Rituals for the Dead
Religion and Community in the Medieval University of Paris
214 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Paperback | 9780268104948 | December 2018
Hardcover | 9780268104931 | December 2018
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268104955 | December 2018
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268104962 | December 2018
In his fascinating new book, based on the Conway Lectures he delivered at Notre Dame in 2016, William Courtenay examines aspects of the religious life of one medieval institution, the University of Paris, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In place of the traditional account of teaching programs and curriculum, however, the focus here is on religious observances and the important role that prayers for the dead played in the daily life of masters and students.
Courtenay examines the university as a consortium of sub-units in which the academic and religious life of its members took place, and in which prayers for the dead were a major element. Throughout the book, Courtenay highlights reverence for the dead, which preserved their memory and was believed to reduce the time in purgatory for deceased colleagues and for founders of and donors to colleges. The book also explores the advantages for poor scholars of belonging to a confraternal institution that provided benefits to all members regardless of social background, the areas in which women contributed to the university community, including the founding of colleges, and the growth of Marian piety, seeking her blessing as patron of scholarship and as protector of scholars. Courtenay looks at attempts to offset the inequality between the status of masters and students, rich and poor, and college founders and fellows, in observances concerned with death as well as rewards and punishments in the afterlife.
Rituals for the Dead is the first book-length study of religious life and remembrances for the dead at the medieval University of Paris. Scholars of medieval history will be an eager audience for this title.
William J. Courtenay is the Charles Homer Haskins Professor Emeritus of Medieval History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“In this slim, enticing volume, America’s greatest living scholar of the medieval University of Paris offers new perspectives on neglected ‘religious elements in the daily life of Parisian scholars.’” —Speculum
“William J. Courtenay offers a new perspective on the medieval University of Paris, one that highlights the importance of rituals for the dead and the ties that bound university students and masters. “ —The American Historical Review
“Courtenay provides much more than the contribution of a single scholar. His commanding use of source material offers specific, vivid images of daily life at the University of Paris, and thus allows both for a contextualization of prior research and a synthesis of multiple academic areas.” —The Medieval Review
"As engagingly written as it is original, William Courtenay's distinguished contribution to the Conway series documents the roles of nations and colleges at the medieval University of Paris as religious no less than as academic communities. Drawing on visual, material, and textual evidence, he documents how these groups prayed for and remembered their dead and how this devotional concern inflected scholastic debates on suffrages for souls in Purgatory and veneration of the Virgin as patron of learning and intercessor for scholars living and dead. Authored by a world-class luminary in the field, Rituals for the Dead thus vivifies an important and hitherto underappreciated dimension of medieval university life." —Marcia Colish, Yale University
"William Courtenay has long been the finest American scholar of medieval universities. With this book he opens up a whole new vista on the communal and religious lives of students and masters as integrally interwoven with their academic tasks, especially for instance in remembering their dead. Along the way he delves into theology, seals, statutes, processions, and much more, and explores too for the first time the presence of women among these all-male establishments and the growing place of the Virgin Mary in representing their collective identity. It is a grand achievement, providing rich new texture to our standard ways of talking about medieval universities." —John Van Engen, Andrew V. Tackes Professor Emeritus of Medieval History, University of Notre Dame
"Courtenay makes a convincing case that 'the religious side of university life in Paris has received almost no attention.' In doing so, he also makes a strong case for the value and importance of this current study. It is clear from the beginning, however, that this book will be nearly as much about the institutional forms of the university as it is about the spiritual devotion and prayers directed within it. No one is better prepared to treat both of these subjects than William Courtenay." —Joel Kaye, author of A History of Balance, 1250–1375
" . . . a fresh perspective on the devotional activities of masters and students at the University of Paris, especially how '[d]eath transform[ed] an academic community into a religious community for the cult of the dead'" —Reading Religion
“This magisterial account teems with insights into the lives of the masters and students in the halls and colleges of the University of Paris in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It demonstrates that studies in the faculties of arts and theology were situated in the Christian tradition and that Christian piety framed masters’ and students’ lives and conduct, with its cycle of prayers for the dead.” —H-France Review