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Material Culture: Miracle In Religions

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Religion can be and mean many different things to many cultures. Material culture has a large impact with it. Whether it is a grand shrine or a small chapel, these places still provide an important role within religious teachings and beliefs.

Material culture is a huge part of religion. It is a way for people to show their faith in small gestures or large ones, something as small as a set of rosary beads can help someone get through a bad day. Items can help people to keep their faith and religious views in their everyday lives, as well as helping to bring people together through it. Giving an offering is a way of providing thanks for guidance or even a miracle that has been given to you though religion and prayer. You don’t have to be religious yourself to appreciate the material culture it provides across the world. People use it in many different ways and it can be seen in different lights depending on how religious the person that views it is.

The material items found in the St Thomas Becket shrine and the items found in the John Wesley Chapel are very different in each place.

The John Wesley chapel is very plain and simplistic inside but this doesn’t take away from the religious messages that it gave and the teachings it provided, and I imagine still does give. There were no stained glass windows, in fact there were no windows on the ground floor at all, but this was due to attacks upon the church due to the Wesley’s different views about how the Church should practice. It is a very communal place where they actively practiced communion and had a dedicated place for this. John Wesley addressed many issues that other religious figures may have been afraid to, and because of this he was idolised with many ceramics that would have had words that he had spoken or lines from the bible printed on them, as well as busts and statues people created possibly made as offerings and thanks to John for everything he did.

His brother Charles incredibly wrote over nine thousand hymns. The quality of these lead to hymn singing (which was disapproved at the time) being acceptable in England. The chapel had a pulpit in one of the balconies especially for reading and teaching the Hymns.

The St Thomas Becket shrine was quite different to the John Wesley chapel in its appearance. The shrine was large and decorated grandly with the church having many stained glass windows, with the shrine itself gilded and bejewelled and open spaces for devotees to gather. Large pillars adorning the entrances and halls, highlighting the stained glass miracle windows and holding the high ceilings of the church. The miracle windows were important to show the miracles and healings that St Thomas performed and this helped to remind people of the significance of Becket as well as a reminder to people that he could help them too if they prayed and left offerings to him. Offerings were very important as well, showing peoples devotion to St Thomas. These offerings could vary widely, of course depending on the fortunes of the people giving thanks and offerings. Some could be as simple as wax figures to grand gestures of expensive jewels. I believe it wouldn’t have mattered what you gave, some people would give the last of what they had in the hope of a miracle whist others would give only a miniscule amount of their worldly goods. If you truly believed and were really worthy you would be provided with what help you desired.

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Even though there were very few objects in the Wesley chapel what they did provide still had big significance, for example the hymns. Charles Wesley must have been very dedicated to the bible and the practices of their Methodist Churches hymns to create so many in a time that they were disapproved of by the Church of England. I think that with the hymns that Charles created clearly helped to make their Methodist ways more accessible to different people, especially as many people in poorer areas where the chapel was built, may have not been able to read but the hymns would help them to feel closer to the Church when singing or humming them as Charles used known tunes to help people remember them. The brothers seemed to want to create a community where people of all walks of life could be accepted into the church. They were ahead of their time in wanting to go out and offer people the teachings of the Methodist religion instead of waiting for them to possibly discover it themselves. To me it felt that it was important to the brothers to provide the less fortunate with the teachings of the bible, to help them better understand the world and if they followed the Methodist way they could improve their own lives with Jesus protecting and guiding them. A high spirited desire for material culture was seen with the ceramics created but keeping with protestant ways in having scripture painted on them. Not always necessarily from the bible but they would also use words that John Wesley had spoken.

The St Thomas Becket shrine it was of very big importance of the time. He was an important part of the Church and even after his murder it was believed he was still helping and guiding from beyond the grave. People believed that he was providing miracles and the shrine was their way of being able to thank him for what he had done for them, as well as paying respects to him. The stained glass windows depicting the miracles performed for all to see and appreciate, but also offering hope to all that he could possibly help others as well. The shrine itself being grand and beautifully decorated to show how important they found St Thomas Becket to be to them, it could also be seen with the offering left behind in thanks and devotion. In a time with lack of modern medicine people looked to religious figures to help with sickness and answers, so to have a place to go to pray and ask for help was a large part of culture at the time.

John Wesley realised how important ordinary people were and wanted to preach religion to them in the hopes to better their lives. The chapel itself was built in a poorer area, as they thought that the church should be open to anyone that needed guidance. The seating could be adjusted to include as many people as possible for services; it also contained rooms for religious figures to stay and pray. John and Charles became Methodist as they felt people should be reading from the bible daily and so he provided several services throughout the day so as many people as possible could attend them.

The Shrine of St Thomas Beckets purpose was mainly for people to come to pray for help or miracles and leave offerings. There were areas that could be used for social gathering but the shrine itself was gated to protect it. Some people may have stayed near of days on end hoping they would be given a miracle or sign when they had asked for help. Perhaps they believed being close to the shrine would provide the answers or help they needed. Being close and touching the shrine was a largely important role when visiting.

The hymns created and the stained glass windows pretty much speak for themselves in the material culture that is still used today in churches. As well as all of the statues and ceramics which still have traditional values today.

I myself feel that the John Wesley chapel had more of an impact within religious culture as the Wesley brothers made their own changes to religious practices to include more people and change with the times. Both places still have a large following today with many people travelling from all across the world to visit them. This showing that material culture will always have a big impact on the world, religiously or not.

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Material Culture: Miracle In Religions. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/material-culture-miracle-in-religions/
“Material Culture: Miracle In Religions.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/material-culture-miracle-in-religions/
Material Culture: Miracle In Religions. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/material-culture-miracle-in-religions/> [Accessed 19 Aug. 2022].
Material Culture: Miracle In Religions [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Aug 19]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/material-culture-miracle-in-religions/
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