English Literature

Lollardy Trials

Lollardy Trials

Religious and secular authorities applied the name “Lollard” to people from a cross-section of medieval society who believed in one or more heretical ideas, many of them deriving from the writings of John Wyclif (ca. 1330–84), the Oxford theologian. His writings, beginning in the 1370s, articulated a set of ideas that questioned traditional discourse about Church authority, state prerogatives, the nature of the sacraments, and authority to translate, interpret, and preach scripture (see “Censorship,” p. 242). Intersecting with a number of widely held discourses (such as anti-fraternalism; see “Friars,” p. 7), Wyclif ’s ideas were condemned at the Blackfriars’ Council in London in 1382, but the persecution of followers, many of them women, didn’t begin in earnest until 1400. From 1428 to 1431 William Alnwick, bishop of Norwich 1426–36 (then translated to the bishopric of Lincoln), continued proceedings against Lollards begun earlier in 1428 in Canterbury and in his own diocese (also see “Prioresses,” p. 37). The two trials excerpted here are from what at one time were approximately 120 court records of heresy investigations between 1428 and 1431 kept by officials under Alnwick. They are of two kinds in the Westminster manuscript: examinations of suspects and (comprising the majority of the manuscript) abjurations, which were to be read out by the accused or court officers before sentencing. Margery Baxter’s is of the former type and Hawise Moon’s the latter.

Baxter’s reference to Moon is not unusual. As the notes to the other names in the selections indicate, Lollards tended to coalesce around a central figure or in a particular district. Depositions against Margery, wife of William Baxter, wright. On the first day of the month of April in the year of the Lord 1429, Joanna Clifland, wife of William Clifland, residing in the parish of St. Mary the Less in Norwich, was summoned to appear in person before the reverend father in Christ and lord, William, bishop of Norwich by the grace of God, presiding in judgement in the chapel of his palace. On the said lord’s order, she swore herself, while physically touching God’s holy gospels, that she would speak according to the truth about each and every individual thing that she was asked concerning the matter of the faith. When the oath had thus been made, Joanna Clifland said that on the Friday before the last feast of the Purification of the Blessed Mary,1 Margery Baxter, wife of William Baxter, wright, lately living in Martham in the diocese of Norwich, while sitting and sewing with this witness in her room next to the fire place in the presence of this witness and Joanne Grimell and Agnes Bethom, servants to this witness, said and instructed this witness and her afore-mentioned servants that they should in no way swear, saying in the mother tongue, “Dame, bewar of the bee, for every bee wil styngge, and therefor loke that ye swer nother be Godd, ne be our Ladi, ne be non other seynt and, if ye do the contrarie, the be will styngge your tunge and veneme your sowle.

” Then this witness says that the said Margery asked her what she did every day in church. And she replied to her saying that first after her entrance in the church, kneeling before the cross, she usually said five Paternosters in honour of the cross and a whole Ave Maria in honour of the blessed Mary, mother of Christ. And then the said Margery remarked reproachfully to this witness, “You do ill by kneeling and praying in this way before images in such churches because God never was in such a church, nor has ever departed, nor will depart from heaven, nor will he offer or grant you more favour for such genuflections, adorations, or prayers performed in such churches than a lighted candle concealed beneath the wooden lath cover of the baptismal font can provide light to those in church at night time because there is no greater honour to be shown to images in churches or images of the crucifix than is to be shown to the gallows from which your brother was hung,” saying in the mother tongue,2 “Lewed wrightes of stokkes hewe and fourme suche crosses and ymages, and after that lewed peyntours glorye thaym with colours, and if you strive to see the true cross of Christ, I will show you it here in your own home.

” And this witness said she would willingly see the true cross of Christ. And the aforesaid Margery said, “Look,” and then stretched her arms out wide, saying to this witness, “this is the true cross of Christ, and this cross you can and should see and worship every day here in your own home, and so you labour in vain when you go to church to worship or pray to any dead images or crosses.” And then this witness said that the aforementioned Margery asked her what she believed concerning the sacrament of the altar. And this witness, so she asserts, replied to her, saying that she believed that the sacrament of the altar after consecration is the true body of Christ in the form of bread. And then the said Margery said to this witness, “You believe ill because, if every such sacrament is God and the true body of Christ, there are countless gods because a thousand and more priests every day make a thousand such gods and afterwards eat these gods and, having eaten them, discharge them through their posteriors into repulsively smelling toilets, where you can find plenty of such gods if you want to look. Therefore, know for certain that that which you call the sacrament of the altar will never by the grace of God be my God, for such a sacrament was falsely made and deceitfully ordained by priests in the church to induce idolatry in simple people because this sacrament is only material bread.

