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The Deepest SenseA Cultural History of Touch$
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Constance Classen

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252034930

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252034930.001.0001

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A Touchable God

A Touchable God

(p.27) Chapter Two A Touchable God
The Deepest Sense

Constance Classen

University of Illinois Press

This chapter argues that the cosmology of the Middle Ages was tactile. Heaven may have seemed to be all light and music and fragrance, but the primordial qualities of the universe were held to be the contrasting forces of hot, cold, moist, and dry. All of these qualities could only be experienced through touch, making touch the only sense open to the fundamental nature of reality. As such, this chapter explores first explores the Biblical narratives of touch, particularly through the person of Jesus Christ. It then turns to another aspect of touch in religion—embodied practice through ritual gestures. Another form of religious touch explored here are the objects of touch themselves, the physical relics that bring one in direct physical contact with holiness, to say nothing of the Eucharist, which involves the actual body of Christ. To close, the chapter explores conferring of the sacred via heat.

Keywords:   Middle Ages, medieval cosmology, medieval religion, religious touch, Jesus Christ, ritual gestures, holy relics, Eucharist, heat

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