Eradicating sin, in theory

Tom Licence

in Hermits and Recluses in English Society, 950–1200

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199592364
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595639 | DOI:
Eradicating sin, in theory

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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The patterns hagiographers followed when reconstructing the careers and credentials of saintly anchorites were sufficiently formulaic to provide modern historians with evidence of how they and their intended audiences perceived the anchoretic vocation; yet they were also sufficiently adaptable, and sensitive to spiritual trends, to reflect the ways in which those perceptions altered over time. This chapter is concerned with how anachoresis was understood as an evolving ideal (as a penitential life for eradicating sin), initially in terms of spiritual exile, next, in the context of purgation, then as the imitation of Christ. Reclusion (the life of recluses) was viewed as a vocation of death and spiritual rebirth; it also developed its own vision of the ‘vita angelica’. Here, anchorites in hagiography are compared to anchorites in Romance, to determine whether a similar view of them obtained outside the cloister.

Keywords: sin; penance; purgation; exile; vita angelica; spiritual perfection; hagiography; Romance

Chapter.  10445 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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