Parents and Children in the Early Middle Ages

Parents and Children in the Early Middle Ages (Review article)

By Pauline Stafford

Early Medieval Europe, Vol.10:2 (2001)

Introduction: In the ninth century Paulinus of Aquileia described the horror of Hell in terms of inversion: ‘Where there is no honour of seniores; or of king, nor is lord over slave/servant, nor mother loves her son or daughter, nor son honours his father.’ When, at the turn of the tenth century the English abott Aelfric imagined heaven, he peopled it solely with adults. Those who had died as children would be resurrected as they would have been had they been fully grown. We cannot be certain whether Dhuoda’s heaven had chiildren, but certainly retained family ties and relationships and through the earthly inheritance they had left. Dutiful sons would be honoured in this world, would themselves live to enjoy the blessings of children and would go on to achieve eternal life. In their pictures of the ideal, or inverted, world of the afterlife, Paulinus, Aelfric and Dhuoda offer insight into their views of this one, in these cases particularly on family, parenting and childhood.

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