Posts Tagged ‘pilgrimage’

Life and Death in Christian Europe

by   |  09.05.09  |  221- Middle Ages

    Through a period defined by social and political change, the Church provided a surprising continuity to the religious and cultural life of medieval Europe. It was the “catholic” or universal Church which set the shared calendar that established feast and fast days. It was the Church that authorized a shared liturgy spoken in a shared language “Latin” in cathedrals, monasteries, and parish churches from the Mediterranean to the North Sea.

    For most men and women, whether highborn aristocrats or of the laboring majority, it was the local church that unified their lives as well. The life-cycle of Christian Europe was organized by holy sacraments administered in the church, from their baptism to their confirmation, from their marriage to the christenings and weddings of their children, until finally they received extreme unction or last rites and were buried on the grounds of the church facing east to await a common resurrection.

Life and Death in Dartford Exercise

    A day’s ride from London, the pilgrims’ first stop would have been the small town of Dartford. This village represents an interesting crossroads in Britain’s history as not only a hostelry for travelers but also as the reputed home of Wat Tyler, the leader of the 1381 Peasant’s Revolt. Take a moment to read the following summary of Wat Tyler’s Revolt. What does this conflict, which lead to the murder of another Archbishop of Canterbury, say about the relationship between the authorities–church and state–and the commoners?

    Before class, spend 15-20 minutes learning about life and death in medieval Dartford. Your research will focus on the “Population and the People” articles on the Dartford Town Archive (especially those on the lives of the Rich, the Poor, and Pilgrims). As you read, take note of interesting details including typical life expectancy and factors influencing quality of life for both rich and poor. What details surprise you? How do you account for such high infant mortality or low life expectancy numbers? Bring details and observations to class this week or use them as the foundation for your own Blog Post #1.

    Medieval Dartford

    (Once you’ve finished, you might compare life expectancy in medieval Dartford with recent statistics for the US or the UK from the World Factbook. What parts of the world today have figures closer to medieval Dartford’s and why?)

Pilgrims and Journeys


0 Commentsby   |  08.20.09  |  Announcements

    For thousands of years, journeys have been a recurring motif in world literature. Whether in the form of odysseys or wilderness wanderings, sea voyages or expeditions into unknown territory, characters have been setting off on narrative explorations of the physical and spiritual world. England has welcomed its fair share of literary wanderers, from Beowulf to Bilbo Baggins, with their astonishing tales of There and Back Again.

    So many great stories from the Bible begin or end with a journey. It would be hard to retell the stories of Jonah or the Prodigal Son without images of the road or the open sea. How meaningful would their endings be without time spent in a far-off country or the belly of a fish? In the allegorical world of Pilgrim’s Progress, as Christian travels from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, it is the journey and not the destination which maintains our interest. Christian’s progress reminds us that stories, like journeys, follow a path toward maturity or knowledge, toward death or life. This progress is a story Christian readers share since, as the King James Version affirms, we too are “pilgrims and strangers on the earth.”

    An academic “course” is, strictly speaking, a path or journey toward knowledge and personal growth. We’re glad you’re undertaking such a journey with us. Willingly or unwillingly, eagerly or with some trepidation, we’re preparing to set off into a far-off country together.