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

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lollard communities

Lollard Communities

Religion & Religious Change in England c.1470-1558

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 Lollardyin late medieval Catholicism.
  • Sect or spectrum?
Recap:
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-Englishloller- vagabond, idle.
‘Lollard’:
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.
John Wycliff (d.1381):
doctrines

Scripture:

    • De veritatesacraescripturae‘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.
Doctrines:
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.
A Movement?
texts
Lollard Sermons:

Wycliffe Bible:

Texts:
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.
Beliefs:
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.
Dispersion & Scope:
dispersion scope1

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.
Dispersion & Scope:
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 Wycliffitesermons, 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 abroad 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
Lay piety: a spectrum?
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 haereticocomburendo(‘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.
Lollards & Politics:
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 (19th 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.
The Oldcastle Rising:
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.
Lollards after Oldcastle: