Article ID: CBB001422560

The Cursed and the Holy Body: Burning Corpses in the Middle Ages (2015)


Schmitz-Esser, Romedio (Author)

Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Volume: 45, no. 1
Issue: 1
Pages: 131-157

Publication Date: 2015
Edition Details: Article in a special issue: “Thinking through Death: The Politics of the Corpse”
Language: English

This essay looks at the practice of burning corpses in the Middle Ages. Much research has concentrated on the later medieval period; however, the punishment of burning and its specific motivations and rationales for crimes such as heresy, witchcraft, and magic go back to much earlier centuries. Scrutinizing sources for the earliest burnings of heretics and witches up to the eleventh century shows that these burnings were mere lynchings and not the outcome of juridical processes administered by secular or clerical authorities. Not until the twelfth century did authorities assent to such punishments and eventually accept burning as a legal form of punishment. Rejecting a purely theological or symbolic view of the dead consigned to the flames as representing the punishments of hell, this article stresses the parallel between the saints and the cursed. If from a medieval standpoint body and soul maintained a bond after death, the relics of heretics must have seemed as frightening as those of the saints seemed blessed. The essay thus stresses the close relationship between saints and heretics through the exceptional characteristics attributed to their bodies.

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Article Finucci, Valeria (2015) Thinking through Death: The Politics of the Corpse. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (pp. 1-6). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Griffel, Frank
Ricordel, Joëlle
Marmura, Michael E.
Samsó, Julio
Djebbar, Ahmed
Ausécache, Mireille
Micrologus: Natura, Scienze e Società Medievali
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Arabic Sciences and Philosophy
Suhayl: Journal for the History of the Exact and Natural Sciences in Islamic Civilisation
Atti e Memorie, Rivista di Storia della Farmacia
Oxford University Press
Edizioni Cadmo
L'Asino d'oro Edizioni
Arab/Islamic world, civilization and culture
Human body
Philosophy and religion
Guillaume de Conches
al-Ghazālī, Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad
Aflah, Yabir ibn al
Ibn al-Haytham, Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan
Sa'id ibn Ahmad, al-Andalusi
Holy Roman Empire
Venice (Italy)
Andalusia (Spain)
11th century
12th century
13th century
Early modern
10th century
Scuola medica salernitana
Salerno. Schola Salernitana

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