Dr. Anita Boele (Utrecht)

‘When did we see You hungry, and feed You?’ Ideas about Care and Charity in the Late Middle Ages

Both in the development of ideas about and practical solutions to poverty as societal problem, scholars have attributed an important role to the late medieval church. As institution the church provided a common motivational framework, practical organizational forms (buildings, meeting points, networks) and the indispensable trust to uphold the contemporary relief system. In my presentation I will concentrate on one aspect of this function of the church in late medieval care practices, asking how late medieval church authorities and other religious institutions motivated people to take social responsibility. Though occupying a dominant position, the church had no monopoly in the use and interpretation of biblical notions and arguments. Using examples from educational texts, ordinances and paintings, I will illustrate how in the growing urban communities religious notions such as the ‘Works of Mercy’ or the ‘Body of Christ’ were adapted to practical needs and interests, resulting into a close intertwining of religious and civic values and practices.


Dr. A. Boele
Postdoc researcher
Universiteit Utrecht
Dept. of Social and Economic History