LOLLARDS, a title applied to the followers of Wiclif in England, though the terni was previously used of sectaries in Germany. Hocsem of Liege (1348) speaks of "quidam hypocritæ gyrovagi qui Lollardi sive Deum laudantes vocabantur." His derivation, which would connect the word with the root which we leave in lullaby, and makes the term equivalent to canters, is probably correct. Wiclif during his lifetime sent out itinerant preachers, who met with considerable acceptance among the people. The chief centre of Wiclif's teaching was the University of Oxford; and, after the condemnation of Wiclif's doctrine of the sacraments in 1382, Archbishop Courtenay proceeded to silence thee Wiclifite teachers in the university. A strong academical party resisted the archbishop's interference, but the crown supported the archbishop. The chancellor of the university was forced to submit to the publication by the archbishop's commissary of the condemnation of Wiclif's doctrines. The chief Lollard teachers - LAWRENCE BEDEMAN, PHILIP REPINGTON, and JOHN ASTON - were driven to recant. The more famous NICOLAS HEREFORD, who worked with Wiclif in the translation of the Bible, made his escape from England. Archbishop Courtenay in the space of five months reduced to silence the Lollard party in Oxford, and secured the orthodoxy of the university.
This result was largely due to the re-action against novelties which was produced by the Peasants' Rising, under Wat Tyler, in 1381. Wiclif's political opinions were expressed somewhat crudely, and lent themselves to a socialistic interpretation, though Wiclif himself had no such views. Moreover, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, patronized Wiclif through political antagomsm to William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, and other prelates who acted as ministers of Edward III. hence the Lollard movement wore at the beginning a political aspect, which it never lost, and which weakened its religious significance. After Wiclif's death, HEREFORD resumed his office as itinerant preacher, and was assisted by ASTON and JOHN PURVEY. The party of the Lollards grew in numbers and in boldness. In 1387 one Peter Pateshull, an Augustinian monk, abandoned his order, joined the Lollards, and openly preached in London against monasticism.
Still the Lollard party owed much of its strength to powerful courtiers who were willing to use it as a means of striking at the political power of the prelates; and during the absence of Richard II. in Ireland, in 1394, a petition of the Lollards, attacking the Church, was presented to Parliament. This document must be regarded as the exposition of their opinions (cf. Fasciculi Zizaniorum, 360-369). Its twelve articles set forth that the Church of England, following its stepmother, the Church of Rome, was eaten up by temporal pride; that its clergy had deviated from the example of Christ and the apostles; that the celibacy of the clergy occasioned moral disorder, and that the belief in transubstantiation caused idolatry. It protested against exorcismns and benedictions of lifeless objects, against the holding ot secular office by priests, against special prayers for the dead, pilgrimages, auricular confession, and vows of chastity. To these points concerning ecclesiastical polity were added a protest against war as contrary to the gospel, and against unnecessary trades which were exercised only for the satisfaction of luxury. There is in these proposals a crude scheme for the reform of Church and State; but no definite basis is laid down, and the points insisted on are arbitrarily chosen. Richard II. considered the petition as dangerous: he returned from Ireland, and exacted from the chief men of the Lollard party an oath of abjuration of their opinions. Again there was no basis of belief strong enough to resist, and the movement collapsed as suddenly as it began.
This was the highest point of Lollardism in England; and its influence is seen in such literary productions as The Plowman's Tale, and Pierce the Plowman's Crede, both of which were written about this time. It was, however, only natural that the ecclesiastical authorities, who had been so openly menaced by the petition to Parliament, should think of retaliation and repression. Thomas Arundel, who succeeded Courtenay as archbishop of Canterbury in 1396, showed himself a decided opponent of the Lollards. In 1397 he laid before a provincial synod eighteen articles taken out of the writings of Wiclif, and they were all formally condemned. The condemnation of the council was further supported from a literary side by a polemical tractate (Contra errores Wiclif in Trialogo) from the pen of a learned Franciscan, William Woodford. But the political troubles of the end of the reign of Richard II. threw religious controversy into the background. In 1398 Archbishop Arundel had to flee from England; and when he returned it was as the chief adviser of Henry of Lancaster, who came to the throne under many obligations to Arundel and to the Church.
