Godparents and Kinship in Early Medieval Europe

Between A.D. 200 and 1000, sponsorship at baptism evolved from a simple liturgical act into a mechanism for the creation of enduring relationships regarded as especially holy forms of kinship. Combining anthropological, historical, theological, and literary approaches, Joseph Lynch presents a comprehensive analysis of the origins and development in Western society of this "spiritual" kinship. Les mer
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Between A.D. 200 and 1000, sponsorship at baptism evolved from a simple liturgical act into a mechanism for the creation of enduring relationships regarded as especially holy forms of kinship. Combining anthropological, historical, theological, and literary approaches, Joseph Lynch presents a comprehensive analysis of the origins and development in Western society of this "spiritual" kinship. Because of its solemnity and adaptability, such kinship gradually took its place alongside blood and marital ties as a fundamental part of medieval society, continuing to expand in high and late medieval Europe and to flourish even in modern times, particularly in Latin America.
Professor Lynch traces the liturgical practices and theological beliefs undergirding sponsorship and examines its social purposes, including sacralization of personal firendships, creation of client/patron reltionships, extension of marital taboos, provision of protectors for the young, fostering of trust among adults, and dissemination of religious instruction. In the process he offers a rich array of insights into the Church's role in the passage of Western society from antiquity to the Middle Ages.
Joseph H. Lynch is Professor of History and former Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Ohio State University. He is author of Simoniacal Entry into Religious Life form 1000 to 1260: A Social, Economic and Legal Study (Ohio State).

Originally published in 1986.

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