” Then the said Margery, asked by this witness, said to her, as she says, that the Thomas of Canterbury that people call Saint Thomas of Canterbury was a false traitor and is damned there in hell because he wrongfully endowed churches with possessions, and he encouraged and started many heresies in the church, which deceive the simple people. Therefore, if God was blessed, Thomas was and is cursed, and if Thomas was blessed, God was and is cursed; and those false priests are lying who say that Thomas patiently endured his death before the altar because, as a false, senseless traitor, he was slain while he fled through the doorway of the church. And then this witness said that the aforementioned Margery, asked by this witness, replied to her that the cursed pope, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and in particular the bishop of Norwich and others who start and support heresies and idolatries, ruling in general over the people, shall have within a short time the same or worse punishment than had “that cursed Thomma of Canterbury, for thay falsly and cursedly desseyve the puple with thair false mawmentryes and lawes” to extort money from simple people in order to sustain their pride, extravagance, and idleness; and know without doubt that God’s vengeance will shortly come upon those who most cruelly killed God’s most holy sons and teachers, that is holy father Abraham, William White (the most holy and learned teacher of divine law), and John Waddon, and others who followed Christ’s law . . .3 Also, this witness said that the aforementioned Margery said to her that no child or infant born, having Christian parents, should be baptized in water following common use because such an infant is adequately baptized in the mother’s womb, and thus that superstition and idolatry that those false and accursed priests do when they dip infants in fonts in churches, they do only to extort money from the people to support those priests and their concubines.

Also, that the same Margery said to this witness then present that the consent of mutual love alone between a man and a woman suffices for the sacrament of marriage without any expression of words and without solemnization in churches. Also, that the same Margery said to this witness that no faithful man or woman is bound to keep fast in Lent, on the Ember days, Fridays, saints’ days, and other days proclaimed by the church, and that anyone was lawfully able on those said days and times to eat meat and all other kinds of food, and that it was better to eat the meat remaining from Thursday’s leftovers on fast days than to go to market and to incur debt buying fish . . . Also, that the same Margery said to this witness that William White, who was condemned as a false heretic, is a great saint in heaven and a most holy teacher ordained and sent from God, and that every day she prayed to that holy man William White, and every day of her life she will pray to him because he is worthy to intercede for her before God of heaven, and that the said William White said to the same Margery, as this witness reports, that the said Margery should follow him to his place of supplication because she then would see that he had made many miracles because he wanted to convert the people through his preaching and make the people rise up and slay all the traitors who stood against it and his doctrine . . .

Also, that the same Margery taught and instructed this witness that she should never go on a pilgrimage to Mary of Falsingham nor any other saint or place. The same Margery also said that Thomas Mone’s wife is the most learned and most wise woman about the doctrine of William White, and that the son of Richard Belward’s brother was a good teacher and first instructed her in the doctrine and his beliefs.5 This witness also said that the said Margery asked this witness that she and the aforementioned Joanna, her servant, should come secretly to the said Margery’s room at night, and there she would hear her husband read the law of Christ to them, which law was written in one book which the said husband usually read to Margery at night, and she said that her husband is the best teacher of Christianity . . . In addition, the said Margery spoke to this witness in this way: “Joanna, it seems from your face that you intend and threaten to reveal the advice I have told you to the bishop.” And this witness swore that she never wished to reveal her counsel in this matter unless Margery herself gave her occasion to do so. And then the said Margery said to this witness, “And if you were to accuse me to the said bishop, I will do to you as I did to a Carmelite friar of Yarmouth who was the most learned brother in the whole country.” This witness replied to her, asking what she did to the said brother. And this Margery responded that she spoke with the said brother, reproaching him because he begged and because alms would not do or give him good unless he was willing to give up his habit and go to the plough, and in that way he would please the lord God more than by following the life of any other friars. And then the friar asked Margery if there was anything else she wished to say to or teach him. And Margery, so this witness says, expounded the gospels in English to the said brother. And then this friar withdrew from Margery, as this witness says, and afterwards the same friar accused Margery of heresy. And Margery, hearing that the friar thus accused her, herself accused the friar that he wanted to have known her carnally and, because she was unwilling to consent, the friar accused her of heresy. And therefore Margery said that her husband wanted to kill the friar for that reason and so, for fear, the friar kept quiet and retreated in shame from the region. The said Margery also said to this witness that she often made an insincere confession to the dean of St. Mary of the Fields6 to the effect that the dean thought her to be of good life, and for that reason he often gave Margery money.