Accordingly the convocation of 1399 petitioned Henry IV. to proceed against the Lollards. Archbishop Arundel had not much difficulty in raising feeling against them. The popular hatred of Richard II.'s rule was still strong, and the chief favorers of the Lollards had been amongst Richard's courtiers. Henry IV. was fervently orthodox, and was bound by many ties to the clerical party: he probably was not sorry to dissociate himself from his father's intrigues with the Lollard party. The convocation of 1401 framed a strong petition against the Lollards. It pointed out that the episcopal jurisdiction was powerless to suppress the itinerant preachers, unless supported by the royal power. It besought the royal assistance against all who preached, held meetings, taught schools, or, without episcopal license, disseminated books contrary to the doctrines of the Church. The petition was granted by the king with the assent of the lords, and a short petition of the Commons declared also their assent. A clause ("de heretico comburendo") was inserted in the statute for the year: it empowered the bishops to arrest any unlicensed preacher or heretic, and imprison him for three months, during which time proceedings were to he taken against him. If he were convicted, he might be imprisoned further, or fined for his offence; if he refused to abjure, he was to be given over to the sheriff to be burned.
Thus the punishment of death for matters of opinion was for the first time introduced into the laws of England. But, while this statute was being passed, WILLIAM SAUTRE, a priest of the city of London, who had previously abjured Lollardy, but relapsed, was brought to trial before convocation, and was condemned. As the statute was not yet law, Sautre was put to death under the king's writ, which was issued on Feb. 26, 1401. Sautre was the first Lollard martyr. John Purvey was brought to trial about the same time; but he recanted, and read a public confession of his errors at St. Paul's Cross.
Public opinion had now turned against the Lollards, and the bishops proceeded with their inquisitions against them. But little results followed; and the growing discontent against Henry IV. gave the Lollards again a political color, and. brought their social opinions into greater proininence. In the Parliament of 1406 a petition was presented by the Commons, and was supported by the Prince of Wales. It set forth that the Lollards were threatening the foundations of society by attacking the rights of property, while they stirred up political discontent by spreading statics that Richard II. was still alive: it asked that all officers possessing jurisdiction should arrest Lollards, and present them to Parliament for punishment. rue king assented; but, for some unknown reason, the petition never became a statute, probably owing to the jealousy existing between spiritual and secular courts. The bishops do not seem to have exercised their statutory powers with harshness. WILLIAM THORPE was arrested by Archbishop Arundel in 1407, and was several times examined by him; but we do not find that he was condemned to death. Thorpe wrote accounts of his examinations; which were collected by his friends, and form an interesting record of this phase of English ecclesiastical history (printed in FOXE'S Acts and Monuments).
In 1409 Archbishop Arundel issued a series of constitutions against the Lollards, with the object of enforcing in detail the provisions of the statute of 1401: still the Lollards seem to have had some influence. In the Parliament of 1410 a petition was presented by the Commons, which, however, they afterwards asked to withdraw, praying for a modification of the statute of 1401, and asking that persons arrested under it should be admitted to bail. In the same Parliament the Lollard party submitted a wild proposal for the confiscation of the lands of bishops and ecclesiastical corporations, and the endowment out of them of new earls, knights, esquires, and hospitals. Whenever the Lollards had an opportunity of raising their voice publicly, they gave their enemies a handle against them by the extravagance of their political proposals.
1)uriiig the session of this Parliament the first execution of a Lollard, under the statute of 1401, took place. JOUN BADBY, a tailor of Evesham, was examined by the Bishop of Worcester for erroneous doctrine concerning the Eucharist. He was brought to London, and was further examined by the archbishop and several suffragans. In spite of all their persuasions, he remained firm in his statement that the bread and wine of the sacrament of the altar remained bread and wine after consecration, though they became a sign of the living God. On March 5, 1410, he was condenined as a heretic, and was led to Smithfield for execution. The Prince of Wales, who was present, tried at the last moment to induce Badby to recant: his efforts were in vain. But it would seem that this first execution under the act was regarded with regret even by those who thought it absolutely necessary.
