3. Heresy and Politics (more information below)
7. Schisms, Saints, and Power in the Middle Ages (more information below)
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Marika Räsänen & Reima Välimäki
3. Heresy and Politics
Dr. Reima Välimäki, University of Turku, Finland
If the study of pre-modern heresy once was a theological and doctrinal question, since the twentieth century it has primarily belonged to the field of history. After the seminal work, ‘The Formation of a Persecuting Society’ by R.I. Moore (1987), the intimate connection of persecution of dissidents and contemporary politics has been a point of departure for the vast majority of scholars. More recently, the view has been balanced by scholars who have pointed out that to the inquisitors the persecution was very much a question of piety, faith and devotion (e.g. Ames 2009). The entanglement of politics and faith, power and heresy, is a thus a very complicated question, and its instances range from mock trials perceived entirely political by contemporaries to extreme expressions of piety and faith defying all political calculation.
The panel “Heresy and politics” calls for papers treating different aspects of heresy, its persecution and politics from the ancient world to the eighteenth century. The possible topics can include but are not limited to
– role of secular rulers and lords in the persecution of dissidents
– misuse of power by inquisitors and other persecutors, and critique against them
– heresy in papal or imperial politics
– heresy, inquisition and colonial politics (e.g. in medieval Languedoc or early modern South America)
– heresy accusations as a tool against political opponents
– ancient, medieval and early-modern judicial, theological and philosophical discussions about the Church’s right to persecute dissidents
7. Schisms, Saints, and Power in the Middle Ages
Dr. Marika Räsänen, University of Turku, Finland
Pre-modern people lived in a world in which the presence of saints and their relics intertwined with society at many levels. Saints and relics were involved and used both in devotional practices and secular tasks. It is commonly recognized that the functions of saints’ relics were ideologically loaded: popes, bishops, kings, barons, monks and friars drew on the sacral power of these objects and used them to transmit political values and agendas.
In times of ecclesiastic and political crisis, the demand for such heavenly intercessors and political legitimators increased. But at the same time, the construction and control of sacred authority became glaringly problematic, as the apparent unity of the Catholic Church was shattered by schism and secular rulers, lords, and cities rallied to the support of competing popes.
Despite the central position of saints in premodern societies and the recent flourishing of studies devoted to saints and society, relics themselves — the tangible remains that carried the physical presence of the saint — have been relatively neglected by cultural historians. Likewise, the role of the relics in medieval schisms is an understudied area. For a scholar, studying relics can make visible the effects of schisms not only at the courts of ecclesiastical and secular lords, but among lower levels of the social hierarchy. Relics, saints, and their cults open avenues to explore how divisions between religious and political elites were manifested and understood in local communities.
This panel calls for papers in which the influence of cults of saints and relics, and their relationship to schisms, are approached from new perspectives. We encourage papers that discuss the political strategies of popes, the ways that ecclesiastical schisms played out in individual communities, how ordinary laymen and women experienced and navigated these crises. The organization of the panel is connected to the special paper of Professor Daniel Bornstein, “How Great Was the Great Western Schism?”