Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The Theology of the Afterlife in the Early Middle Ages, c.400-c.1100

Foxhall Forbes, Helen

The Theology of the Afterlife in the Early Middle Ages, c.400-c.1100 Thumbnail


Helen Foxhall Forbes


R. Pollard


Between AD c.400 and AD c.1100, Christian ideas about the afterlife changed in subtle but important ways. This chapter outlines broad trends in thought about the afterlife in this period in the Latin West, and examines the concomitant changes in thinking about the post-mortem fates of souls. Ongoing contemporary discourse around topics such as sin and penance or baptism contributed to developments in the way that contemporaries understood the afterlife, including heaven, hell and an interim state between death and universal judgement. Significantly, as Christians came to be more certain about some aspects of the afterlife, the possibility of salvation for individual souls was perceved to be less certain. As a result, by the end of the period there is much greater evidence for concern about the post-mortem fate of the soul than there had been at the beginning, laying the foundations for high medieval theological discussions and developments. Keywords heaven, hell, purgatory, afterlife, early Middle Ages, sin, penance, baptism, saints, burial


Foxhall Forbes, H. (2020). The Theology of the Afterlife in the Early Middle Ages, c.400-c.1100. In R. Pollard (Ed.), Imagining the medieval afterlife (153-175). Cambridge University Press.

Online Publication Date Dec 7, 2020
Publication Date 2020-12
Deposit Date Oct 20, 2017
Publicly Available Date Nov 5, 2019
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Pages 153-175
Series Title Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature
Series Number 114
Book Title Imagining the medieval afterlife
ISBN 9781107177918


Accepted Book Chapter (287 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This material has been published in Imagining the medieval afterlife edited by R. Pollard. This version is free to view and download for personal use only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations