Everyman and the Angels: representations of celestial beings in the arts available to the laity in the Middle Ages

Coombs, Natasha (2023) Everyman and the Angels: representations of celestial beings in the arts available to the laity in the Middle Ages. Masters thesis, University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

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Abstract

Faith in medieval Europe is generally perceived as being almost exclusively Christian, with most medieval people knowing little about other religions outside of small enclaves of Jewish people and with very few Muslims being encountered in the West. The bible has many angels mentioned amongst its dramatis personae, but they also occur in the other Abrahamic faiths. This dissertation considers representations and presentations of angels in Western Latin Christianity and also incidentally in Eastern Orthodoxy as well as Judaism and Islam. While we have a vast legacy of writings on angelology drawn from the earliest Christian fathers throughout the medieval period, little has been written about how members of the laity would learn about angels and what they would be taught about them. Recent publications have analysed and commented on these writings by learned theologians, but again, the study of how angels were presented to the laity and how this could provide a basis for the perception of angels by the laity is lacking. My dissertation comprises five chapters as follows: 1 The Nine Orders of Angels. This chapter introduces medieval angelology and forms a foundation for the rest of the work. It focuses on the theological view of angels, and is relevant to how layfolk viewed or were encouraged to view angels in Christian culture. 2 The Archangels. This chapter will examine representations of archangels as well as the contexts in which they were found and the meanings of archangels to medieval people. These celestial beings, along with Lucifer, held great significance in medieval culture, and are often represented in iconography and writing. 3 Angels in Church. Religious buildings are the most obvious places to look for angels. They appear in many forms, sometimes surrounding the congregation. Angelic representations are some of the most spectacular church ornaments and the reasons behind their inclusion in church ornament is examined in this chapter. 4 Angels in Literature. References to angels occur in all forms of literature, religious and secular. Literature is a form in which angels are shown to appear inside and outside churches, sometimes actually in procession, thus occupying both sacred and profane space, as will be demonstrated in this chapter. 5 Everyday Angels. Angels were represented as being all around the medieval person, particularly in the form of the guardian angel. It is in representations of the everyday that their perception and understanding by medieval people may most clearly be seen. This final v chapter sites angels in the everyday lives of medieval lay Christians, whether at church ceremonies or during more mundane activities. My research covers primarily Christianity in western Europe, from the earliest days of the Roman Catholic Church to the Reformation and takes into account different social contexts of medieval society, from the wealthiest and most powerful to (where possible) the poorest. The latter section is the most problematic to research: little has been recorded of the everyday lives of ordinary layfolk.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
Divisions: Theses and Dissertations > Masters Dissertations
Depositing User: Natalie Williams
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2023 09:54
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2023 09:54
URI: https://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/2439

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