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Churches Conservation Trust - Lunchtime Lectures #9

Whoever said churches were dull and boring clearly hasn't been following our weekly lecture series. Our free lectures take place live every Thursday online, but you can catch up on every single one right here. Our lectures explore everything from art, architecture, history, politics to even some pretty weird and wonderful topics too!

Another video in our highlights from the CCT Lunchtime Lecture series.

This weeks video: A Tomb with a View with Prof. Paul Binski

This talk is about some of the most famous images of Death, how they came about and how they worked, looking especially at Christian attitudes to the body, the role of fear, and the way art itself comes up with ideas.

This talk is given by Professor Paul Binski FBA. He is Professor of the History of Medieval Art at Cambridge University.

He has written and lectured extensively on the art and architecture of Western Europe in the Gothic period. After achieving his PhD in History of Art from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1984, he stayed on as a Research fellow until 1987. He has since taught at Princeton, Yale, Manchester, but returned to a post at Cambridge in 1995.


The medieval view of death was heavily influenced by Christianity, and the concept of the afterlife was central to this worldview. The idea of purgatory, a state of temporary punishment for those who had not achieved the level of sanctity necessary for entry into heaven, was widely accepted. Therefore, death was not simply the end of life but the beginning of a new phase of existence.

Medieval people believed that the soul continued to exist after death and that the afterlife was divided into three realms: heaven, purgatory, and hell. The destination of the soul was believed to be determined by the way in which the individual had lived their life. Those who had lived a virtuous life and had followed the teachings of the Church were believed to go to heaven, while those who had committed sins or lived an immoral life were believed to go to hell. However, for those who were not quite good enough for heaven, purgatory was an intermediate state where they could be purified and made ready for heaven.

The medieval view of death emphasized the importance of preparing for death, both spiritually and practically. Medieval people believed that good deeds and charitable acts could earn them a better position in the afterlife, and they would often make arrangements for their funeral and burial while still alive. They would also make donations to the Church and offer prayers for the salvation of their souls.

Death was a constant presence in medieval life. Disease, famine, and war were common, and death could come suddenly and unexpectedly. The fear of sudden death was ever-present, and people often carried religious items with them, such as a rosary or a cross, to protect them from sudden death.

The way in which death was viewed in the medieval period had a significant impact on how people lived their lives. They believed that the way they lived would determine their fate in the afterlife, so they were careful to follow the teachings of the Church and live a virtuous life. Death was not something to be feared but rather something to be prepared for.

In conclusion, the medieval view of death was focused on the spiritual journey of the individual. Death was seen as a natural and inevitable part of life, and the afterlife was central to the medieval worldview. The concept of purgatory, the importance of preparing for death, and the belief that good deeds could earn a better position in the afterlife were all central to the medieval view of death. Despite the constant presence of death in medieval life, people believed that death was not something to be feared but rather something to be embraced as a new phase of existence.

Check out the full range of video lectures Here and Here

Stay tuned for more videos from the CCT in coming weeks.

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