Auxiliary Preachers in the Northern Province: Supplementing the Parish Clergy in the Late Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Centuries
Marginalia, Vol. 7, (2008)
By the thirteenth century, the prolonged period of economic and demographic growth experienced by Western Europe had brought profound changes to the religious landscape. Itinerant preachers who followed the trade routes between the newly developing urban centres found in these towns men and women very much like themselves: largely literate, critical of the contemporary church and eager for closer religious interaction. While some of this new religious enthusiasm could be accommodated within the traditional structures of the Church, the spread of unorthodox practices and the growth of large-scale heretical movements presented a problem that called for a more active response from the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The Fourth Lateran Council was the most significant of the reforming synods to respond to this crisis. Meeting in 1215, it launched a mission to re-connect the people of western Christendom with the orthodox practices of the Catholic Church. In the decades immediately following the Council, its reforms were disseminated across Europe through various sets of synodal statutes, which adapted the decrees to fit local circumstances and to correct the perceived abuses of individual dioceses. The English episcopate’s enthusiastic response to the Lateran IV reforms suggests that some of the decrees promulgated were not entirely new to England.