumed, but her role is static, defined from the start. The selections are not limited to the narrowly orthodox: Cathars, Lollards, and Waldensians are represented, as are Beghards and Beguines, controversial visionaries (chapter 37) as well as recognized saints. The volume provides an excellent introduction to the wide variety of Western medieval religious practice.

Margaret Cormack

College of Charleston

doi: 10.1017/S0009640711000813

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Author:Cormack, Margaret
Publication:Church History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2011
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