Join Date: 22 Oct 2003
Location: Maison de Santé
I'm confused about Judgement Day.
In the, say, 1400s... what was the conception of life after death? Somewhere along the way I've got it in my head that the general idea was that when we die, we were dead until judgement day when all would rise out of our graves, be judged, and then go to heaven or hell.
Today, it seems that most people I know that consider themselves Christian seem to believe that when we die we go to heaven (or hell) right away.
In the back of my thoughts, (early years of catholic indoctrination), there's also "purgatory" and "limbo" that should be considered... but I don't know how they play into it. (I should be looking into google and not bothering you good folks with this).
So.... my questions are "What did typical Europeans in the 1400s believe happened after death?", and, "Is it different then a contemporary 'Christian' understanding of what happens after death; and if so, how, why, and when did it change?"
Increasingly suspicious of the "system of soothing" and sensibly inclining toward the infinitely superior "system of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether".
|09-12-2007||Ask a Professional Tarot Reader Top #1|
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Join Date: 09 Mar 2006
Location: yorkshire, UK
I don't really know the answer but its a notion which always puzzled me too...
I seem to remember in History class being told they thought the dead would come back into their physical bodies, hence why the victorians (?) wanted to bury the dead and not cremate them...kind of nonsense when you consider how corrupt the buried body would be but anyway...always scared me and gave me visions of zombie-like figures emerging from the grave...
|09-12-2007||Ask a Professional Tarot Reader Top #2|
Fugitive from the law of averages
Join Date: 22 Jan 2004
I'm currently doing a bit of related research myself, on the Danse Macabre theme in art and literature to be exact.
the key reason for thinking about death in the Middle Ages: the salvation of the soul. An individual who went through life without paying heed to his impending death would likewise not keep in mind the care of his soul. Death functioned not just as a terrifying adversary who would inevitably conquer you, but as an agent of God who potentially brought you to union with Christ. Those who took proper care of their souls would find the utmost reward at the end and enjoy the blisses Heaven offered. Those who remained careless and sinful would suffer pains in Purgatory, or, if they neglected to repent, would endure eternal suffering in Hell.
Judgment Day represented not the end of time as the end of the relevance of time. Eternity was not so much far in the future, as constantly the present. The bodies of the dead were each resurrected, and would be judged by God according to their deeds in life, then consigned to bliss in Heaven or damnation in Hell. An illustration from the Grandes Heures de Rohan shows the resurrection of the dead, who are assisted in climbing out of their graves by angels. To the left, Eve greets Adam. God sits enthroned as Judge, a conflation of Christ the redeemer, with crown of thorns and bleeding side, and God the Father, the orb in his hand representing his dominion over created things. The fully clad man at the bottom right contrasts with the naked figures of the resurrected dead; his despairing expression and downward gaze are juxtaposed with the heavenward glances of the more hopeful figures. Harthan (p. 84), supposes that this figure could represent those people still alive at the time of the Last Judgment. The illustration is from Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, ms. lat. 9471, fol. 154r, and is reproduced in Harthan, p. 83.
Souls were dispersed to eternal bliss with God or eternal suffering in Hell at the Last Judgment. While the official designation of "saved" or "damned" was not given until Doomsday, medieval writings always depicted departed ones as "already there," as if, for the dead, eternity was always now. Dante, when he travels to Hell in the Inferno, sees departed contemporary Brunetto Latini being punished in Canto 15. Likewise, the anonymous narrator of the Middle English Pearl sees his infant daughter already among the 144,000 virgins in the New Jerusalem, despite John of Patmos' assertion that it would only be built after the Apocalypse. An illustration from the manuscript of Pearl, showing the dreamer bidding farewell to his Pearl Maiden. The river of mortality separates them. Even in the damaged illustration, it is possible to see through their outstretched hands the grief of separation by Death.
Then saw I there my little queen
Who I thought had stood beside me in the valley.
Lord, so much mirth she made
Among her companions who were so white!
That sight caused me to think to wade across
For love-longing, in great delight.
Delight drove me in eye and ear --
My human mind dissolved to madness.
When I saw my lovely one, I wished to be there,
Beyond the water, though she was the chosen one.
(translation based on Stanbury, lines 1147-56)
Unfortunately for the narrator, he cannot rejoin his child; his attempt to cross the stream wakes him suddenly, and he must resume life in the mortal world, still grieved by his loss. His vision of the afterlife, however, has chastened him into having more of a thought towards his God, whom he now finds "a frende ful fyin" [a friend most excellent] (line 1204).
The glories awaiting those who achieved salvation are most famously imagined by Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy, easily one of the great masterpieces of poetry to come out of the Middle Ages. In the third canticle, Paradiso, Dante is led by his beloved Beatrice into Heaven, where he speaks with numerous blessed souls.
What of those souls who had confessed their sins before death but not yet done penance? A widely debated idea in the Middle Ages was the doctrine of Purgatory, a between place where souls were relegated to be "purified" by fire, ice, or other means, before achieving the ultimate reward of Paradise. The evolution of the idea of Purgatory has a long and complex history (see The Birth of Purgatory by Jacques le Goff), and was not clearly condoned by the Catholic Church until the Second Council of Lyons in 1274. Thomas Aquinas, a thirteenth-century theologian, most clearly articulated the church's thinking on Purgatory by asserting that "the priest could absolve the 'culpa' [blame] of mortal sin but the 'poena' (pain or punishment) still had to be satisfied by repentance" (Foster, p. 9). Thus, Purgatory existed as a place where punishment was exacted by means of physical suffering before the soul was taken into Heaven. The prayers of those still living could alleviate the pains of Purgatory to an extent; while not relieving the departed of their obligation to visit Purgatory, the time they spent there could be shortened.
For those misguided souls who neither did penance nor repented their sins, the afterlife consisted of eternal suffering in Hell. As Boase points out, "The human mind has a morbid thirst for horrors," and thus the torments of the inferno "lent themselves to more lurid and haunting concepts" than did the bliss of Heaven (p. 21). We could compare this fascination to a modern cinematic audience's enduring obsession with horror films, where the terrifying and bloody images are at once repulsive and yet compelling. While medieval people certainly enjoyed a kind of morbid thrill from reading about and viewing images of Hell, the didactic purpose of such material was to warn them of the dangers of not taking proper care of their souls.
Some are born to sweet delight, some are born to endless night...
~William Blake, Auguries of Innocence~
Screws fall out all the time. The world's an imperfect place.
~John Bender, The Breakfast Club~
SOOD Acolyte, Keeper of the Sacred Coffee
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