Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Lollardy or Lollardry was the political and religious movement of the Lollards from the late 14th century to early Reformation England . Lollardy followed from the teachings of John Wyclif, a prominent theologian at the University of Oxford beginning in the 1350s. Its demands were primarily for reform of the Catholic Church. It taught that piety was a requirement for a priest to be a "true" priest or to perform the sacraments, and that a pious layman had power to perform those same rites, believing that religious power and authority came through piety and not through the Church hierarchy. Similiarly, Lollardy also emphasized the authority of the Scriptures over the authority of priests. It taught the concept of the "Church of the Saved", meaning that Christ's true Church was the community of the faithful, which overlapped with but was not the same as the official Church of Rome. It taught a form of predestination. It advocated apostolic poverty and taxation of Church properties. It also denied transubstantiation in favor of consubstantiation.
The origin of the name "Lollard" is subject to much speculation. Some claim the name comes from the Latin term lolium ("tares" or "weeds"). If true, this would have been a reference to the Lollard heretics springing up like weeds among the grain as in the Biblical parable. An alternative possibility is that it derives from the Dutch, meaning "mumblers", in reference to their supposed prayerful mumblings.
Although Lollardy can be said to have originated in the writings of John Wyclif, it is true that the Lollards had no central doctrine. Likewise, being a decentralized movement, Lollardy neither had nor proposed any singular authority. The movement associated itself with many different ideas, but individual Lollards did not necessarily have to agree with every tenet.
Fundamentally, Lollards were anticlerical. They believed the Catholic Church to be corrupt in many ways and looked to scripture as the basis for their religion. To provide an authority for religion outside of the Church, Lollards began the movement towards a translation of the bible into the vernacular; Wyclif himself in his works translated many passages.
One group of Lollards petitioned parliament with The Twelve Conclusions of the Lollards . While by no means a central authority of the Lollards, the Twelve Conclusions reveal certain basic Lollard ideas. The Lollards stated that the Catholic Church had been corrupted by temporal matters and that its claim to be the true church was not justified by its heredity. Part of this corruption involved prayers for the dead and chantries . These were seen as corrupt since they distracted priests from other work and that all should be prayed for equally. Lollards also had a tendency to iconoclasm. Church lavish fixtures were seen as an excess. Effort should be placed on helping the needy and preaching rather than working on lavish decoration. Icons were also seen as dangerous since many seemed to worship the icon rather than God, leading to idolatry.
Believing in a lay priesthood , the Lollards challenged the Churchís ability to invest or deny the divine authority to make a man a priest. Denying any special authority to the priesthood, Lollards thought confession unnecessary since a priest did not have any special power to forgive sins. Lollards challenged the practice of clerical celibacy and believed priests should not hold political positions since temporal matters should not interfere with the priestsí spiritual mission. Believing that more attention should be given to the message in the scriptures rather than to ceremony and worship, the Lollards denounced the ritualistic aspects of the Church such as transubstantiation, exorcism, pilgrimages, and blessings. These focused too much on powers the Church supposedly did not have and led to a focus on temporal ritual over God and his message.
Outside of the Twelve Conclusions, the Lollards had many beliefs and traditions. Their scriptural focus led Lollards to refuse the taking of oaths. Lollards also had a tradition millenarianism. Some criticized the Church for not focusing enough on Revelations. Many Lollards believed they were near the end of days, and several Lollard writings claim the Pope to be the antichrist.
Immediately upon going public, Lollardy was attacked as heresy. At first, Wyclif and Lollardy were protected by John of Gaunt and anti-clerical nobility, who were most likely interested in using Lollard-advocated clerical reform to create a new source of revenue from Englandís monasteries. The University of Oxford also protected Wyclif and allowed him to hold his position at the university in spite of his views on the grounds of academic freedom, which also gave some protection to the academics who supported it within that institution. Lollardy first faced serious persecution after the Peasantís Revolt in 1381. While Wyclif and other Lollards opposed the revolt, one of the peasantsí leaders, John Ball, preached Lollardy. The royalty and nobility then found Lollardy to be a threat not just to the Church, but to all the English social order. The Lollards small measure of protection evaporated. This change in status was also affected by the removal of John of Gaunt from the scene, when he left England in pursuit of the throne of Castile, which he claimed through his second wife.
In the early 15th century, Lollardy went underground after more extreme measures were taken by the Church and State. The most notable of these measures was the burning at the stake of John Badby, a layman and artisan who refused to renounce his Lollard views. His was the first execution of a layman in England for the crime of heresy. Other martyrs for the Lollard cause include Thomas Harding who died at White Hill, Chesham, in 1532.
Lollards were effectively absorbed into Protestantism during the English Reformation , in which Lollardy played a role. Since Lollardy had been underground for more than a hundred years, the extent of Lollardy and its ideas at the time of the Reformation is uncertain and a point of debate. However, many critics of the Reformation, including Thomas More, associated Protestants with Lollards. Protestant leaders, including Archbishop Cranmer, referred to Lollardy as well. Whether Protestants actually drew influence from Lollardy or whether they referred to it to create a sense of tradition is debated by scholars. The extent of Lollardy in the general populace at this time is also unknown, but the prevalence of Protestant iconoclasm in England suggests Lollard ideas may still have had some popular influence if Zwingli was not the source, as Lutherans did not advocate iconoclasm. The similarity between Lollards and later English Protestant groups such as the Puritans and Quakers also suggests some continuation of Lollard ideas through the Reformation.
- Lollard Society - society dedicated to providing a forum for the study of the Lollards (dead link as of 2/1/05)
- The Lollards - a sympathetic view of the Lollards from an Anabaptist perspective
- Lollards in the Catholic Encyclopedia - Lollardy as a heresy, from the Catholic perspective.
- Lollards - essay on Lollards on Medieval Church website, including extensive list of secondary sources.
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