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AfterlivesThe Return of the Dead in the Middle Ages$
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Nancy Mandeville Caciola

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501702617

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501702617.001.0001

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(p.346) Conclusion

Nancy Mandeville Caciola

Cornell University Press

This concluding chapter argues that the medieval Christian church, seeking to promote its central teachings on the eternity of the soul and the certainty of future bodily resurrection, tolerated a broad range of collective representations of death and afterlife. During the period of active conversion, church leaders and lay communities collaborated in maintaining and reproducing any imaginative formation that suggested transcendence of mortality. Such traditions were ratified by the Dialogues of Gregory the Great, which constituted a foundational precedent for the Christian appropriation of motifs about ghosts and revenants. Thus, pagan collective representations of revenants became a theological argument for the resurrection; the atavistic pagan motif of the army of the dead was transmuted into a folk theology of purgatory; and folk traditions that associated the deceased with fertility and abundance were reformulated as commentaries on a retributive afterlife.

Keywords:   medieval Christian church, soul, bodily resurrection, death, afterlife, mortality, Dialogues, Gregory the Great, Christian appropriation

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