Liturgy as a Mirror and Answer to Collective Fears (14th–16th c.) - Normandie Université Access content directly
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Liturgy as a Mirror and Answer to Collective Fears (14th–16th c.)


At the time of the Great Schism, the Avignon Pope Clement VII promoted the mass Salva nos fac to prompt a reunification of Western Christianity. The terrible fear of a disintegration of the ecclesial body prompted powerful responses, i.e., liturgical ones. By expressing the collective fear in the ordinary mode of relation between humanity and the divinity, the Pope hoped to thwart the threat and restore confidence in the Church. The strategy seemed to seduce a lot of bishops and chapters, since such masses are widespread in the liturgical books of the 14 th-16 th centuries. As late as the mid-1500's, liturgy is still thought to be a most efficient way to fight or ward off what terrifies the Christian community. In most cases when a liturgical response is called in, "liturgy" means "votive mass", that is, a celebration ordered for certain grave occasions. It is then an addition to the ordinary set of prayers, chants and lectures constituting the main core of the eucharistic cult. Votive masses are our main concern here, but I shall also refer ocasionally to the office of Hours since it also contains elements relative to the soothing of collective fears. This contribution wishes to study how liturgy can both reflect the collective fears of Christianity and appease it. I do not pretend here to do an exhaustive examination of the relationships between anxiety, or fear, and the organized cult of western Christianity. Rather, I hope to present an overview of the motivations and mecanisms fostering the recourse to liturgy in time of fear. The period under scrutiny is from the 14 th to the 16 th century, allowing an examination of both manuscripts and printed liturgical books. I will also focus on Catholic liturgy, for the sake of clarity, although the topic could easily be extended to liturgies of the Reformation. Using samples as methodology, I will first give examples of the fears prompting a liturgical response and the reasons for it. In this section, I shall also discuss the efficiency of liturgy and the goal for using it, that is, preserving the organic body of the Church. A second point of this contribution will examine issues summoned by the universal or the more localized practice of liturgy against collective fears. The evolution of the liturgical forms will also be taken into consideration.


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hal-02541319 , version 1 (13-04-2020)


  • HAL Id : hal-02541319 , version 1


Camille Bataille. Liturgy as a Mirror and Answer to Collective Fears (14th–16th c.). Fear and Loathing in the Earthly City Negative Emotions in the Medieval and Early Modern Period c. 1100-1700, Nov 2018, Copenhague, Denmark. ⟨hal-02541319⟩
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