Public lecture by Richard Kieckhefer: The Mystical Presence of Christ

February 23, 2011 - 17:30 - 19:00
Event type: 
Event audience: 

The Department of Medieval Studies

of Central European University

cordially invites you


to the public lecture of



Richard Kieckhefer

Northwestern University




The mystical presence of Christ: individual experience and communal culture
in late medieval sources



at 17:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CEU- Faculty Tower, # 409

Budapest, V. Nádor u. 9.


Much has been written about visionary experiences related in sources from late medieval Germany and England, but fundamentally important questions remain: How do non-visual encounters with Christ, the locutions and dialogues which in many sources are more frequent than visions, relate to visionary experiences? How do the sources that relate either visionary or non-visual experiences of Christ negotiate the tension between the singularity of the mystical virtuosa and her integration into a community? Most basically, how does the "mystical manifestation" of Christ's presence (the miraculous event, accessible to the privileged few) relate to his "spiritual presence" (his ordinary and indeed ubiquitous presence, accessible in principle to ordinary devout Christians in prayer)? This paper will approach these issues in the context of significant case studies, including Margery Kempe and selected examples from the German sister books.


Richard Kieckhefer teaches in Religious Studies and in History at Northwestern University, as one of a cluster of medievalists who specialize in the religious culture of the late medieval West. He has published on various aspects of that culture, including the history of witchcraft and magic and the history of church-building. One constant theme underlying his work is the relationship between individuals and the communities to which they belong, and the ways in which a sense of community is engendered and sustained precisely in the face of difference. His interest in "the mystical presence of Christ" arises out of that broader concern. In some ways he returns here to themes of his book Unquiet Souls (1984), but the interplay of individuals, subgroups, and communities can be seen also in Magic in the Middle Ages (1989), Forbidden Rites (1997), and even Theology in Stone (2004).