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Hell Disarmed? The Function of Hell in Reformation Spirituality

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In Late Medieval Christianity, the concept of hell was closely connected to the sacrament of penance. Hell could be avoided through the right use of penance. And the cleansing sufferings in purgatory could to a certain extent replace the eternal sufferings in hell. The Protestant Reformation rejected purgatory, and returned to a traditional dualistic view of the relationship between heaven and hell. At the same time, hell seems to lose some of its religious importance in early Protestant spirituality. This change is illustrated through a comparison of two central texts belonging more or less to the same genre: on the one hand the famous Late Medieval illustrated Ars moriendi and on the other Luther's Sermon von der Bereitung zum Sterben from 1519.

Affiliations: 1: The University of Oslo, Faculty of Theology, P.O. Box 1023, 0315 Oslo, Norway;, Email:


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