• Karen Bollermann
  • Thomas M. Izbicki
  • Cary J. Nederman
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Christianity has suffered from division and dissent from its earliest days. Issues pertaining to belief, practice, obedience, and Christian identity arose frequently. Following the official recognition of Christianity as a legitimate religion by Emperor Constantine the Great (in 313), issues of heterodox belief or condemned practice took on political overtones that extended beyond the internal divisions of local churches to the dynamics of the Church as a whole and to the larger society.1 Threats of disorder made involvement of the Roman authorities, and, later, of local rulers, almost inevitable. Theologians, commencing at least with Augustine of Hippo, began to accept the coercion of dissenters by the lay power as a necessity.2 Paradoxically, this perhaps grudging reliance on imperial authority provided the Church an impetus for convening the earliest ecumenical councils, which attempted to define the boundaries of orthodoxy. These definitions, in turn, eventually became widely accepted and formalized (one example of which is the Nicene Creed), but not without offending adherents of condemned doctrines.


Islamic World Temporal Power Christian Identity Church History Ecclesiastical Authority 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    For an older, but still useful, account, see Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, ed. Robert A. Craft and Gerhard Krodel (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  2. A survey of changing early attitudes about heresy and persecution may be found in Peter Garnsey, “Religious Toleration in Classical Antiquity,” in Persecution and Toleration, ed. William J. Sheils, Studies in Church History 21 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984), 1–27.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    For an overview, see Henry Chadwick, Augustine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 75–86.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Gerhart Ladner, “The Concepts of Ecclesia and Christianitas and Their Relation to the Idea of Papal plenitudo potestatis from Gregory VII to Boniface VIII,” Miscellanea historiae pontificis 18 (1954): 49–77.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Jeffrey Burton Russell, Dissent and Order in the Middle Ages: The Search for Legitimate Authority (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992), 9–20.Google Scholar
  6. But see also Cary J. Nederman, Worlds of Difference: European Discourses of Toleration, c. 1100–c. 1550 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    The collections of papal decretals used titles such as De simonia, De haereticis, De schismaticis, and De apostatis together with titles concerning Jews and Muslims. See John T. Gilchrist, “Simoniaca haeresis and the Problem of Orders from Leo IX to Gratian,” reprinted in Gilchrist, Canon Law in the Age of Reform, 11th–12th Centuries (Variorum Collected Studies Series, CS 406; Aldershot: Variorum, 1993), section IV: 209–35.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Robert I. Moore, Origins of European Dissent (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), 46–81, 168–239.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Alexander Patschovsky, “Heresy and Society: On the Political Function of Heresy in the Medieval World,” in Texts and the Repression of Heresy, ed. Catherine Bruschi and Peter Biller (York: York Medieval Press, 2003), 23–41;Google Scholar
  10. Malcolm D. Lambert, Medieval Heresy: Popular Movements from the Bogomils to Hus (London: Edward Arnold, 1977), 169–72; and, John Arnold, “Inquisition, Texts and Discourse,” in Texts and the Repression of Heresy, ed. Bruschi and Biller, 63–80.Google Scholar
  11. See also Karen Sullivan, The Inner Lives of Medieval Inquisitors (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011). On Arnold of Brescia, see Moore, Origins of European Dissent, 115–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 8.
    Brian Tierney, Foundations of the Conciliar Theory: The Contribution of the Medieval Canonists from Gratian to the Great Schism, rev. ed. (Leiden: Brill, 1998);Google Scholar
  13. and, Michiel Decaluwe, A Successful Defeat: Eugene IV’s Struggle with the Council of Basel for Ultimate Authority in the Church, 1431–1449 (Bruxelles: Institut historique belge de Rome, 2009).Google Scholar
  14. 9.
    Iris Origo, The World of San Bernardino (London: Jonathan Cape, 1963), 117–30;Google Scholar
  15. and, Franco Mormando, The Preacher’s Demons: Bernardino of Siena and the Social Underground of Early Renaissance Italy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999). The apocalyptic tones of anti-mendicant polemics reflect serious concerns over disruption of the Church;Google Scholar
  16. see Yves Congar, “Aspects ecclesiologiques de la querelle entre mendicants et séculiers dans la seconde moitié du XIIIe siècle et au début du XIVe,” Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge 28 (1961–2): 35–151.Google Scholar
  17. 10.
    Richard Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989);Google Scholar
  18. and, Alain Boureau, Satan the Heretic: The Birth of Demonology in the Medieval West, trans. Teresa Lavender (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).Google Scholar
  19. 11.
    The primary inspiration for this trend was no doubt the 1987 publication of Robert I. Moore’s The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe, 950–1250 and its second edition (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007). Moore has recently developed and expanded his arguments in The War on Heresy (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2012).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Extensions of Moore’s “persecuting society” thesis may be found in volumes such as Christendom and its Discontents: Exclusion, Persecution and Rebellion, 1000–1500, ed. Scott L. Waugh and Peter D. Diehl (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996),Google Scholar
  21. and Heresy and the Persecuting Society in the Middle Ages: Essays on the Work of R. I. Moore, ed. Michael Frassetto (Leiden: Brill, 2006).Google Scholar
  22. But see Toleranz in Mittelalter, ed. Alexander Patschovsky and Harald Zimmermann (Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, 1998).Google Scholar
  23. 12.
    For an overview of the Hussite and Wycliffite movements and ideas, see Gordon Leff, Heresy in the Later Middle Ages: The Relation of Heterodoxy to Dissent c. 1250–c. 1450 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1967).Google Scholar
  24. 13.
    Most academics, however, easily extricated themselves from accusations of heresy; see William J. Courtenay, “Inquiry and Inquisition: Academic Freedom in Medieval Universities,” Church History 58 (1989): 168–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 14.
    For a comprehensive investigation, see Andrew E. Larsen, The School of Heretics: Academic Condemnation at the University of Oxford, 1277–1409, Education and Society in the Middle Ages and Renaissance 40 (Leiden: Brill, 2011).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 15.
    See A Companion to John Wyclif, ed. Ian Christopher Levy (Leiden: Brill, 2005);Google Scholar
  27. and, Michael Wilks, Wyclif: Political Ideas and Practice, ed. Anne Hudson (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2000).Google Scholar
  28. Also useful in this regard is The Culture of Inquisition in Medieval England, Westfield Medieval Studies, ed. Mary C. Flannery and Katie L. Walter (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2013).Google Scholar
  29. 16.
    See, for example, the many accusations of Lollardy leveled against Margery Kempe (c. 1373–1438), recorded in The Book of Margery Kempe, ed. Lynn Staley, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1996).Google Scholar
  30. More broadly, see J. Patrick Hornbeck II, “Love and Marriage in the Norwich Heresy Trials, 1428–1431,” Viator: Medieval and Renaissance Studies 44 no. 3 (2013): 237–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 17.
    See now Thomas A. Fudge, The Trial of Jan Hus: Medieval Heresy and Criminal Procedure (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 19.
    The still-standard account is Marjorie Reeves, The Influence of Prophecy in the Later Middle Ages: A Study in Joachimism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969).Google Scholar
  33. 20.
    An excellent recent study of Ockham in the context of the Franciscan debates is Jonathan Robinson, William of Ockham’s Early Theory of Property in Context (Leiden: Brill, 2013).Google Scholar
  34. 21.
    Umberto Eco, Il nome della rosa (Milan: Bompiani, 1980).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Karen Bollermann, Thomas M. Izbicki, and Cary J. Nederman 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Bollermann
  • Thomas M. Izbicki
  • Cary J. Nederman

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations