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Mediaeval Studies

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Sin, Interiority, and Selfhood in the Twelfth-Century West +
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Sin, Interiority, and Selfhood in the Twelfth-Century West

Studies and Texts

Studies and Texts 200. xii, 172 pp. 2015. ISBN 978-0-88844-200-0 • Cloth • $80

A common refrain in twelfth-century thought is that God alone knows the secrets of the heart. Originating in Scripture, the principle was elaborated exegetically to imply two distinct domains: one of external actions open to human perception and judgment and the other including thoughts, intentions, and sentiments – the products of internal acts – visible only to God. But changes in medieval penance, especially in the Fourth Lateran Council’s demand in 1215 that all Christians fully confess their sins to a priest, reveals a shift in attitude towards the secrecy of the heart. A close reading of twelfth and thirteenth-century texts from the cathedral and monastic schools shows that oral confession was to include not only visible, external acts, but also the merely internal actions formerly limited to God’s knowledge.

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