Corpus Christi Guilds
This lecture will be held online, via Zoom.
Dr Claire Kennan is a Medieval Historian specialising in the social and cultural history of Britain between c. 1300 and c. 1500. Claire completed here PhD in 2018 and is currently working on a proposal for her first book; she is the co-editor of the Brepols series Reinterpreting the Middle Ages: From Medieval to Neo. Claire has taught Medieval History at King’s College London and Royal Holloway, University of London. In 2019 she was one of the AHRC’s Creative Economy Engagement Fellows at The National Archives (London) and between 2017 and 2020 she was the Medieval Specialist on the £1 million National Lottery Heritage funded Citizens Project. Claire is currently a History Lecturer and Research Coordinator at the Bader International Study Centre, the UK campus for Queen’s University (Canada).
The 1388-9 guild enquiry ordered by Richard II’s government constitutes the first substantial body of evidence for the existence of parish guilds in England. While the evidence generated by the enquiry is geographically uneven and incomplete, it offers a unique window into guild activity at the end of the fourteenth century. One of the newer saints’ cults which was significantly represented in 1389 was that of Corpus Christi, the feast of which had only been established some sixty years before. Miri Rubin has noted that out of the 507 surviving guild returns, forty-four guilds were dedicated to Corpus Christi, eighteen of which came from Lincolnshire. Therefore, over forty per cent of England’s Corpus Christi guilds, according to the enquiry evidence, were based in Lincolnshire, compared with a national average of approximately eight per cent. This lecture will focus on the prevalence of Corpus Christi guilds in the county, examining their foundation, location and, where possible, membership and office holders, along with their continental connections and influence in their localities. It will also draw some conclusions as to why Lincolnshire had so many Corpus Christi guilds and what this can tell us about patterns of popular piety in the county at the end of the fourteenth century.