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The Devil Made Me Do It: Demonic Intervention in the Medieval Monastic Liturgy

Boynton, Susan Leslie

The manifold appearances of demons and the Devil are central themes in the monastic literature of the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Just as a more general fascination with the diabolical infuses medieval visual culture with grotesque or startling images, a more specific instance of this preoccupation produced texts in which demonic interventions interfere and sometimes even intersect with the central activity of monastic life: the divine office. Appearances and interventions by demons are mentioned in a variety of sources including early monastic rules, the Five Books of the Histories by the eleventh-century monk Radulfus Glaber, Hildegard of Bingen's Ordo Virtutum and her letter to the Prelates of Mainz, Peter the Venerable's De miraculis, the Dialogue on Miracles by the Cistercian novicemaster Caesarius of Heisterbach, and the Cistercian Exordium Magnum, among other texts. The theme of demonic intervention underlines the theology of the liturgy that also shaped Cistercian anecdotes about the presence of angels who evaluated the quality of singing monks' devotion.


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European Religious Cultures: Essays offered to Christopher Brooke on the occasion of his eightieth birthday
University of London Press, Institute of Historical Research

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December 21, 2020


The original publication of the volume in which this article appeared was in 2008; this work was made available online in open access in 2020.