And then this witness asked her if she had not confessed all her sins to a priest. And Margery said that she never brought evil to any priest, and, therefore, she never wished to confess to a priest nor to obey any priest because no priest has the power to absolve anyone of his or her sins, and priests sin grievously every day more than other men. And the same Margery further said that all men and women who are of the same opinion as Margery are good priests, and that holy church exists only in the places of those who are in her sect, and therefore Margery said that one should confess to God alone and no other priest. Then the said Margery also said to this witness that the people honor the devils who fell from heaven with Lucifer, which devils, after they had fallen to earth, entered into images standing in churches, and they continued to live and still live latent in them in order that people worshipping them in this way commit idolatry. Then she said that the said Margery told this witness that blessed water and blessed bread are nothing but trifles and of no value, and that all bells are to be pulled down from churches and destroyed, and that all those who oversee bells in churches are excommunicate. The same Margery also said to this witness that Margery should not be burnt even if she were convicted of Lollardy because, so she told this witness, she had and has a charter of protection in her womb.7 Also, the same Margery said that she prevailed in judgement over the lord bishop of Norwich, Henry Inglese,8 and the lords abbots who were with them . . . Hawise Moone, wife of Thomas Moone of Lodne9 . . .

In the name of God, tofore you, the worshipful fadir in Crist, William, be the grace of God bisshop of Norwich, Y, Hawise Moone, the wyfe to Thomas Moone of Lodne of your diocese, your subject, knowyng, felyng, and undirstandyng that before this tyme Y have be right hoomly and prive with many heretikes, knowyng [thaym] for heretikes, and thaym Y have receyved and herberwed in our hous, and thaym Y have conceled, conforted, supported, maytened, and favored with al my poar10 – whiche heretikes names be these, Sir William Whyte, Sir William Caleys, Sir Huwe Pye, Sir Thomas Pert, prestes, John Waddon, John Fowlyn, John Gray, William Everden, William Bate of Sethyng, Bartholomeu Cornmonger, Thomas Borell and Baty, hys wyf, William Wardon, John Pert, Edmond Archer of Lodne, Richard Belward, Nicholas Belward, Bertholomeu Monk, William Wright, and many others whiche have ofte tymes kept, holde, and continued scoles of heresie yn prive chambres and prive places of oures, yn the whyche scoles Y have herd, conceyved, lerned, and reported the errours and heresies which be writen and contened in these indentures, that is to say: Fyrst, that the sacrament of baptem doon in watir in forme customed in the churche is but a trufle and not to be pondred, for alle Cristis puple is sufficiently baptized in the blood of Crist, and so Cristis puple nedeth noon other baptem. Also, that the sacrament of confirmacion doon be a bisshop is of noon availe ne necessarie to be had for as muche as whan a child hath discrecion and can and wile undirstande the word of God, it is sufficiently confermed be the Holy Gost and nedeth noon other confirmacion. Also, that confession shuld be maad oonly to God and to noon other prest, for no prest hath poar to remitte synne ne to assoile a man of ony synne. Also, that no man is bounde to do no penance whiche ony prest enjoyneth [hym] to do for here synnes whyche thei have confessed unto the pr[est], for sufficient penance for all maner of synne is every persone to abstyne hym fro lyyng, bakbytyng, and yvel doyng, and no man is bounde to do noon other penance. Also, that no prest hath poar to make Cristis veri body at messe in forme of bred, but that aftir the sacramental wordis said at messe of the prest, ther remayneth oonly material bred.

Also, that the pope of Roome is fadir Antecrist and fals in all hys werkyng, and hath no poar of God more than ony other lewed man but if he be more holy in lyvyng, ne the pope hath no poar to make bisshops, prestes, ne non other ordres, and he that the puple callen the pope of Roome is no pope but a fals extersioner and a deseyver of the puple. Also, that he oonly that is moost holy and moost perfit in lyvyng in erthe is verry pope, and these singemesses that be cleped prestes ben no prestes, but thay be lecherous and covetouse men and fals deceyvours of the puple, and with thar sotel techyng and prechyng, syngyng and redyng piteously thay pile12 the puple of thar good, and tharwith thay susteyne here pride, here lechery, here slowthe, and alle other vices, and always thay makyn newe lawes and newe ordinances to curse and kille cruelly all other persones that holden ageyn thar vicious levyng. Also, that oonly consent of love betuxe man and woman, withoute contract of wordis and withoute solennizacion in churche and withoute symbred askyng,13 is sufficient for the sacrament of matrymoyn.Also, it is but a trufle to enoynt a seke man with material oyle consecrat be a bisshop, for it sufficeth every man at hys last ende oonly to have mende of God. Also, that every man may lefully withdrawe and withholde tythes and offringes from prestes and curates and yeve hem to the pore puple, and that is moore plesyng to God. Also, that the temporal lordis and temporel men may lefully take alle possessions and temporel godys from alle men of holy churche, and from alle bysshops and prelates bothe hors and harneys, and gyve thar good to pore puple, and therto the temporel men be bounde in payne of dedly synne. [Als]o, that it is no synne ony persone to do the contrarie of the preceptes [of ] holy churche. Also that every man and every woman beyng in good lyf oute of synne is as good prest and hath [as] muche poar of God in al thynges as ony prest ordred, be he pope or bisshop. Also, that censures of holy churche, sentences and cursynges, ne of suspendyng yeven be prelates or ordinaries, be not to be dred ne to be fered, for God blesseth the cursynges [of ] the bisshops and ordinaries. Also, that it is not leful to swere in ony caas, ne it is not leful to pletyn14 for onythyng. Also, that is in not leful to slee a man for ony cause, ne be processe of lawe to dampne ony traytour or ony man for ony treson or felonie to deth, ne to putte ony man to deth for ony cause, but every man shuld remitte all vengeance oonly to the sentence of God.

