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Lollard Communities Religion & Religious Change in England c.1470-1558.

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Presentation on theme: "Lollard Communities Religion & Religious Change in England c.1470-1558."— Presentation transcript:

1 Lollard Communities Religion & Religious Change in England c.1470-1558

2 Recap: Last time: assessed role of criticism in the Church. This time: look at Lollards – often seen as the precursor or foundation for Reform. Danger of teleology – projecting backwards and find an explanation. Certainly contingencies – and huge criticisms – which shared with Reformers. Next week – assess impact of Lollardy in C15th/C16th on Protestants. Here, outline doctrines, spread of movement and contextualise place of Lollardy in late medieval Catholicism. Sect or spectrum?

3 Legacy & Myth:

4 Bishop’s Bridge, Norwich: Lollard Tower, Exeter:

5 ‘Lollard’: What’s in a word? Dutch lollaerd (someone who mutters, a mumbler). Latin lolium, tares (mingled with the wheat): ◦ Matthew 13. Franciscan, Lolhard, a convert to the Waldensians and a prominent preacher in Guienne (then under English control). He was burned at Cologne in the 1370s; Middle-English loller - vagabond, idle.

6 John Wycliff (d.1381): Philosophy & Theology: ◦ Realists:  things existed because they shared in an underlying reality, an ideal model of a thing, of which all particular examples were approximations. ◦ Nominalist:  Denied the reality of universals/ ideals  There were only things which man perceived through the senses from their ‘accidents’.  For realists all tables are imperfect copies of a great eternal table, for nominalists all table are different. Wycliff – realist: ◦ Universals existed in God’s mind. ◦ Real things were mere substances of God’s ideal – shared in the eternity of that idea. ◦ Known to mankind only through their perception in the senses.  What we see, hear, smell, touch only ‘real’ in the sense that they were manifestations of a perfect reality beyond the senses.  Illuminations of God to man was the basis of all human knowledge.

7 Doctrines: Scripture:  De veritate sacrae scripturae ‘logic of Holy Scripture’ (1378)  saw it as endorsing the realist philosophy which he embraced.  Pure expression of God’s mind to the human race – therefore valued over tradition. ◦ As ideal of law (written down) took precedent over custom, so scripture (law of God) should have precedent over tradition. ◦ Nothing ‘true’ unless in the Bible. ◦ Lordship in Grace:  Problem re: ownership of property.  ‘Just’ = that which agreed with God’s will.  ‘render each their due’: ◦ Reward virtuous; retribution for evil. ◦ THIS world shadow perfect ideal (of God).  Church could not reward the sinful: ◦ Owning property distracted from spiritual duties. ◦ Undermined the entire legal code of the Church (canon law).  Ideal of clergy = poverty, as under the Old Law. ◦ Predestination:  God had pre-decided who to elect to salvation – an orthodoxy of Catholicism.  Difference not of kind but degree – emphasis which Wycliffe placed on it.  Ramifications for the definition of ‘Church’  Not all Christians on earth gathered together.  God’s love for the Elect unchanging – must be Elect on earth, too. ◦ How could the Catholic Church be ‘True’ if made up of reprobates? ◦ How could it makes moral decisions if there was no way of knowing if ecclesia ‘Elect’? ◦ Papacy not look very pious (Great Schism):  Authority should be based on spirituality, not tradition. ◦ Importance of sacraments reduced:  Signs, not vehicles for grace.  Only predestined could receive grace – to suggest otherwise a contradiction of God’s will.  Penance/confession not required. ◦ Eucharist:  Denial of transubstantiation.  No presence of Christ in bread – only in those who were Elect.  Affront to the powers of the meditative priesthood – sacramental power to channel God’s grace – and the devotional framework which had developed around the Host.  Masses for the dead etc redundant.  As was much of the material fabric of late medieval Catholicism.

8 A Movement? Implies solidity, organisation and purpose: ◦ Certainly evidence of sharing materials and contacts. More of a network than a sect: ◦ Not a separate Church. ◦ Networks dependent upon pre-existing patronage and kin relationships, rather than developing ones. Not gathered Churches: ◦ Wary of looking forward to the Reformation:  Hutterites or Huguenots, who displayed a more coherent and shared identity.  Those churches kept records, organised funds, schools.  The Lollards did not.  Nor did they possess a distinctive ministry. Theory not really allow Lollards to be a ‘movement’. ◦ Notion that the most just people the most Christian. ◦ Decidedly anti-hierarchical or institutional stance. If it was not a ‘movement’, certainly had significant ramifications. Conventicles: ◦ Gather to discuss, learn and study scripture.

9 Texts: Lollard Sermons:Wycliffe Bible:

10 Beliefs: Inherited heresies: ◦ Disbelief in transubstantiation. ◦ Rejection of the need for baptism and confession ◦ Denial of the value of pilgrimage, prayers to saints, or the honouring of their images. ◦ Attack oaths, fasting, prayers for the dead as unscriptural ◦ Papal pardons redundant Biblical certainties: ◦ Anticipate Protestants? Reading scripture: ◦ Coming together to read, study, reflect. ◦ Well-guarded locations. ◦ ‘Known men’ and ‘known women’ – those who truly knew and followed His law. Key texts: ◦ New Testament ◦ Gospels ◦ Epistles (especially the letter of James) ◦ Revelation Danger of overstating coherence: ◦ No single Lollard creed. ◦ Variation between conventicles. ◦ Based on charismatic preachers.  Regional variation rested upon the predispositions of a handful of men. ◦ Evidence – most of what we know about ‘beliefs’ from trial records.  Not written down/schematic, but taken under duress and often in response to questions.  Not always clear. Unified in a rejection of a mediatory priesthood: ◦ Need to obtain knowledge of God based on scripture. ‘Holy’ men: ◦ Wycliff (even if not read his works). ◦ Sir John Oldcastle ◦ William Taylor ◦ William Emayn of Bristol. ◦ Key: drawing on the community’s past history.

11 Dispersion & Scope: Odd that Wycliffe’s ideas did spread: ◦ Theological disputes rarely escaped universities. ◦ Sermons in Latin. ◦ Why?  Ramifications for power of the church.  Wycliffe’s energy.  ‘Man of the people’? (majority of writings in Latin).  Which people and to what end? Deeply entrenched in: ◦ Kent ◦ Essex ◦ Berkshire ◦ South Buckinghamshire ◦ Oxfordshire. How did it spread? ◦ Preaching:  Revolutionary in context of sacerdotal priesthood.  Established structures of Church key to spread. ◦ Clerics – therefore authority.  Divide ‘orth/heterodox’ thin in the early stages. ◦ Close knit communities ◦ Conventicles ◦ Impressive scale of literature:  250 bible manuscripts: ◦ Only 20 complete. ◦ All ‘Lollard’?  Wary of assuming reading primary means.  Projecting the Reformation backwards.  Group reading – empowering in an age of mass illicteracy.  Very few arrested owned books.  Those that did v. basic – 10 Commandments.

12 Dispersion & Scope: Patronage: ◦ ‘Lollard Knights’ at the court of Richard II:  Sirs: Thomas Latimer, Richard Sturry, John Cheyne, Lewis Clifford, William Neville, John Montague. ◦ Heresy at the centre of power. ◦ Latimer – promote in Leceistershire/ Northamptonshire.  Maintain Lollard clerics on his lands. ◦ Sturry – forced to forswear Lollardy in 1390. Not overstate coherence: ◦ Closely knit body of men. ◦ But very varied values. ◦ All active in mainstream piety alongside Lollardy.  Devotions to the Virgin Mary.  Wills & traditional devotions.  Several died on pilgrimage. Gentry support in some regions: ◦ Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Shropshire. ◦ Could cause conflict  Northampton (1393). ◦ Mayor John Fox vs Richard Stormesworth. Social distribution: ◦ Not a disproportionate appeal to the gentry.  Most to lose.  Often to most extensive patrons of activities which Lollards condemned. ◦ Not a religion of the dispossessed. ◦ Attracted ‘middling sort’ – those with a stake in society:  51 Lollards investigated at Norfolk: ◦ 26 craftsmen, 1 wealthy, 4 priests ◦ Stress on literacy. ◦ These ‘middling sort’ were precisely the sorts of people interested in new avenues of (orthodox) lay piety. ◦ Apocalyptic fervour:  No real social protest.


14 Lay piety: a spectrum? Was it radically apart from LMC? Points of contact with ‘orthodox’ devotions important: ◦ Poor Caitif (c.1400) – devotional treatise of orthodox nature  6 of 23 manuscripts in which survives contain Lollard works too.  Actually written from Wycliffite sermons, perhaps by an orthodox Catholic with access to a range of materials.  Not heretical – divisions often very narrow.  Lollard Bibles often found in orthodox hands.  Church contained a broad basis of opinions. Binary models of ‘orthodox’ / ‘heresy’ too rigid. ◦ Two sides of the same coin? Did Lollardy penetrate the mainstream? ◦ Desire to read religious literature and scripture. ◦ More austere of the newer religious Orders (eg. the Cartesians) points of contact with Lollardy.  Devotional literature C15th.  Nicholas Hereford – retired to the Cartesian Charterhouse in Coventry in 1417. ◦ ‘Lollard’ is often so unspecific in the documents  Any unconventional piety.  All heretics, dissenters lumped under the term.  But the extremely orthodox might be too.  Pious distaste of swearing might be conflated with Lollardy’s dislike of oaths

