The Perfect Body Corrupted: The Eucharist and Spiritual Corruption in Medieval Visionary Works

Judith K. Lanzendorfer (University of Findlay)

“Holy anorexia” is often glossed as a positive spiritual activity where life is sustained through the Eucharist; there are, though, instances where the Eucharist is corrupted. A 14th century visionary noted, “as the body of the Lord [was] raised on the Altar, I kept thinking, because of the afterbirth, that the host was something polluted…I could no longer believe it was the body of Christ” (qtd. in Bynum 266). This presentation examines the communal Eucharist meal, fear of the peripheral space of the postnatal body, and ritual and medical purification used to normalize postnatal bodies, thus preventing “spiritual starvation”.

Part of 04-14 Peripheral Plagues: Localizing Illness in Medieval and Early Modern Texts, Friday, October 14, 8:30 am–10:00 am