Praying hands and feudalism

The ideas of lordship and vassalage came to be applied far beyond their original context, especially from the twelfth century on. For example … early Christians prayed with their arms extended to to either side. The position that we associate with prayer, closed hands held together, is in fact the position of a vassal in the act of doing fealty … People expressed their relationship with God the way they expressed the relationship of vassal to lord. Furthermore, hymns written to God began to use this same language, as did the hymns written to the Virgin Mary. The concept of dependent relationships that we often label “feudal” was of great importance long after the lord-vassal relationship changed radically from the time of its origins.

William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzman, The Medieval World View: An Introduction, pg. 216


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