Christianity was both a conservative and a dynamic force; its controlling hierarchy sought to command its believers in their thought and practice and at the same time had to accept the ‘popular’ incorporation of magical and social practices. Diversity, contestation, politics and patronage run through the development of the evolving medieval Church, whether this is identified with its practitioners, its hierarchies, its buildings or its material culture. In many ways it is difficult not to see the Church as the physical space which defined the practices that took place there but of course, whilst that forms a vital component, it was always more than that, in being a varying suite of beliefs and practices that to varying degrees controlled, determined, destroyed and made bearable people’s lives. Archaeology is well placed in particular to elucidate the material conditions of the Church and how these affected people’s lives; to chart its developing importance as a storehouse of spiritual, ritual and political power; to elucidate its exploitation of social links and patronage to retain its hegemonic position; and to chart the changes and uses made by believers to received orthodoxies.
See also the ScARF Case Study: St Nicholas East (Mither) Kirk, Aberdeen