chapter  5
36 Pages

Prayer in Roman Society

Prayer was omnipresent in medieval society and is one of the most recurrent features of contemporary sources. It is curious, then, that the topic has been so little studied for Rome in the seventh and eighth centuries. If pressed, many scholars would assume that prayer was a pious business that persisted unchanged for centuries and had no broader eect on society. When historians investigate prayer in the early Middle Ages, they focus on the monastery and generally describe prayer as an exchange of pious donations for the health of people’s souls.1 Scholarship has also grown up around confraternities of prayer stemming from monasteries.2 Much of the work on medieval prayer, even very good contributions, tends to verge towards theology rather than practice, and rarely combine the two.3 e chronology of prayer is sometimes vague; spirituality is the main focus and more mundane concerns or events related to prayer tend to be downplayed. Other works give the textual history of prayer without any idea of a prayer’s societal signicance.4 In some cases, the books that contain prayers are

1 For example, M. de Jong, “Carolingian Monasticism: e Power of Prayer,” in e New Cambridge Medieval History, Volume 2, c.700-c.900, ed. R. McKitterick (Cambridge, 1995), 622-53, at 647-51.