July Meeting – Michael Schmoelz – Controlling the Quest for Sanctity

Controlling the quest for sanctity – the pilgrimage business and how to escape it.

For our July meeting we welcome back Michael Schmoelz. Michael last spoke to us back in March 2019 about medieval pilgrimage and the importance to both pilgrims and the church of the healing powers of the saints and particularly of their relics.

For this talk Michael is going to explore pilgrimage from an economic angle, looking at the massive financial benefits accruing to religious institutions through the display of saints’ relics and the sale of souvenirs such as pilgrim badges. These institutions’ monopolistic control of pilgrimage inevitably led to a popular backlash which manifested itself in the form of unsanctioned and unofficial devotional sites such as wells and other features in the landscape which circumvented the grip of the church, in short, the church’s desire to maximise financial gain and the populace’s efforts to frustrate that desire. Michael will also look briefly at the largely nineteenth century obsession with tying these sites to pagan worship.

Michael was born in Bavaria and moved to the UK in 1999. He subsequently studied at UEA completing a PhD in research into medieval history and taught there from 2014 to 2019. He describes himself now as an occasional historian, pilgrim, gardener and printmaker. He has also been working with a metal sculptor doing lost wax bronze casting on a large scale. This tree weighs 2.5 tonnes.

We’ll be meeting at Needham Village Hall, High Road, Needham, IP20 9LB on Saturday July 16th at 2.00pm. Tickets are £3.00 and there’ll be no pre-booking this time, just come along.

The usual refreshments will be available.

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