Research Project


Fate after Death in Medieval Germany. The tradition of the Visio Pauli in Middle High German Literature: Sources, Analogues and Influences

Prof. Dr. Concetta Giliberto

The present research aims at exploring the geography of the Afterlife as it was developed and perceived in medieval Europe, particularly Germany. An historical and philological analysis of the early Middle High German version of the Visio Pauli will be carried out, focussing firstly on its context of transmission, followed by an investigation of its sources and analogues. Special attention will be paid to pinpointing the peculiar themes and topoi of the visionary literature, such as the role of the guide-angel, the geography of the interim places (where the soul remains after the death of the body, awaiting the Last Judgment) or certain peculiar images, such as that of souls hung from trees shaken by a tempest, or the contrast between an evil soul and a good one.

It may be very worthwhile to contextualize this work in the cultural environment of medieval Germany, in order to ascertain its peculiar involvement in the growth of devotional and mystical literature. The study of the relationships between the early Middle High German version of the Visio Pauli and other eschatological works in the vernacular (such as the Visio Tungdali or Heaven and Hell) constitutes one of the main purposes of the research. An understanding of the mutual interferences among these works is necessary in order to achieve an adequate knowledge of the apocalyptic literature in Germany during the Middle Ages, and could contribute towards clarifying the great value which was assigned to a belief in the Afterlife in German society at this time.

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