"Graunted of the Bysshop Honde": the meaning and uses of the sacrament of confirmation from its inception through the Middle Ages
This dissertation is a social history of the sacrament of confirmation in western Christianity from its beginnings in the early third century through the Middle Ages. It is an exploration of the meanings attached to the rite, the uses to which it was applied, and the experiences of those who practiced it. Based primarily on the evidence found in liturgies, theological works, devotional manuals, the records of church councils, and saints' lives, it concludes that, prior to the sixteenth century, confirmation was largely defined by the office and status of the bishop, and through him it connected people of both sexes and all ages and classes to the power and prestige that he represented. In addition, confirmation served as a potentially significant element in the life of Christian devotion, as a source of supernatural power which could be applied to a variety of ends, and through the practice of godparenthood, as a useful social instrument for the creation and extension of kinship networks.Part one analyzes the creation of confirmation in the third through fifth centuries by looking at the role that anointing and handlaying played in Judaism and early Christianity, the diversity of initiation practices in the classical Christian world, and the values that led to the decision in the west that only the bishop could administer the rite. It suggests that this episcopal exclusivity arose, at least in part, in response to the kind of sectarian challenge posed in the Valentinian Gospel of Philip. Part two looks at the development of confirmation as a separate sacrament and the variety of roles it played in the early Middle Ages. Importantly, we find that confirmation was not introduced to the Franks during the Carolingian dynasty, as has been generally thought; rather, there is clear evidence that Merovingian bishops regularly performed this rite. Part three contends that the rite of confirmation continued to develop through the high and late Middle Ages. Bishops used it in their attempts to renew lay piety, and its identity came to be associated with important contemporary social institutions such as monasticism, chivalry, and crusading.
- History