Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Individually Designed


William TeBrake

Second Committee Member

Kristina Passman

Third Committee Member

Michael Grillo


Mercy and the Misericord in Late Medieval England examines mercy as a unifying force in secular and ecclesiastical culture. As such mercy was incorporated into English legal practice in the Laws of Ine, thus beginning codification of the practice of sanctuary, a codification and practice that continued in English legal tradition until the reign of James I. My work is concerned with mercy as a socio-cultural construct from c. 1100 - c. 1520 in England and its manifestations in monasticism and in the real world. For mercy to be an effective socio-cultural expectation it needed to be part of the legal system. The law of sanctuary recognized the role of the church as sanctuary space and provided guidelines for the administration of sanctuary law. The examination of English medieval legal practice illustrates that sanctuary was a conjoint act of mercy. The physical structure of the church provided sanctuary and further delineated the nature of the mercy of God. The architectural elements of the building, the design programs, and the spatial constructs provide further insights into the integration of mercy as a socio-cultural construct. When the architectural elements and design programs are integrated into the spatial hierarchy the building emerges as an physical and intellectual whole that emphasizes God and his mercy. Benedictine monasticism was the most prevalent form of monasticism in England and an examination of their liturgical and corporate practices illustrates the importance of mercy in daily routine. The most sacred space of the church is the east end. It is here that the stalls of the monastic quire are situated. The misericord provided the occupant of the stall with a physical reminder of the nature of mercy. The carvings found on the misericord further illustrate the socio-cultural understandings of the community that installed the choir. This is an inter-disciplinary study drawing together the disparate elements that are part of the socio-cultural understanding of mercy in medieval England. Mercy was a unifying force for medieval English society.

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