Post-Medieval Academe: Evolution and Estrangement

  • Christopher J. Lucas


The medieval poet Guillaume de Guilleville’s declaration, “Your life here is but a pilgrimage,” crystallizes with exceptional clarity the basic temper of the Middle Ages. The true significance of earthly life—or so it was held—was that its character determined the fate of one’s soul struggling on a perilous journey toward heaven or hell. The hazards en route were manifold, for legions of darkness—incubi, succubi, undines, witches, sylphs, and other horrors—sought by devious means to ensnare the unwary and lead them to perdition. Hell’s denizens were even reputed to assume the alluring forms of saintliness and purity in order better to outwit the pious. But the traveler’s allies were equally potent. Guardian angels forever hovered nearby to intercede on one’s behalf; and the merciful Virgin could be relied upon to protect sinners from the spirits of malediction or God’s stern wrath. Mother Church—God’s earthly custodian of souls—stood vigilant meanwhile to protect her righteous and obedient children. And when the Day of Judgment arrived, the wicked would be thrown into eternal torment, but the souls of the virtuous, now purified and sanctified, would ascend into the heavens, there to dwell in eternal bliss.1 This, in essence, encapsulated the officially sanctioned medieval worldview, a compound of popular piety, conventional religiosity and institutionalized precept.


Eighteenth Century High Learning Private Tutor Fifteenth Century Fourteenth Century 
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© Christopher J. Lucas 2006

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