Meanwhile the triumph of orthodoxy in the University of Oxford was complete. Its theologians exercised their ingenuity by a close examination of Wiclif's writings; and in 1412 no fewer than two hundred and sixty-seven conclusions drawn from his works were condemned as erroneous. This condemnation was important; as it provided materials ready to hand for the theologians of the Council of Constance, who struck at Wiclif as the first Step towards striking at HUS.
On the accession of Henry V. (1413), Archbishop Arundel was relieved of his office of chancellor, and had more time to proceed against the Lollards. Before the convocation of 1413 he laid a proposal to root out Lollardy from high places, and it was resolved that measures be taken to reduce to obedience the chief favorers of heresy. As the first victim of this new policy, a Herefordshire knight, Sir JOHN OLDCASTLE, was selected. Oldcastle had considerable possessions, which he increased by marriage with the heiress of the barony of Cobham, who held large lands in Kent. After his marriage, Oldcastle was summoned to the house of Lords as Lord Cobham. Oldcastle was an earnest Lollard. He sheltered itinerant preachers, attended their services, and openly spoke against some of the church ritual. In 1410 his chaplain was suspended by Arundel for irregularities in the conduct of church services. Oldcastle was formally presented by convocation to the king as a heretic; and Henry V. first tried by personal solicitations to win back Oldcastle to orthodoxy. When this failed, he was summoned to appear before the archbishop. He refused to do so, and fortified his castle of Cowling. After disobeying a second citation, he was taken prisoner, and brought before the archbishop on Sept. 23, 1413. He read a confession of faith, with much of which the archbishop expressed himself well pleased; but he pressed Oldcastle for his opinions on transubstantiation and nuncular confession. When Oldcastle declined to be explicit, he was given two days during which he might consider the orthodox opinions, which were given him in writing. In his second audience he refused to sign these declarations, and openly avowed Lollard opinions. He was eondenined as a heretic, but was allowed a respite of forty days in hopes of a recantation. During this period he made his escape from the Tower, and thereby caused a panic. It was believed that a hundred thousand Lollards were ready for a rising; and a scheme seems to have been set on foot to seize the king at Eltham during the festivities of Christmas, 1413. Henry V. returned to London, and obtaining information of a nocturnal meeting of conspirators, which was to be held on Jan. 12, 1411, resolved to put them down at once. Closing the city gates to prevent the presence of the Londoners, he went to the ground, made many prisoners in the darkness, and crushed the conspiracy at once. Some thirty-seven of the prisoners were afterwards executed on the charge of heresy. Oldcastle himself escaped, and was declared an outlaw. he is said to have tried to raise a rebellion in 1415, and his machinations certainly embarrassed Henry V. in his French campaigns. At last, in 1417, Oldcastle was captured on the Welsh marches, was brought to London, tried for treason before Parliament, and condemned to death as a traitor. The history of Oldcastle is somewhat obscure, and his character is the source of much controversy. lie seems to have been a man of genuine piety, but without. much discretion. His fate is typical of that of the Lollard party. Beginning from high enthusiasm and lofty moral aims, they went astray in the by-paths of political intrigues till the religious significance of the movement is lost in its tendencies towards anarchy. Instead of continuing to struggle for ecclesiastical reform, Lollardy became an expression of the passing phases of Political discontent.
The attempt at revolution in which Oldcastle was involved decided Henry V. to take stronger measures against the Lollards. In the Parliament. of 1414 an act was passed which wemit far beyond that of 1401; for it laid down the principle, that heresy was an offence against the common law, as. well as an offence against the canon law. Besides re-enacting with greater severity the provisions of the statute of 1401, it ordered all justices to inquire after heretics, and hand them over for trial to the spiritual courts. This was the final statute against the Lollards, and under it the religious persecutions of the next century were carried out. From this time forward, we find the Lollards. deprived of any influential leaders. The French war of Henry V. provided occupation for the classes who were willing to use the help of the Lollards in attacking the prelates, and the universities were peaceful. The Lollards could no lomiger claim to be a party within the English. Church: they had become a sect outside it.
