Marianne Pollheimer

Christian communities and their media

The sub-project "Christian communities and their media" examines texts that were of great importance for the formation of Christian communities on various levels. The focus lies on late-antique and early medieval sermons and homilies, which were one of the most influential media reaching a broad range of different social groups. These texts give insight into how orthodox belief, a Christian system of values and the related morals were conveyed to a larger audience and how thereby the social order and life of the community were shaped. We may observe that, on the one hand, on the level of smaller, local communities attending church; on the other hand, sermons and homilies were disseminated over wide regions of Europe and attracted the interest of political rulers. Charlemagne strove to correct and amend the text of liturgical manuscripts and promoted their dissemination throughout the Frankish realm. Sermon collections and homiliaries were part of the basic equipment of priests and bishops who used them to exercise pastoral care of their flocks. Moreover, such manuscripts were an integral part of monastic libraries, where they were consulted for the study of the bible, similarly to exegetical commentaries, or served for contemplation. The respective audience varied as to social status, education and political background. Accordingly, the sermons dealt with a wide range of topics that touched on current political or economic affairs on the one hand; on the other, they mirrored the general atmosphere that was decisive for the social, political and cultural processes developping in the respective period. In this respect, sermons and homilies as well as the contexts of their transmission give clues about identity processes, in which religious, ethnic and political components were interrelated with each other and with further aspects of identification.