"A Mighty Force in the Ranks of Christ's Army":Intercession and Integration in the Medieval English Leper Hospital

Rawcliffe, Carole (2021) "A Mighty Force in the Ranks of Christ's Army":Intercession and Integration in the Medieval English Leper Hospital. In: Leprosy and identity in the Middle Ages. Manchester University Press, Manchester, UK. ISBN 9781526127426

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Much has been written about the attractions of lepers as agents of redemption in the Middle Ages. They were, above all, regarded as representatives of the tormented Christ, whose appearance quasi leprosus during his Passion became a theme in art and literature. Assumptions about their special status were further encouraged by the belief that they belonged among the fortunate few who would be ‘purified’ of sin on earth through physical suffering, bypassing purgatory and ascending ‘straightway into heaven’. Less attention has been paid to how these ideas influenced responses to leprosy, both before and after the Black Death. This chapter explores the intercessionary role undertaken by hospitalised lepers and their priests in medieval England, and the extent to which it fostered the social and spiritual integration of leprosy sufferers. Adherence to a prayer regimen was facilitated by the availability of a church or chapel, which gave structure to the religious round, but was also necessary for the celebration of Mass. Noting the ubiquity of wayside chapels attached to suburban leper houses, we turn to the spiritual services offered there by sick men and women. Yet funding was precarious, and few leper hospitals survived the upheavals of the fourteenth century unscathed. A decline in the number of functioning institutions undermined the idea of leprosy as a religious calling, and from the 1340s patrons were preoccupied with the sanitary imperatives that prioritised the segregation of lepers. At the same time, other charitable enterprises began to offer competition for financial support.

Item Type: Book Section
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of History
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Medieval History
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2016 09:42
Last Modified: 08 Jul 2022 08:30
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/57870
DOI: 10.7765/9781526127426.00014

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