Dreams, Visions and Spiritual Authority in Merovingian Gaul

Overview

In early medieval Europe, dreams and visions were believed to reveal divine information about Christian life and the hereafter. No consensus existed, however, as to whether all Christians, or only a spiritual elite, were entitled to have a relationship of this sort with the supernatural. Drawing on a rich variety of sources—histories, hagiographies, ascetic literature, and records of dreams at saints' shrines—Isabel Moreira provides insight into a society struggling to understand and negotiate its religious ...
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Overview

In early medieval Europe, dreams and visions were believed to reveal divine information about Christian life and the hereafter. No consensus existed, however, as to whether all Christians, or only a spiritual elite, were entitled to have a relationship of this sort with the supernatural. Drawing on a rich variety of sources—histories, hagiographies, ascetic literature, and records of dreams at saints' shrines—Isabel Moreira provides insight into a society struggling to understand and negotiate its religious visions.Moreira analyzes changing attitudes toward dreams and visionary experiences beginning in late antiquity, when the church hierarchy considered lay dreamers a threat to its claims of spiritual authority. Moreira describes how, over the course of the Merovingian period, the clergy came to accept the visions of ordinary folk—peasants, women, and children—as authentic.Dream literature and accounts of visionary experiences infiltrated all aspects of medieval culture by the eighth century, and the dreams of ordinary Christians became central to the clergy's pastoral concerns. Written in clear and inviting prose, this book enables readers to understand how the clerics of Merovingian Gaul allowed a Christian culture of dreaming to develop and flourish without compromising the religious orthodoxy of the community or the primacy of their own authority.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book will take its place alongside the earlier works by Raymond Van Dam and Giselle de Nie, illuminating that world for both the general reader and the specialist."—David S. Sefton, Eastern Kentucky University. History, Fall 2000

"This is a very interesting and engaging work, full of insights and thought provoking ideas. . . A splendid book, written with an exceptional verve and clarity. Moreira's careful, perceptive, and engaging discussions. . . and her firm grasp of the sources. . . make this book a significant contribution to our understanding of Merovingian culture, society, and religion."—Yitzhak Hen, University of Haifa. American Historical Review, April 2001

"Isabel Moreira's book is an excellent survey of the functions of visions in early medieval Gaul, and of their capacity to resolve the very tensions they created."—Raymond Van Dam, University of Michigan. Catholic Historical Review, October 2001

"This is an admirable book: vastly learned, and clearly written with a happy turn of phraseology. . . Dr. Moreira is to be congratulated on her book."—Gerald Bonner. Journal of Theological Standards, Vol. 52, No. 2, October 2001

"Overall there is much to recommend in this book. The author's willingness to tackle a vast chronological range (the fourth through the eighth centuries) and her ability to place her research within the larger corpus of the excellent secondary work on late-antique and early-medieval oneirology. . . are impressive. The result contributes significantly to Merovingian history in general, and to the fields of gender, asceticism, and mysticism in particular."—Lynda L. Coon, University of Arkansas. Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, April, 2002

"This is an intriguing book. . . (Isabel Moreira) holds that the visionary experiences that ordinary people had in the ancient world came to pose a threat to those who held power in the church during late antiquity. . . .Moreira argues that the church in Merovingian Gaul taken to begin in the fourth century did not squeeze out ordinary Christian dreamers, but accommodated them. . . .this book. . . is argued with unremitting intelligence and richness of illustration, and expressed in pleasing prose."—John Moorhead, University of Queensland. Journal of Religious History, vol. 26, no. 3.

"This is a terrific book. It sets up a compelling problem and an accessible hypothesis and skillfully places the whole in the context of late antique/early medieval church politics and culture. Isabel Moreira writes in an intelligent, often humorous and friendly, voice. She never forgets to take the reader with her through the steps of her fabulous argument."—Lisa M. Bitel, University of Kansas

"Isabel Moreira's work is original and makes an important contribution to early medieval studies."—Fred Paxton, Connecticut College

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801436611
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2000
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.51 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction 1
Pt. I Visionary Access 11
1 Visionary Access in Christian Antiquity: The Making of Two Traditions 13
2 Daniel's Heirs: Visionary Ascetics in Gaul 39
Pt. 2 Visions and Authority in the Merovingian Community 77
3 Gregory of Tours: A Visionary Bishop 81
4 Dreams and Visions at the Shrines of the Saints 108
5 Visionary Journeys to the Otherworld 136
Pt. 3 Dreams and Visions in Merovingian Hagiography 169
6 Visions and the Hagiographer in Merovingian Sources 173
7 No Ordinary Visionary: St. Aldegund of Maubeuge 198
Conclusion 225
App. A Otherworld Visions and Apocalypses 229
App. B The Earliest Vitae of Aldegund of Maubeuge 232
Selected Bibliography 237
Index 259
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