Jewish Studies

Miri Fenton

Moving Bodies: Corpses and Communal Space in Medieval Ashkenaz

Section: Articles
Jewish Studies Quarterly (JSQ)

Volume 28 () / Issue 3, pp. 331-348 (18)
Published 27.09.2021

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Analysis of the impact of death in high medieval Ashkenaz has focused on practices of mourning and rituals of remembrance. The current article builds on this work by attending to the time immediately following death and before burial. It follows the corpse on its journey from the house to the cemetery through the streets. Focusing on the corpse itself rather than the surrounding mourners, it explores how the presence of the corpse impacted the social interactions and practices undertaken in the house and the street, endowing those spaces with a communal dimension that they did not usually possess. By creating these temporary communal spaces, Jews in high medieval Ashkenaz reordered the spaces the corpse inhabited. Moreover, focus on practices in space illustrates that interactions between Jews and Christians in high medieval Ashkenaz were not only prevalent in secular affairs, but also permeated lifecycle rituals.

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