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RoadworksMedieval Britain, medieval roads$
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Valerie Allen is Professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNYRuth Evans is Professor of English at Saint Louis University

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780719085062

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719085062.001.0001

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The function of material and spiritual roads in the English eremitic tradition

The function of material and spiritual roads in the English eremitic tradition

Chapter:
(p.157) 7 The function of material and spiritual roads in the English eremitic tradition
Source:
Roadworks
Author(s):

Michelle M. Sauer

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719085062.003.0007

This chapter examines the vocation of the hermit in connection to both physical and spiritual roads—that is the actual road system of medieval English as well as the paths of mystical contemplation. As medieval society grew more suspicious of purely contemplative religious practices, the eremitic vocation was deliberately redesigned to provide physical support for the community, particularly through maintenance of roads and bridges. Mobility, always an important part of the vocation, became a central image, and the late Middle Ages witnessed an increased number of ‘road hermits’, who deftly combined community care, charitable work, and spiritual guidance. Thus, hermits provide a new version of the ‘mixed life’, demonstrating the increasing emphasis on labour as a religious expression, and deliberately evoking a sense of progress and mobility.

Keywords:   hermit, ‘mixed life’, charity, ‘road hermits’, bridges, contemplation, spiritual labour, manual labour, community, recluse

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