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Charity and Religion in Medieval Europe

James William Brodman

Publication Year: 2011

Challenges conventional views of medieval piety by demonstrating how the ideology of charity and its vision of the active life provided an important alternative to the ascetical, contemplative tradition emphasized by most historians

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press


Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This study of religious charity is the fruit of an intellectual journey that spans some three decades. Along the way, I have been guided and assisted by a number of individuals to whom I owe a debt of gratitude and appreciation. There is, first of all, the late Julian Bishko, my mentor at the University of Virginia, who not only drew me into Iberian history but also by example taught me the craft of history. ...


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pp. xi-xii

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Introduction: Religious Charity

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pp. 1-8

Contemporary concerns with welfare and social policy have led scholars to become interested in the study of poverty and the poor in western Europe during the Middle Ages. The result of this attention has been a growing bibliography that has focused on the history of medieval social policy and of the institutions created to implement a strategy of poor relief. ...

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1. The Pious and the Practical: An Ideology of Charity

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pp. 9-44

Religious charity was not just a set of institutions; it also encompassed an ideology that describes a distinctive vision of the Christian life in the Middle Ages. As an expression of Christian spirituality, the love of neighbor has been often overlooked, ignored, or else undervalued by historians of the Christian Middle Ages. ...

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2. A Cascade of Hospitals

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pp. 45-88

The High Middle Ages gave birth to the ancestor of the modern hospital. While, for much of this period, the term hospital is to be understood by its root meaning—that is, as a place of shelter rather than a locus of care—every town and many villages and rural locales came to possess one or more of these institutions. ...

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3. To Shelter the Pilgrim: Military Orders, Hospices, and Bridges

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pp. 89-125

Just as bishops, monasteries, and lay patrons were laying the foundations for almshouses, hospices, and leper shelters across Europe, groups of men and women coalesced into religious communities for the pursuit of a caritative apostolate. Some of these individuals established religious orders, groupings of affiliated houses and communities joined together ...

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4. The Hospitaller Orders

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pp. 126-177

The tradition of hospitality, heretofore limited to the monastery and the cathedral church, became institutionalized in the twelfth century. Among the earliest exemplars, as we have seen, were members of military orders and bridge brotherhoods, whose work of protecting pilgrims led them also to care for the sick, disabled, and aged. ...

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5. Lay Piety

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pp. 178-221

The development of religious charity sketched thus far has focused upon the caritative endeavors of clergy and those under the discipline of religious life. Prosperous laypeople, as we have seen, also figured as the founders and patrons of particular charitable houses. ...

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6. Charity That Sanctifies

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pp. 222-244

Many of those who served the poor in almshouses and hospitals did so as professed members of religious communities. Although Benedictines, both men and women, had long given alms to the poor and practiced other forms of charity, the religious of the hospital are of a different sort. ...

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7. The Religious Dimensions of Care

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pp. 245-266

Before the fifteenth century, only the most precocious of hospitals articulated for patients a fixed regimen of medical care. Prior to that time, most aspired merely to shelter their guests and, depending upon circumstances, to provide a modicum of palliative care that usually included a basic diet, clean bed, …

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Conclusion: Between Two Worlds

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pp. 267-286

The intent of the foreging seven chapters has been to sketch the nature, characteristics, and evolution of medieval religious charity and its various components. We began with the obligation to give, an idea rooted in the very bedrock of Christianity, which received new shape and iteration in the writings of Innocent III ...


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pp. 287-308


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pp. 309-318

E-ISBN-13: 9780813218878
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813215808

Page Count: 333
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Charities -- Europe -- History -- Middle Ages, 600-1500.
  • Church and state -- Europe -- History -- Middle Ages, 600-1500.
  • Europe -- Church history -- 600-1500.
  • Europe -- Religious life and customs.
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