Telling the story of the exceptional penance of an Irish knight, the twelfthcentury Tractatus de Purgatorio Sancti Patricii contends that it was possible to go on a bodily pilgrimage to purgatory. The Cistercian monk H. of Saltrey wrote his Tractatus at a historical moment when the fate of souls after death felt particularly urgent and important evidence for the afterlife was provided by spirits traveling back and forth between this life and the next. Insisting on a bodily experience of a spiritual space, rather than a visionary one, the knight Owein provided powerful eyewitness testimony about posthumous penance. This article uncovers how the Latin Tractatus engages the worries of its audience about the feasibility of the knight’s embodied visit to the afterlife by marshaling familiar narrative patterns from vernacular genres, including chansons de geste and romance. It shows that the Tractatus is an intricately designed text that uses these generic features to dispel doubt, thereby positioning Owein’s pilgrimage as a licit and potentially replicable penitential activity.
A Pilgrimage to Purgatory: Overcoming Doubt through Vernacular Narrative Conventions in the Tractatus de Purgatorio Sancti Patricii
Hannah Weaver; A Pilgrimage to Purgatory: Overcoming Doubt through Vernacular Narrative Conventions in the Tractatus de Purgatorio Sancti Patricii. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 January 2021; 51 (1): 9–35. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-8796222
Download citation file: