Infernal imagery in Anglo-Saxon charters
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This doctoral dissertation analyses depictions of hell in sanctions, i.e. threats of punishments in Anglo-Saxon charters. I am arguing that an innovative use of sanctions as pastoral and ideological instruments effected the peak of infernal imagery in the sanctions of tenth-century royal diplomas. Belonging to the genre of ritual curses, Anglo-Saxon sanctions contain the three standard ecclesiastical curses (excommunication, anathema and damnation). It cannot be established if other requirements of ritual cursing (authoritative personnel, setting and gestures) were fulfilled. A lack of evidence, together with indications of more secular punishments, suggests that sanctions were not used as legal instruments. Their pastoral function is proposed by frightening depictions of hell and the devil, as fear is an important means of achieving salvation in biblical, homiletic and theological writings available or produced in Anglo-Saxon England. The use of the infernal motifs of Hell as a Kitchen, Satan as the Mouth of Hell and winged demons in sanctions are discussed in detail. Sanctions frequently contain the overtly didactic and pastoral device of the exemplum. Notorious sinners believed to be damned in hell (e.g. Judas) are presented as negative exempla in sanctions to deter people from transgressing against charters. The repeated use of terms from classical mythology for depicting hell in Anglo-Saxon sanctions appears to correlate with the preference for hermeneutic Latin by tenth-century monastic reformers. The reasons for employing classical mythological terminology seem to agree with those suggested for the use of hermeneutic Latin (intellectual snobbery and raising the stylistic register), and glossaries constitute the main source of both types of Latinity. The sanctions of the Refoundation Charter of New Minster, Winchester, which is known to display the ‘ruler theology’ propagated by the monastic reform, are examined in their textual contexts with regard to the observations made in the earlier parts of this dissertation.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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