"Going Out in Style: From Deathbed Profession to Burial in Religious Habits, ca. 1000-1400" Kirsty Schut, University of King's College, Halifax
Since the earliest centuries of Christian monasticism, pious lay men and women have sometimes sought to die and/or be buried wearing religious habits. This talk will examine a key development in the history of this practice: the shift from professio ad succurrendum (deathbed entrance to the monastic life), which saw its heyday in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, to the use of religious habits as burial clothing, which started to take off in the mid-thirteenth century and would become widespread in the early modern Catholic world. Drawing on sources such as charters, testaments, sermons, poetry, and legal and theological texts from northern and southern Europe, I argue that this shift occurred when and as it did in part because of the new mendicant orders’ pragmatic approach to pastoral care, as well as due to changing ideas about the spiritual and symbolic power of habits as physical objects. This phenomenon therefore fits with broader patterns in the social history of monasticism and Christian attitudes towards clothing and materiality during the second half of the Middle Ages.
Dr. Kirsten Schut is a faculty fellow in the Foundation Year Program at the University of King's College. She holds a Bachelor of Humanities from Carleton University and an MA and PhD in Medieval Studies from the University of Toronto. Her doctoral dissertation, entitled “A Dominican Master of Theology in Context: John of Naples and Intellectual Life beyond Paris, ca. 1300-1350,” was a study of the life and works of an Italian Dominican friar and theologian who was closely associated with the Angevin rulers of Naples and participated in the canonization of Thomas Aquinas. She has since held postdoctoral fellowships in history departments at the Universities of Cologne and Bristol and back in Toronto at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.
Kirsty’s main postdoctoral research project concerns the custom of lay Christians seeking to die and/or be buried wearing monastic habits from medieval Europe to the colonial Americas and up to the present day. This widespread but little-studied practice provides a window into changes and continuities in the interconnected histories of monasticism, clothing, and death. She is currently working on two books: an intellectual biography of John of Naples and a history of lay death and burial in religious habits.
Kirsty has taught undergraduate courses in medieval history and religion in Toronto, Mississauga and Ottawa, and recently spent a year teaching ancient and medieval philosophy and theology for Carleton University’s Bachelor of Humanities/Great Books program.