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In the Middle Ages fraternities of many kinds were founded in the Church to meet the religious and social needs of clergy and laity. Their primary purpose was to secure for their members mutual support in death through Masses and prayers, as well as intercessions in sickness, etc. They also provided in material ways for such contingencies as death and natural disasters, and by social gatherings promoted fellowship and recreation. They developed rapidly from Carolingian times. Until the 13th cent. they were usually local (either rural or urban) or affiliated to an abbey; thereafter they catered for burgeoning forms of lay piety and included such movements as the flagellants, who were concerned to counter heresy and sodomy as well as to appease civil strife and relieve poverty. Many fraternities were associated with orders of mendicant friars; these were often not attached to any particular locality.

Subjects: Christianity — Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500).

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