The teaching of Wiclif, meanwhile, had taken deeper roof in Bohemia than in England; and. the sturdiness of the party that gathered round Hus contrasts markedly with the indecision of the English Lollards. From Oxford went Lollards to Bohemia; some bearing a letter which purported to be a defence of Wiclif, signed by the chancellor and an assembly of masters. There can be little doubt that t.he letter was a forgery. Most famous amongst these Hussite-Lollards was PETER PAYNE, who also bore many other names. He was the son of a French father, had sonic. reputation in Oxford, and rose to eminence amongst the Bohemians. He was one of the disputants on the Hussite side at the Council of Basel in 1433, and his polemical cleverness often degenerated into sophistry. He died in Prague in 1455.
The statute of 1414 seems to have answered its purpose of checking the open dissemination of Lollard doctrines. The itinerant priests no longer preached openly; though conventicles were sometimes held secretly, and Lollard books were circulated. Persecutions were frequent, but executions were rare. Besides the thirty-eight who were put to death after Oldcastle's rising in 1414, we only know the names of twenty-eight others who suffered death. The great majority of the accused made a recantation, and submitted to penance. In 1427 Pope Martin V. ordered the Bishop of Lincoln to carry out the decree of the Council of Constance against Wiclif's remains as those of a condemned heretic. They were accordingly dug out of the churchyard at Lutterworth, and thrown into the Avon. In 1431 an attempted rebellion of the political Lollards was made under a leader called JACK SHARP, who revived the petition of 1410 for the confiscation of the temporalities of the Church. Sharp was captured, and put to death at Oxford. This was the last attempt to enforce the Lollard principles in politics, and the disturbed state of England in the dynastic struggle. between the rival houses of York and Lancaster diverted political discontent to other objects. After 1431 we hear less of the Lollards, and the prosecutions against them became rarer.
It is not very easy to determine with precision what were the religious tenets of the Lollards. The results of their examinations before the bishops show us a number of men discontented with the existing ecclesiastical system, but the points to which each attaches importance tend to differ in individual cases. We find, however, in all of them, a reverence for the Bible as superior tothe traditions of the Church and all other au-thorities. They object to many points in the ritual or practice of the Church as unnecessary or misleading; they deny traiisubstantiation, protest against the worship of saints, pilgrimages, and other usages; they object to the temporal lord-ship of the clergy, to the monastic orders, and to the supreme authority of the Pope. Some of them wish to approximate as closely as possible to the church doctrine, laying aside only super-fluities: others dream of a plan of reconstituting Church and State alike on a scriptural basis.
|Margaret E. Aston, "Lollardy and Sedition 1381-1431," Past and Present 17 (1960): 1-44.|
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|Margaret E. Aston, "Were the Lollards a Sect?" Peter Biller, ed., Studies in Church History Subsidia 11: The Medieval Church. Woodbridge, 1999. pp.163-91.|
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|Andrew Morton Brown, The Leader of the Lollards [Sir John Oldcastle], His Times and Trials: with a Glance at our Own Age. London: Wright & Bailey / Cheltenham: Partridge & Oakey, 1848. pp.93.|
|E. Colledge, "'The Recluse' - Lollard interpolated version of the 'Ancren Riwle'," Review of English Studies 15 (1939): 1-15, 129-45.|
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|R.G. Davies, "Lollardy and locality," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th series 1 (1991): 191-212.|
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|John F. Davis, "Lollard survival and the textile industry in the south-east of England," G.J. Cuming, ed., Studies in Church History, Vol. 3. Papers read at the winter and summer meetings of the Ecllesiastical History Society, Leiden: E J Brill, 1966. pp.191-201.|
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