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Editor: Abigail Firey
Between the third and sixteenth centuries, penance (the acts or gestures performed to atone for transgression, usually with an interest in the salvation of the penitent’s soul) was a crucial mode of participation in both society and the cosmos. Penance was incorporated into political and legal negotiations, it erupted in improvisational social dramas, it was subject to experimentation and innovation, and it saturated western culture with images of contrition, suffering, and reconciliation. During the late antique, medieval, and early modern periods, rituals for the correction of human errors became both sophisticated and popular. Creativity in penitential expression reflects the range and complexity of social and spiritual situations in which penance was vital. Using hitherto unconsidered source materials, the contributors chart new views on how in western culture, human conduct was modulated and directed in patterns shaped by the fearsome yet embraced practices of penance.

Contributors are R. Emmet McLaughlin, Rob Meens, Kevin Uhalde, Claudia Rapp, Dominique Iogna-Prat, Abigail Firey, Karen Wagner, Joseph Goering, H. Ansgar Kelly, Torstein Jørgensen, Wietse de Boer, Ronald K. Rittgers, Gretchen Starr-LeBeau, and Jodi Bilinkoff.
Author: Abigail Firey
Between the middle of the eighth century and the late ninth century in western Europe, the course of legal history was shaped by interaction with religious ideas, especially with regard to the meaning of confession, suffering, and the balance of protections for an accused individual and the welfare of the community. This book traces those themes through a selection of Carolingian texts, such as archbishop Hincmar's legal analysis of a royal divorce, the decrees of church councils, the biography of a Saxon holy woman, anti-Judaic treatises, and Hrotswitha's dramatisation of the legend of Thaïs, in order to make audible the lively debates over the boundaries of clerical and lay authority, the nature and extent of permissible intervention in the spiritual condition of the empire's inhabitants, and distinctions between the private and public domains. This work thus reveals the profound relation between law and penitential ideologies promoted by the Carolingian imperial court.
In: A New History of Penance
In: A New History of Penance