Religious places, cults and rituals in medieval rural environment


CALL: 2015

DOMAIN: ID - Humanities and Social Sciences

FIRST NAME: Christiane

LAST NAME: Bis-Worch








Submitted Abstract

RURALIA is an international association for the archaeology of medieval settlement and rural life. It provides a European-wide platform for the scientific exchange on current problems in rural archeology in order to strengthen comparative and interdisciplinary studies. The conference covers the time from the Early Medieval to the Early Modern Period. The theme of RURALIA XI will be: “Religious places, cults and rituals in medieval rural environment”. The conference will investigate aspects of religious faith, which were practiced regardless of the respective official religion (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Slavonic, Pagan). One focus will be set on the relationship between the people and the religious sites where they practiced their beliefs. Another focus will be the different public beliefs and rituals: they seem to form a constant of human behavior which manifest themselves in different regions and eras in partly different, partly comparable characteristics and are often described by terms like “superstition”. They provide an important insight not only into the spiritual world of people in the Middle Ages, but also allow to draw conclusions on older religious ideas, for which no objective written records are existing. These aspects of medieval beliefs beyond the official religious ideas examine a little-known aspect of medieval archeology.The topics of the sessions are divided into different categories: in one session, buildings within rural settlements used in a religious context will be examined. This includes both the primary use of the building and the role within the settlement and its development. This means churches and monasteries, but also special functions such as priest-houses or granges. A second session deals with particularly favored sites outside the settlements. Among these are places like springs, caves, hermitages and other places formed by nature or man. Especially for these, much older traditions have to be expected which were continued in the same or modified form. But also discontinuously occupied places which were visited again and again will be presented. During the conference, it will be important to examine the reasons for development and decline of such places of worship, taking into account the chronological background. Another session will be focused on mobile evidence. This includes objects to which people attributed a religious character (keys, charms, devotional objects, etc.). They served as a personal protection of their wearer or a building. The last session will deal with specific burial practices with a focus on the rural environment. The best known of these phenomena are fear of revenants or special funeral rites for infants and young children. Less well studied, however, are special burials in the context of execution sites, witch places or prehistoric grave tumuli. Burial practices deviating from the norm provide an important insight into the spiritual world of people in the middle Ages beside written sources.Due to the different research foci of the conference participants interdisciplinarity is highly ensured.Besides archaeologists – mostly specialized in the archeology of the Middle Ages and the early modern period – historians will participate.Substantial links also arise with European ethnography, which has been exploring the corresponding phenomena already much longer. In particular, the archaeological and historical research must work closely together because it is not possible to understand the phenomena mentioned above without such an interdisciplinary approach.

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