- Maatschappelijke rol
- Over KU Leuven
- KU Leuven 2013
The Research Group for the History of the Middle Ages adopts the point of view that there is a continuity between the Western Middle Ages and Late Antiquity, on the one hand, and the Early Modern period, on the other. By abandoning traditional periodization, the members of the Research Group invite interdisciplinarity and cross-border research without, however, losing sight of the individuality of the medieval period. Their geographical research area consists, broadly speaking, of the region of the Southern Low Countries and its interaction with the surrounding regions. The Research Group’s research and courses focus on the interaction between Church and society, on the one hand, and urban history, on the other. It goes without saying that the Research Group attaches great importance to the thorough knowledge and competent application of the auxiliary sciences, historical methodology and heuristics.
Thematically, the research into medieval Church and society is based on two cornerstones. On the one hand, there are the relationships between ecclesiastical and secular authorities during the Early and High Middle Ages. Indeed, the study of abbeys and communities of canons is an ideal starting point to discover the impact monarchs, princes and other members of the nobility, but also popes, bishops and other religious dignitaries had on such institutions. Periods of ‘reform’ are especially crucial to map out power relations. Particular attention is paid to the tenth- and eleventh-century bishops in the church province of Rheims. Their identity and the relationships between them are the topic of new research, as well as their role in the reform of religious communities and of the Church in general. The second cornerstone consists of the study of late medieval religious practices in urban parishes and monasteries. Here, special attention is paid to various phenomena related to popular religion and to the care for the soul’s salvation, though both fields are obviously closely related. The former research concerns such topics as confraternities, pilgrimages, processions, the veneration of saints and relics, etc. The latter focuses on the different types of donations and foundations intended to shorten one’s stay in purgatory: funerals, chantries, obits, poor relief and care of the sick, etc. To study these two fields, a twofold research approach is applied in most of the cases, a combination of prosopography and quantification. As a result, networks and evolutions in these phenomena can be mapped out. However, the organizational framework (parish churches, monasteries and abbeys, hospitals, beguinages and their personnel) within which these phenomena originated and developed, is never forgotten.
The research into urban history focuses on the social and political history of towns, and on the spatial development of those towns and the surrounding countryside. The central question here is how certain groups in town managed the space, governed the urban community and resolved internal differences. The researchers make use of social theories, discourse analysis, historical geography, cartography, toponymy and various other disciplines in order to find out how medieval townspeople moulded urban politics to suit their purpose and decisively intervened in urban space. Indeed, the institutions, the mentality and the topography in towns still bear clear traces of these interventions.