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(1,718 words)

Author(s): Jessalynn Bird
Throughout much of the Middle Ages, pardoners or fundraisers ( quaestores) displayed relics and/or publicized indulgences to obtain alms for various charitable projects, including the building and maintenance of churches, pilgrimage shrines, monasteries, bridges, harbors, roads, and hospitals. The practice originated with tours of relics, increasingly common from the eleventh century onwards, intended to raise funds for the building or repair of churches and monasteries. Various religious and military ord…


(2,533 words)

Author(s): Jessalynn Bird
Vow-taking transformed a voluntary intention to perform an action into a legally and morally binding and enforceable obligation. By the eleventh century, liturgical ceremonies celebrating pilgrims' initiation, via their vows, into a "religio" or status temporarily akin to regular religious or clergy by conferring distinctive insignia, obligations, privileges, and austerities had become popular. Legally and spiritually, crusaders were typically treated as a subcategory of pilgrim, …


(2,691 words)

Author(s): Jessalynn Bird
During the Middle Ages, the term "indulgence" ( indulgentia) implied forgiveness of sins (see also Penance). What precisely was being pardoned was the subject of intense debate and negotiation between the recipients of indulgences and the ecclesiastical authorities who promoted them to foster various forms of piety. These included pilgrimage, devout recitation of prayers, attending sermons or masses, membership in religious confraternities and donations to various charitable or pious causes. Indulgences enabled the increasingly precise quantification of…

Sexuality and Pilgrimage

(1,632 words)

Author(s): Jessalynn Bird
In return for special legal and spiritual privileges, reformers typically urged pilgrims and crusaders to adhere to codes of conduct previously characteristic of regular and secular religious, such as chastity and poverty. From the early Middle Ages onwards, even married laypersons were exhorted to abstinence during the church calendar's penitential seasons or while performing penances including penitential pilgrimage. Secular and church authorities often imposed penitential pilgrimages on sexua…

Opposition to Pilgrimage

(1,142 words)

Author(s): Jessalynn Bird
Proponents of pilgrimage lauded it as a powerful alternative for those unsuited to or incapable of other forms of penance, presenting the renunciations and austerities of the pilgrim's life as particularly efficacious forms of satisfaction for sin. Many pilgrims viewed contact with the holy represented in particular places or relics as an opportunity to win pardon from their sins. However, those vowed to the monastic life often insisted that their supervised and permanent interior contemplative …


(2,352 words)

Author(s): Jessalynn Bird
Throughout the Middle Ages, the word poenitentia referred to the means by which Christians sought to redress sins committed in order to avoid damnation or suffering in Purgatory in the afterlife, normally by manifesting their internal contrition via some form of oral confession and/or works of satisfaction. Evolving Forms of Penance The forms that penance took varied widely. Early Christians quickly sought to renew the forgiveness of sins obtained in baptism. By the fifth century, some who had committed serious sins (i.e. murder, adultery, etc.)…

Louis IX

(927 words)

Author(s): Jessalynn Bird
The feast of Louis IX (1215-1270), crusading king of France (see also Crusades), is observed on August 25. He was popularly considered a saint even before his formal canonization in 1297. Shortly after his death, Louis' body was partitioned by his son Philip III and his brother Charles of Anjou: his viscera and flesh were taken to Monreale while his bones were interred in the necropolis of French kings at Saint Denis. There they quickly became the subject of a popular, and later official, cult. …

Crusading Orders

(2,433 words)

Author(s): Jessalynn Bird
Origins and Organization Just as crusading (see also Crusades) came to be described as a viable alternative to the monastic life, as the fusion of salvific warfare in the defense of Christendom and its holy places and the penitential, devotional, and legal aspects of pilgrimage, so too the crusading orders fused the functions and institutions of monasticism and crusading. Initially devoted to aiding pilgrims via the provision of pilgrim hospitals and/or armed esc…


(1,983 words)

Author(s): Jessalynn Bird
Among the factors contributing to the evolution of the crusades were concepts of holy war, devotion to the saints and their relics, an increasing focus on the humanity and suffering of Christ (commemorated in relics of the Passion, liturgical crosses and crucifixes), pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and the resultant appeal of rescuing sacred sites and eastern Christians from Muslim control. Awareness that the incursions of the Seljuk Turks had made Holy Land pilgrimages more hazardous and that Jeru…

Certificate of Pilgrimage

(500 words)

Author(s): Jessalynn Bird
Pilgrimage and crusading vows created binding moral and legal obligations (see also Canon Law Regarding Pilgrims) and were associated with significant privileges. By the high Middle Ages, proof of completion of these vows became increasingly common. Authorities sought to prevent individuals f…


(1,493 words)

Author(s): Jessalynn Bird
Descriptions of Purgatory varied according to period and author. It was generally conceived of as a state or physical location reserved for the posthumous purification of those who, while being spared hell because they had expired while not in a state of mortal sin, had to undergo punishment for venial or forgotten sins and/or make satisfaction for the temporal penalties (see also Penance) due for their duly confessed mortal sins (i.e. unfulfilled enjoined penances) in a location and time betwee…