Also, that no man is bounde to faste in Lenton, Ymbren Days,15 Fridays, ne vigiles of seyntes, but all suche days and tymes it is leful to alle Cristis puple to ete flessh and [all] maner metis indifferently at here owne lust as ofte as thay have appetite as wel as ony other days whiche be not commanded to be fasted. Also, that no pilgrimage oweth to be do ne be made, for all pilgrimage goyng servyth of nothyng but oonly to yeve prestes good that be to riche and to make gay tap[s]ters and proude ostelers. Also, that no worship ne reverence oweth be do to ony ymages of the crucifix, of Our Lady, ne of noon other seyntes, for all suche ymages be but ydols and maade be werkyng of mannys hand, but worship and reverence shuld be do to the ymage of God, whiche oonly is man.Also, that al prayer oweth be maad oonly to God and to noon other seyntes, for it is doute if thar be ony suche seyntes in hevene as these singemesse aproven and commaunden to be worsheped and prayed to here in erthe. Because of whiche and many other errours and heresies, Y am called tofore you, worshipful fadir, whiche have cure of my soule. And be you fully informed that the said myn affermyng, belevyng, and holdyng be opin errours and heresies, and contrarious to the determinacion of the churche of Roome, wherefor Y willyng folwe and sue the doctrine of holy churche and departe from al maner of errour and heresie, and turne with good will and herte to the oonhed16 of the churche. Considerand that holy churche spereth not hyr bosom to hym that wil turne agayn, ne God wil not the deth of a synner but rather that he be turned and lyve, with a pure herte Y confesse, deteste, and despise my sayd errours and heresies, and these said opinions Y confesse hereticous and erroneous and to the feith of the churche of Rome and all universall holy churche repugnant.

And for as muche as be the said thinges that Y so held, beleved, and affermed, Y shewed meself corrupt and unfaithful, that from hensforth Y shewe me uncorrupt and faithful, the feith and doctrine of holy churche truly to kepe Y promitte. And all maner of errour and heresie, doctrine and opinion ageyn the feith of holy churche and determinacion of the churche of Roome – and namely the opinions before rehersed – Y abjure and forswere, and swere be these holy gospels be me bodely touched that from hensforth Y shal never holde errour ne heresie ne fals doctrine ageyn the feith of holy churche and determinacion of the churche of Roome. Ne no suche thinges Y shal obstinatly defende, ne ony persone holdyng or techyng suche maner of thynges Y shal obstinatly defende be me or ony other persone opinly or prively. Y shal never aftir this time be no recettour, fautour,17 consellour, or defensour of heretikes or of ony persone suspect of heresie. Ne Y shal never trowe to thaym. Ner wittyngly Y shal felaship with thaym, ne be hoomly with tham, ne gyve thaym consell, sokour, favour, ne confort. Yf Y knowe ony heretikes or of heresie ony persones suspect or of thaym fautours, confortours, consellours, or defensours, or of ony persone makyng prive conventicules or assembles, or holdyng ony divers or singuler opinions from the commune doctrine of the churche, Y shal late you, worshipful fadir, or your vicar general in your absence or the diocesans of suche persones, have sone and redy knowyng. So help me God atte holy doom and these holy gospels.

In wittenesse of which thinges Y subscribe here with myn owen hand a cross +. And to this partie indented to remayne in your registre Y sette my signet. And that other partie indented Y receyve undir your seel to abide with me unto my lyves ende. Yoven at Norwich in the chapell of your palays the fourth day of the moneth of August the yer of our Lord a thousand four hundred and thretty.

5 thoughts on “Lollardy Trials

  1. “some of the best put-downs in the wide realm of literature” from Ayn Rand, Kurt Vonnegut & more …

  2. Tomorrow is simply painful.. Three hours of English Literature in the morning *crawls under a rock and cries*

  3. A scrupulous new biography of George Eliot asks: what is the relationship between the life and the literature?

  4. Rajinnyoo… Br otw plg 😐 “: Dissertation analysis = done. Move to the next literature mission……100 journals review….

  5. Literature quiz: Complete this sentence: “Skin as white as____, lip as red as bl___, hair as black as ___ny” (Snow White by Grimm Brothers)

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