chapter  9
The church in the year 1000
Pages 19

Medieval Christianity appealed to the senses as well as to the mind. Water, bread, wine, oil, music, stained glass, statues, incense, candles and distinctive clothing were among the visible features of the medieval Christian church. In modern times, the words 'ceremony' and ritual', particularly when joined with the word 'mere', take on a negative connotation. 'Mere ritual' is generally regarded as empty and without much connection to reality. But in the medieval world, ritual was central to religion and society. The ceremonialisation of life went far beyond what is ordinary in the twenty-first century. Ceremonies were not just symbolic displays, but were believed to be transformational, that is, they changed persons and things to make them what they had not been before. The sacraments of baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance and extreme unction were available to all Christians, whether clergy or laity. At least two of the sacraments, confirmation and extreme unction, were marginal to the religious life of most people.