Heaven and Earth in Anglo-Saxon England: Theology and Society in an Age of Faith, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Heaven and Earth in Anglo-Saxon England

Theology and Society in an Age of Faith, 1st Edition

By Helen Foxhall Forbes


410 pages

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pub: 2013-11-15
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Christian theology and religious belief were crucially important to Anglo-Saxon society, and are manifest in the surviving textual, visual and material evidence. This is the first full-length study investigating how Christian theology and religious beliefs permeated society and underpinned social values in early medieval England. The influence of the early medieval Church as an institution is widely acknowledged, but Christian theology itself is generally considered to have been accessible only to a small educated elite. This book shows that theology had a much greater and more significant impact than has been recognised. An examination of theology in its social context, and how it was bound up with local authorities and powers, reveals a much more subtle interpretation of secular processes, and shows how theological debate affected the ways that religious and lay individuals lived and died. This was not a one-way flow, however: this book also examines how social and cultural practices and interests affected the development of theology in Anglo-Saxon England, and how ’popular’ belief interacted with literary and academic traditions. Through case-studies, this book explores how theological debate and discussion affected the personal perspectives of Christian Anglo-Saxons, including where possible those who could not read. In all of these, it is clear that theology was not detached from society or from the experiences of lay people, but formed an essential constituent part.


'The book is learned, well researched, and covers a very broad range of material easily justifying the chronological limits outlined at the outset. The text is very clean across its 300-plus pages, and well produced." - Reviews in History

"Helen Foxhall Forbes intelligently mines an impressive number of diverse sources for evidence, including nonreligious ones, which reveal something about the workings of medieval theology 'on the ground.'"- Johanna Kramer, University of Missouri

Table of Contents

Contents: Foreword; I believe in one God; Creator of all things, visible and invisible; And He will come again to judge the living and the dead; The communion of saints and the forgiveness of sins; The resurrection of the body and the life everlasting; Epilogue; Bibliography; Indexes.

About the Author

Helen Foxhall Forbes is a Lecturer in Early Medieval History at Durham University. She has also held posts at the University of Leicester and the University of Exeter. She studied Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at the University of Cambridge, and Theology at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg-im-Breisgau. Her research interests and publications focus on Anglo-Saxon theology, liturgy, and religious and social history.

About the Series

Studies in Early Medieval Britain and Ireland

Studies in Early Medieval Britain and Ireland
Studies in Early Medieval Britain and Ireland illuminates the history of Britain and Ireland from the start of the fifth century to the establishment of French-speaking aristocracies in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, for historians, archaeologists, philologists, literary, visual and cultural scholars. It explores the origins of British society, of communities, and political, administrative and ecclesiastical institutions. It was in the early middle ages that the English, Welsh, Scots and Irish defined and distinguished themselves in language, customs and territory and the successive conquests and settlements lent distinctive Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian and Norman elements to the British ethnic mix. Royal dynasties were established and the landscape took a form that can still be recognised today; it was then too that Christian churches were established with lasting results for our cultural, moral, legal and intellectual horizons. Studies in Early Medieval Britain and Ireland reveals these roots and makes them accessible to a wide readership of scholars, students and lay people.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain
HISTORY / Medieval