The John Gerson Confession Aid

Brussels - KB - 837-45, fol. 134v (by courtesy of the KBR Brussels)

Brussels – KB – 837-45, fol. 134v: Heading and beginning of the confession aid (by courtesy of the KBR Brussels)

Geraardsbergen Manuscript, Text 73 (fols. 134v-139v)

Before you can enter heaven your soul should be freed of all your sins. Some time in purgatory might help, but is not recommended. The simplest way to free yourself from sins is by confessing them (repenting them and do penance for them). Text 73, a confession aid, guides you through the seven deadly sins and gives suggestions for sins to confess. Wrath? You should confess when you enjoyed somebody else’s misfortune. Gluttony? You should confess when your children are living in poverty because you have been eating and drinking too much. Sloth? You should confess when you have wasted your time by staying in bed too long. Lust? The list for lusty sins is quite a long one, but you should definitely confess when you have done ‘something against nature, which should better be discussed in the confessional than be written down here’!

Text on a church wall (image published in Queeste (1999), see Further reading: Reynaert)

The heading (?) of the text attributes this confession aid to the famous Parisian theologian John Gerson. Apparently this text was to be posted on the church wall. When we look on medieval miniatures (?), like this image below, we notice that there were texts posted on church walls indeed! The putting up of lists in the church may be an indication of a more general literacy in the fifteenth century.


See also: the complete table of contents.

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