15 Lollards & Politics: Heresy = sedition: ◦ Religious iniquity lead to social/political iniquity. ◦ Lollardy tainted by this. ◦ Amplified by two cataclysmic events in British history :  1) Peasants Revolt (Archbishop of Canterbury lynched).  2) The Wars of the Roses (1399-85): ◦ Ended with the reign of Henry VII & the beginning of the Tudor dynasty ◦ Important for how the Tudors would remember Lollardy and how they would deal with heresy. Peasants Revolt (1381): ◦ Dissent accorded some role. ◦ Clamp down on Wycliffe & followers. ◦ Earlier historiography:  Lollardy some role (esp. deposing of Richard II in 1399). ◦ Now, court of Richard II orthodox. ◦ Richard III & Henry IV reject heresy, too.  Public way of proving orthodoxy.  Win over the support of the AB of Canterbury, Arundel. Henry IV: ◦ De haeretico comburendo (‘On The Burning of Heretics’) – 1401. ◦ Reinforced existing sanctions. ◦ More symbolic than sensational. ◦ Undercut noble support. ◦ Public trials:  John Bradby (1410).  William Sawtry  Way of shoring up support for monarchy – many of the kings in these years were o dubious legitimacy. Role of politics and heresy converge in the case of Sir John Oldcastle.

16 The Oldcastle Rising: Sir John Oldcastle: ◦ MP in 1407, Baron in 1409.  Bills for dis-endowment of clergy. ◦ Childhood friend of Henry V ◦ Long critic of episcopacy. Archbishop Thomas Arundel: ◦ Produced evidence of Oldcastle’s heretical convictions to discredit him (& protect the Church). ◦ Compromising manuscripts (1413). ◦ Arrested – King urged to recant but would not.  Condemned September.  Henry’s delay in sanctioning execution permitted Oldcastle time to escape (19 th October). Revolt, January 1414: ◦ Oldcastle’s role – a reluctant figurehead on the run? ◦ Far from the Peasant’s Revolt, or even the smaller rebellions of the Tudor period.  Few hundred Lollard devotees at best.  No clear purpose.  Lancastrian regime more in control of the events that the ‘rebels’ ever had been. Lancastrian regime ‘spun’ the event: ◦ Not a co-ordinated Lollard strike, but presented that way.  Acted to sustain support for the Church and the regime.  National Prayers, Thanksgiving Processions – sense of deliverance shored up the regime.  Paul Strohm, whole thing an invention by the regime – too far?  But clear that Lollardy not much of a political threat at this stage ◦ Commissions of Oyer and Terminer set up in the wake of the ‘revolt’ produced few returns. ◦ Oldcastle captured 1417. Turning point for Lollardy: ◦ Sedition frightened off men of influence. ◦ Networks began to die out. ◦ Arundel responded to Lollardy with programmes of devotional reading, preaching, clerical reform.  Evidence once again of orthodox Catholicism being vibrant and flexible enough to sustain itself.

17 Lollards after Oldcastle: Treated more severely: ◦ Sporadic prosecutions from Richard II’s reign. ◦ Much more severe after Oldcastle – treasonable.  Now equated with disobedience to the law.  Sped up mechanisms of hunting out heretics. ◦ Severe prosecution:  80 offenders taken in the rising.  69 condemned. ◦ Popular resistance tainted:  Cade’s rebellion – labelled ‘Lollards’ to spped up prosecution.  Marjory Kempe (not a Lollard) aroused suspicion because of excessive devotions. Deemed less dangerous by the reign of Henry V: ◦ Bishop of Durham praised for handling of the situation at the opening of Parliament in 1420. ◦ Many Lollards in prison, but little urge to prosecute them ◦ Still there in 1425. Channels of communication/ organisations shattered: ◦ Pre-1414 elements eradicated. ◦ More concerned with survival than enacting change. Survival in smaller communities: ◦ Often in touch for security reasons. ◦ No leader, or over-arching organisation. ◦ Sustained by family networks. ◦ Regional flavours, characteristics. ◦ A series of attitudes to the priesthood and scripture than a co-ordinated creed.

18 Foxe & Oldcastle:

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