Honors Program

Honors in History

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Dr. William Burgess

Thesis Professor Department


Thesis Reader(s)

Dr. Brian Maxson, Dr. Keith Green


The purpose of this project is to explore the historical image of Hell in Medieval Europe as an agent of socialization for illiterate Christian communities. The project focuses on a literary work, Tundale’s Vision, written in 1149 C.E in Cashel, Ireland. Tundale’s Vision came from a genre of vision literature derived from popular oracular folk tradition surrounding the image of Hell that served the purpose of socializing Christian communities to certain social norms and stigmas presented by the author. Vision literature would be used by preachers in vernacular sermons throughout the Medieval period in order to reinforce moral and social messages presented in to their congregations, and it drew much of its themes and imagery from folk traditions in order to be more relatable to local communities. This research provides a historical context from which this genre of literature emerged including a discourse on how it gained power as an agent of socialization in Medieval Europe. Time is devoted to the historical state of what are generally considered primary agents of socialization in human societies throughout Medieval Europe, and research reveals that much of these agents, aside from religion, were inaccessible to the majority of Medieval Europeans, especially those of the lower class.

Additionally, this project provides information on the rise in popularity of the artistic image of Hell in the Medieval period. The analysis of Tundale’s Vision, a work that emerged from this environment saturated with artistic depictions of Hell, reconstructs potential social norms and stigmas of 12th century Ireland relating to a contemporary reform movement within the Irish Christian church. This analysis provides the historical origin of many images commonly associated with the popular Medieval conception of Hell as it appears in Tundale’s Vision, and it analyzes the use of the fear of a painful afterlife in order spread and reinforce ideals presented by the Christian Church. Much of this project draws from the scholarly works of Gwenfair Adams and John Seymour who produced research concerning Tundale’s Vision, other works of vision literature, and their impact on Medieval Christian communities. The power of religious artwork in the process of socialization in Medieval Ireland should become apparent throughout this work.

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Copyright by the authors.