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By M. Cassidy-Welch

This ebook explores the realm of spiritual pondering on imprisonment, and the way pictures of imprisonment have been utilized in monastic inspiration, the cult of saints, the early inquisitions, preaching and hagiographical literature and the area of the crusades to explain a perception of inclusion and freedom that was once in particular significant to medieval Christians.

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Additional info for Imprisonment in the Medieval Religious Imagination, c. 1150–1400

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8 The narrative debt to the tale of Peter ad vincula is clear in Jacobus de Voragine’s account. Like the angel, St Mark appears within the prison cell, commands the prisoner to rise, and the bonds which hold the prisoner are miraculously dissolved. Similar, too, is the subsequent ease with which the prisoner leaves the prison: he departs in broad daylight, he walks past the guards and others, but he is protected by the saint who prevents him from being seen. Saints who performed miracles of liberation could also be connected with more local concerns.

But the fact that monk was ‘contaminated’ by the secular world, the world outside the protective boundaries of the monastic precinct, nicely summarises the notion that monastic space itself was considered to be ideally flawless. The burnt skin of the sinning monk in this exemplum marks him out as having violated both his own body and the perimeter of purity that delineated monastic space. The forcible enclosure of this monk who is ‘shut up in the cloister’ as a result of his sin provides Jacques de Vitry with the means to stress the preservation and protection of the corporeal and spatial boundaries separating the monk from the outside world.

46 It 26 Imprisonment in the Medieval Religious Imagination may be equated with a prison both metaphorically and metonymically, as the material boundaries of the cell are simultaneously intended to signify and exist as a protective form of enclosure. 47 The protective function of enclosure should thus be understood to be multi-layered, beginning with the outer walls of the cell which house the body. 48 Protecting the soul so that it may ultimately be free is the purpose of anchoritic incarceration.

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