Wonders, Prodigies and Marvels: Unusual Bodies and the Fear of Heresy in Ralph of Goggeshall's Chronicon Anglicanum
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Freeman, EM, Wonders, Prodigies and Marvels: Unusual Bodies and the Fear of Heresy in Ralph of Goggeshall's Chronicon Anglicanum, Journal of Medieval History, 26, (2) pp. 127-43. ISSN 0304-4181 (2000) [Refereed Article]
Ralph of Coggeshall's Chronicon Anglicanum is traditionally consulted for its narrative of English royal politics and crusading history in the late-twelfth and early-thirteenth centuries. Within this national history there are six short anecdotes, four concerning English wonders and two concerning French religious history. Although previous scholarship suggests that these stories are simply random inclusions in the history, it will be argued that they present and develop a theme of critical importance to the Chronicon overall - this being that the unified body of Christian believers is at risk of assault and disintegration. It will be seen that all six stories focus on the human body - the abnormal body, the heretical body, the miraculous body - and that this physical body is a metaphor for the Christian body at its broadest. There is currently strong scholarly interest in medieval wonders and this article indicates the ways in which the unusual, the unaccustomed and the prodigious all carried great meaning for medieval audiences. In this instance, the unusual bodies described in six stories reflect the concerns of the Chronicon and of thirteenth-century Cistercians more broadly. The main concern, logical for a history describing the Fourth Crusade, is that of possible assault on Christian orthodoxy. © 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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