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The theology of the afterlife in the Early Middle Ages, c.400-c.1100.

Foxhall Forbes, Helen (2020) 'The theology of the afterlife in the Early Middle Ages, c.400-c.1100.', in Imagining the medieval afterlife. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 153-175. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature., 114


Between AD c.400 and AD c.1100, Christian ideas about the afterlife changed in subtle but important ways. This chapter outlines broad trends in thought about the afterlife in this period in the Latin West, and examines the concomitant changes in thinking about the post-mortem fates of souls. Ongoing contemporary discourse around topics such as sin and penance or baptism contributed to developments in the way that contemporaries understood the afterlife, including heaven, hell and an interim state between death and universal judgement. Significantly, as Christians came to be more certain about some aspects of the afterlife, the possibility of salvation for individual souls was perceved to be less certain. As a result, by the end of the period there is much greater evidence for concern about the post-mortem fate of the soul than there had been at the beginning, laying the foundations for high medieval theological discussions and developments. Keywords heaven, hell, purgatory, afterlife, early Middle Ages, sin, penance, baptism, saints, burial

Item Type:Book chapter
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Publisher statement:This material has been published in Imagining the medieval afterlife edited by R. Pollard. This version is free to view and download for personal use only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:05 November 2019
Date of first online publication:07 December 2020
Date first made open access:27 July 2022

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