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Death, Religion, and the Family in England,
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Ralph Houlbrooke

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198208761

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198208761.001.0001

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Last Rites and the Craft of Dying

Last Rites and the Craft of Dying

(p.147) 6 Last Rites and the Craft of Dying
Death, Religion, and the Family in England, 1480–1750

Ralph Houlbrooke

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses last rites and dying. During the later Middle Ages, the last moments of life were believed to be crucially important. Each person's eternal fate, salvation or damnation, was settled when the soul left the body. The normal expectation was that eternal judgement would be passed on the individual immediately after death. The establishment of purgatory made plausible a very widely shared expectation of salvation, but the possibility of purgatorial rehabilitation was closed to those who died in mortal sin. The final moment of life was also the last chance of repentance. At this critical juncture, the Church offered help generally regarded as indispensable in making a safe departure from the world: comfort, guidance, and above all the sacraments of penance, the altar, and extreme unction.

Keywords:   Church, Christianity, last rites, death, dying

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