Margaret Paston’s Calendar and Her Saints

  • Joel T. Rosenthal
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


This inquiry into Margaret Paston’s religious life begins by following her lead as she reaches out to the saints. That late medieval religion rested heavily on the cult of the saints is a proposition from which there is virtually no dissent. The saints, along with the Holy Family and the depiction ofJesus as a man who suffered and died, rather than as a remote and judgmental divinity, were very much the material from which the cloth of late medieval popular piety was cut. The roll call of saints who were honored and invoked included figures from virtually every category of Christian history and tradition: female and male, local and universal, recent and historical, biblical and/or mythical; we shall see below that many more were male than female. But these saints and countless others, either individually or in any and all sorts of aggregations and combinations, figured heavily in the way people linked their own lives and fates to what they hoped was an ascent of the ladder of redemptive spirituality. The saints in heaven were also near at hand for worldly needs and emergencies; a storm at sea, deserved or undeserved imprisonment, the death of someone near and dear, fertility to be sought (or to be avoided), child-birth, and other such fates and turns of fortune’s wheel. To note a saint’s day, if only as a passive participant or observer of a church service, was an easy way to establish or reestablish a link with the holy man or woman of the moment.1


Wall Painting Family Letter Roll Call Letter Writer Familiar Figure 
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