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Perceptions of relics: Civic religion in late medieval Bruges

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Chapter Summary

Which relics were seen in late medieval Bruges; how, when and why were they seen? These are the main questions examined in this chapter. In the fifteenth century, a desire to see relics, within churches, more significantly, outside them, became more urgent. Relics appeared on the streets of Bruges more than ever before, carried during ad hoc or 'general' processions'. The effort to create a 'civic religion', particularly by acquiring patron saints and by managing their public veneration, seems to be a distinctive feature of urban societies in north Italy from the late thirteenth century. The authority that princes could exert over the relics of their cities meant that 'civic religion' in the Low Countries could never be purely 'civic'. In any case, many of the relics in Bruges had princely connections. The powerful presence of institutions like St. Donatian explains characteristic feature of civic religion in Bruges.

Keywords: church; civic religion; late medieval bruges; patron saints; relics; St. Donatian institution



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