Commemoration in the convent Marienpoel: prayer and politics


Welcome to Prayer and Politics.

This interactive website offers an introduction to the medieval commemoration of the dead (also called memoria) in the MariŽnpoel convent (near the Dutch town of Leiden). This convent existed from 1428 till 1572.

Commemoration of the dead

The Christians of the Middle Ages, as always, wanted to enter the heavenly paradise as soon as possible after their death. They knew that, even though their sins would be forgiven, the souls of all mortals (except the saints) had to spend time in purgatory before being admitted to heaven. This period of penance could be shortened by living as a good Christian, performing the works of mercy and supporting the Church.

Care for the Here and the Hereafter

One could hand out alms to the poor; found a convent or a hospital; donate privileges, land and furniture to those institutions, et cetera. In exchange the recipients of these benefactions were expected to pray and perform liturgical services for the salvation of the benefactors.

This means that in the Middle Ages care for life on earth and care for life after death were inseparably intertwined, so that we may speak of a bond between the living and the dead.

By their works of mercy and through the mentioning of their names, the presence of the dead was secured in the communities they belonged to.

We chose the title Prayer and Politics for this website because the factors that played a role were religious-liturgical, social, historical, as well as legal and politico-social in nature.

The MariŽnpoel convent

Many archival records and some paintings on MariŽnpoel have been preserved.

This application aims to introduce you to the medieval memorial culture in this convent. For overviews of the sources, literature, photographs, and the definitions and general background information on memoria, please see the Research Notes.

Made in 2010.

Utrecht University: MeMO project ( and the online database Representations of Medieval Memoria (Memoria in beeld) Flash logo

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