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ORB Online Encyclopedia
A Guide to Online Resources
The subject of medieval religion presents a number of problems to the modern scholar, some of which it shares with other fields of study and some of which it does not. Chief among these is the availability of significant source material, and the difficulty of accurately ascertaining the meaning and function of a particular source, the practices or doctrines it describes, etc. More narrowly, the humanist inquiring into the past, in whatever disciplinary or interdisciplinary way, faces the dilemma of investigating people, human beings with whom we presumably share some common ground, but people whose environment was in nearly every conceivable way vastly different from our own.
It seems to me that this last problem is particularly acute when we come to the question of religion. Our culture tends, not exclusively but nevertheless predominantly, to cast the Middle Ages in one of two contradictory roles, both centering on religion. In one view, the Middle Ages is a Dark Age, less for the lack of Roman culture than for the despotic rule of a monolithic religion over credulous masses. In the other, the Middle Ages is a veritable Golden Age of theological and spiritual reflection. Certainly, the secularism of our society has done much to promote the former view, and likewise the turn-of-the-century Catholic return to Thomas Aquinas the latter. Our concern here is not to weigh the relative merits (and demerits) of these stereotypes of the Middle Ages, but simply to observe that both overlook the remarkable diversity of experience in medieval religious life and thought.
The collection of sources and resources in the Religion section of ORB attempts not so much to represent that diversity as to make it accessible to the modern student. Part textbook, it is designed to be deployed in courses in whatever way deemed appropriate by instructors. Part reference work, it is also designed to be consulted by students looking for basic information on various topics germane to medieval religion. It is not a research monograph, and for precisely that reason a point has been made to provide adequate bibliography for proper and up-to-date research.
We use a combination of original publications and links to other internet resources. Essays are organized broadly chronologically and geographically (and by faith), and then according to "institutions" (broadly understood). Contributions are peer reviewed. When we have enough primary source material to make it an issue, they will be arranged in like fashion to correspond with whatever essays pertain to them. Links to other web resources are selective rather than exhaustive, and annotated in the hopes of making their inclusion here somewhat more useful than a mere list.
Inasmuch as ORB is designed to be used by teachers and students, any suggestions or requests -- or contributions -- are welcome. If there is a particular topic you would like to see covered, or a particular topic you are willing to devote some of your time and talent to covering, contact us.Comment or SIGN UP NOW
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