This essay examines the social and economic roles of individuals who entered into relationships with Mainz’s hospitals, in order to elucidate their positions in local economic, social, and religious networks. As the evidence from Mainz and other cities in the central Rhineland bears out, donors and tenants cultivated relationships with hospitals that were multilayered, and often intimate. Account books and charters—and the annotations made on them by generations of hospital staff—reveal that hospitals’ use of resources was responsive not only to the needs of the sick, but also to the changing needs of their tenants and donors, who might in turn become their residents. Like monastic houses, hospitals provided diverse spiritual services for the laity, including the performance of memorial Masses. Those who benefited from and gave donations for such spiritual services were often known only by diminutives of descriptors, appearing fleetingly in the written record as valued and active members of their communities. As Adam J. Davis has recently pointed out, many of the most vulnerable in medieval cities had labile relationships with medieval hospitals, in which they could be both providers and recipients of care. I am building on such work, as well as that of Fritz Dross and Anne E. Lester, in examining the ways in which the anonymous and nearly-anonymous contributed to the sustenance and upkeep of late medieval urban hospitals. I am also examining the donations of the poor to other religious institutions in Mainz. This comparative strategy illuminates how those with little visibility in the historical record contributed to, and crafted relationships with, the most conspicuous institutions around them.
Barnhouse, Lucy C.
"“A Certain Poor Woman”: Vulnerability and Visibility among Hospital Donors and Tenants,"
Medieval People: Vol. 36:
1, Article 7.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/medpros/vol36/iss1/7