Saints and Sinners: The Pre-Reformation Church and Popular Piety

AKC 1 General – Spring Term 2008 – Power & Protest
AKC 1 – 14 JANUARY 2008
Learning Outcomes
 An understanding of the overall purpose of the course and of the problematic character of some of the terms
used in its title
 An understanding of the nature of history as an academic discipline
 An understanding, in outline, of aspects of the historiography of ‘The English Reformation’
 An understanding of the essentials of the pre-Reformation theology of salvation and of the kinds of beliefs,
institutions and practices that were based upon it
Structure of Lecture
1. Prelude: Some Terms, Themes and Problems
2. The Discipline of History: Sources, Selections and Syntheses
3. Revisionism and England’s Reformations
a) Who writes history? – winners and losers, providence and patriotism
key names:
John Foxe (1517-87)
John Strype (1643-1737)
A.G. Dickens (1910-2001)
J.J. Scarisbrick
Eamon Duffy
b) Revisionism: new sources and new perspectives
key names:
Christopher Haigh
4. The Late Medieval Church and Popular Piety
i) The Pre-Reformation theology of salvation (soteriology)
a) The Fall:Adam and Eve
b) Salvation: reaching Heaven
c) Mortality crises: famine, pestilence and war
d) Grace: divine influence/spiritual fuel, which purifies
and sanctifies individuals, reconciling them with God
e) 7 sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist,
(i.e. Mass), Penance, Marriage, Ordination and Extreme
f) Baptism (once); Eucharist (annual): focus on Penance
g) The penitential cycle:
h) Purgatory: the ante-room to Heaven
i) Optimists versus pessimists: Pelagius (c.354-c.418) versus St Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
j) The neo-Pelagianism of late medieval soteriology:
AKC 1 General – Spring Term 2008 – Power & Protest
ii) Implications: mitigation and reciprocity
a) The Treasury of Merit: Jesus Christ and the saints
b) The papal ‘power of the keys’ and the sale of
c) The intercession of the saints
d) Relics and pilgrimages
e) Prayers for the dead
f) Requiem masses: Transubstantiation and the Mass as
iii) Institutions and investments: corporate piety
a) Monasticism: prayers and Masses
b) Colleges of secular priests (e.g. Eton College)
c) Chantries (e.g. chapels in Winchester Cathedral)
d) Confraternities (aka gilds or brotherhoods)
e) Obits, lights and images
f) The adornment of the parish church
iv) Unpopular Religion: enthusiasts and critics
a) The Devotio Moderna (from the 14th century,
principally in the Low Countries)
b) Mysticism
c) Old heresy: John Wycliffe (d.1384) and the Lollards
d) Renaissance humanism: the re-discovery of classical
learning: the return ‘ad fontes’ (i.e. to the sources)
e) Humanist satire: the Julius Exclusus of Erasmus
f) Anti-clericalism, localized or of interested parties
5. Conclusion: The Late Medieval Church as a Victim of its Own Success
a) Accumulation: the diversity of the well-stocked
b) Quantity versus quality: an inflationary spiral
c) Too many clerical fingers in too many pies!
d) The catechetical imperative: the Fourth Lateran
Council (1215) and its implications
e) Rising lay literacy and expectations
f) Print and travel: expanding horizons
g) Bubbles and fashions
Further Reading
D. Rosman, The Evolution of the English Churches, 1500-2000 (2003) Chapter 1
Full details about the AKC course, including copies of the handouts, can be found on the AKC website at: Please join in the Discussion Board and leave your comments. If you have any
queries please contact the AKC Course Administrator on ext 2333 or via email at [email protected]
Please note the AKC Exam is on Monday 21 April 2008 between 14.30 and 16.30. You should have
registered for the course already using the registration form online. You will need to register for the exam
separately, information will be provided shortly.