Article

The Lollards and John Wyclif

Fiona Somerset and Derrick Pitard

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online June 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0073
The Lollards and John Wyclif

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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Lollards, also known as Wycliffites, were members of a religious movement inspired by the Oxford don John Wyclif (b. c. 1330–d. 1384). Although Wyclif was never placed on trial during his lifetime, Gregory IX had declared him a heretic in 1377, and a series of condemnations beginning in 1381 labeled his views as heretical or erroneous, while heresy investigations pursued his followers for holding or teaching them. Although Wyclif was posthumously condemned at the Council of Constance in 1415, groups accused of holding views that resemble Wyclif’s appear to have persisted (certainly they were intermittently investigated by bishops) up until the English Reformation. Topics strongly disputed among scholars include (1) the extent to which lollards were organized as a movement or thought of themselves as a religious sect, (2) the conformity between their views and Wyclif’s, (3) their numbers and geographical spread, (4) the coherence of lollard thought between regions and over time, and (5) the degree to which lollards anticipated or “prepared the ground” for the English Reformation. Regardless, all concur that the written record of lollardy and its persecution is very extensive. Sources include contemporary and later narrative accounts (especially that of Knighton), condemnations and heresy trial records (including those of trials in Norwich, Kent, and Coventry), writings by Wyclif’s opponents (including Netter and Pecock), Wyclif’s own writings, and a great many manuscripts, most of their contents still unprinted, containing vernacular and a few Latin writings associated with the lollard movement. Although trial records and writings by opponents are preserved to a greater or lesser extent for every heretical group in Antiquity and the medieval period, the large number of books owned or written by Wyclif or his followers and still extant despite the movement’s persecution is very unusual, and still in need of much further study.

Article.  14249 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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