< Back to previous page


Caritas et Memoria. A Study of the Interplay Between Poor Relief and Commemoration is Cosmopolitan Bruges during the Late Middle Ages - Early Modern Period based on the Organization and Functioning of Parochial Poor Tables.

This research investigates the interaction between poor relief and memoria in the late Middle Ages and sixteenth century. While it is well-known that food distributions to the poor were a form of memoria,   its implications for the daily practices of charity remain unclear, as both topics belong to different historiographical traditions. By exploring one well-chosen example, i.e. the parochial poor tables of Bruges, the current study examines how this type of institution combined poor relief and memoria, and how the ratio between these two elements evolved under the influence of socioeconomic, political and religious changes in society. The chosen methodology combines a number of different methods with a quantitative analysis of the endowments at the heart.

Throughout the study it has become clear that poor relief and memoria were intricately interwoven. On a theoretical level, the practice of charity was believed to aid the salvation of the soul. Moreover, memoria was always present in the details of the endowment, the choice for the poor table, and the moment of the hand-out. Similarly, food distributions were especially popular in combination with an anniversary, or a personal memorial service. Yet, these distributions were not just a part of the liturgical service, but also functioned as independent elements. This research shows that the endowments provided the necessary new capital and guaranteed the continued existence of the poor tables. And even though the liturgical obligations were a burden, the poor tables were remarkably flexible:  the endowments may have lasted forever in theory, but the poor tables reduced, combined or even abolished endowments frequently, if necessary. The close connection between poor relief and memoria remained present until the end of the sixteenth century and was not altered by the reform movement in the beginning of this century. The reform did, however, cause a decline in the independence of the poor tables as both the urban and the ecclesiastical authorities increased their control over the institutions.

Date:1 Oct 2014 →  26 Nov 2018
Keywords:poor relief, medieval Bruges
Project type:PhD project