contributor.author: Andrew G. Traver

title.none: Shinners, Medieval Popular Religion, 1000-1500 (Traver)

identifier.other: baj9928.9908.020 99.08.20

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Andrew G. Traver, Southeastern Louisiana University, atraver@selu.edu

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1999

identifier.citation: Shinners, John, ed. Medieval Popular Religion, 1000-1500: A Reader. Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures. Peterborough: Broa dview Press, 1998. Pp. xx, 545. $22.95. ISBN: 1-551-11133-0.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 99.08.20

Shinners, John, ed. Medieval Popular Religion, 1000-1500: A Reader. Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures. Peterborough: Broa dview Press, 1998. Pp. xx, 545. $22.95. ISBN: 1-551-11133-0.

Reviewed by:

Andrew G. Traver
Southeastern Louisiana University
atraver@selu.edu

Shinners's work has drawn together a wide array of translated documents that depict "popular religion" in the High and Late Middle Ages. In the introduction, Shinners discusses the difficulties of the term "popular religion" and its concomitant negative connotations. He argues that medieval popular religion, by the twelfth century, could be equated with medieval religion, as all Christians shared essentially the same religious world view regardless of their status. Shinners then offers several phrases by which popular religion could perhaps be defined. He states: "[i]t seeks to render concrete what must remain mysterious" (xvi) and that "[p]opular religion sought tangible signs of that other reality and ways to tap and control its power" (xvi). Shinners, however, admits that these are only preliminary definitions. He leaves it up to the reader, and the primary sources contained within his text, to decide for himself how best to define popular religion.

Shinners has arranged and the work and the sources thematically, dividing various aspects of popular religious belief into ten chapters. Chapter 1 deals with instruction in the faith; chapter 2 contains narrative material about God; chapter 3 treats Mary; 4, saints, relics, and pilgrimages; 5, demons and spirits; 6, rituals; 7, daily devotions and practices; 8, enthusiasm; 9, error; and 10, death and judgement. The documents used in each of these chapters are both well selected and translated.

Shinners himself admits that he has neglected much of the works of Latin and vernacular literature--"sacrificing the literary record for the documentary" (xviii). Also absent are the popular religion of the mystics and the popular religious traditions of marginalized peoples such as Jews and Moslems. But in a volume of this scope, Shinners can do little more than offer examples of medieval popular religion in practice without regard for the atypical or for regional variations.

Each chapter begins with a prefatory explanation of its topic. Likewise, each source begins with introductory matter to explain the chronology and the type of source from which it stems. The selections range from "high" theology in the form of canons from Lateran IV, to a "low" theology as evidenced in inquisitorial records. The eclectic mix of sources found in this volume is impressive and includes illustrations, liturgical drama, hymns, wills, crusading narratives, and tales from the Legenda Aurea and Gesta Francorum.

Overall, the work is well planned and accomplishes that which it initially set out to do by presenting a variety of illustrative sources and letting the reader decide for himself what medieval popular religion was.