Saving the Souls of Medieval London: Perpetual Chantries at St Paul's Cathedral, c.1200-1548, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Saving the Souls of Medieval London

Perpetual Chantries at St Paul's Cathedral, c.1200-1548, 1st Edition

By Marie-Hélène Rousseau


256 pages

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Hardback: 9781409405818
pub: 2011-02-28
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St Paul's Cathedral stood at the centre of religious life in medieval London. It was the mother church of the diocese, a principal landowner in the capital and surrounding countryside, and a theatre for the enactment of events of national importance. The cathedral was also a powerhouse of commemoration and intercession, where prayers and requiem masses were offered on a massive scale for the salvation of the living and the dead. This spiritual role of St Paul's Cathedral was carried out essentially by the numerous chantry priests working and living in its precinct. Chantries were pious foundations, through which donors, clerks or lay, male or female, endowed priests to celebrate intercessory masses for the benefit of their souls. At St Paul's Cathedral, they were first established in the late twelfth century and, until they were dissolved in 1548, they contributed greatly to the daily life of the cathedral. They enhanced the liturgical services offered by the cathedral, increased the number of the clerical members associated with it, and intensified relations between the cathedral and the city of London. Using the large body of material from the cathedral archives, this book investigates the chantries and their impacts on the life, services and clerical community of the cathedral, from their foundation in the early thirteenth century to the dissolution. It demonstrates the flexibility and adaptability of these pious foundations and the various contributions they made to medieval society; and sheds light on the men who played a role which, until the abolition of the chantries in 1548, was seen to be crucial to the spiritual well-being of medieval London.


'In six densely packed chapters, Marie-Helene Rousseau covers every feature of the eighty-four perpetual chantries founded at St. Paul’s Cathedral from the mid-twelfth century to their dissolution by Henry VIII in 1548…Rousseau enlivens what could be rather dull material into a very readable survey. She illustrates each of her points with wonderfulexamples from the texts she has mined for the information she presents here. She also provides easily read tables that help to unpack much of her data. Her unifying theme is the chantries’ full and successful integration into the life of the Cathedral, due in large part to the ongoing efforts of the bishops and Dean and Chapter.' - Marilyn Oliva, Medieval Institute Publications

'It is an utterly fascinating book, and the author is to be congratulated on the depth of her study.' - Church Times

'Marie-Hélène Rousseau sets out as her goal the investigation of "the chantries [of St. Paul’s Cathedral] and their impact on the life, services and clerical community of the cathedral" (9). This she accomplishes with a wholly admirable thoroughness and clarity. … It deserves a wide audience.' Speculum '… an important contribution to historians' understanding of chantries, St Paul's, and the medieval secular cathedrals.' - Southern History

'Marie Hélène Rousseau’s study of the Cathedral’s perpetual chantry foundations is a model demonstration of what riches there are, and of how to interpret them… Overall, this is a wholly fascinating glimpse into a scarce-imagined way of life.' - The Ricardian

'Marie-Hélène Rousseau’s work […] provides a detailed and meticulously researched piece of historical work that focuses not just on the chantries themselves, but on their management and organizational arrangements. This is a worthy task made much the harder by the fact that both chantries and medieval cathedral have long departed. Here, the value of history in resurrecting the afterlife practices of pre-Reformation London is ably and effectively demonstrated… a timely, well-written, and well-researched contribution to the study of medieval chantries in one of London’s most important churches.' - Catholic Historical Review

'Marie-Hélène Rousseau has produced a meticulously researched, clearly organized, and well-written study that students of medieval Christianity, London history, and Reformation history will wish to consult. Saving the Souls of Medieval London is an erudite and impressive account of the chantries of St. Paul’s Cathedral.' - Journal of British Studies

'… a well researched and wide ranging study.' - Nigel Saul in Church Monuments

About the Author

Marie-Hélène Rousseau obtained her PhD in medieval history at the University of London in 2003 under the supervision of Professor Caroline M. Barron. She currently lives in Paris, France.

About the Series

Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West

Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West

The series Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West reflects the central concerns necessary for any in-depth study of the medieval Church - greater cultural awareness and interdisciplinarity. Including both monographs and edited collections, this series draws on the most innovative work from established and younger scholars alike, offering a balance of interests, vertically through the period from c.400 to c.1500 or horizontally across Latin Christendom. Topics covered range from cultural history, the monastic life, relations between Church and State to law and ritual, palaeography and textual transmission. All authors, from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds, share a commitment to innovation, analysis and historical accuracy.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Medieval