Teaching the Creed and Articles of Faith in England: Lateran IV to Ignorantia sacerdotum

Teaching the Creed and Articles of Faith in England: Lateran IV to Ignorantia sacerdotumold-books

Andrew B. Reeves

Doctor of Philosophy, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto (2009)


This study examines how English laypeople and clergy of lower ranks were taught the basic principles of Christian doctrine as articulated in the Apostles‘ Creed and Articles of Faith. Chapter one addresses the theological and historical background. Over the course of the twelfth century, school-based theologians came to place an increasing emphasis on faith as a cognitive state while at the same time moral theologians sought to make sure that all Christians had a basic participation in the life of the Church. These trends led to an effort by the Church as an institution to make sure that all Christians had at least a basic understanding of the Christian religion. Chapter two examines how the episcopate carried out a drive to ensure this basic level of understanding through the venues of councils, synods, and deanery and archdeaconry meetings. In all three of these venues, the requirements of making sure the laity know the Creed and Articles of Faith were passed on to parochial clergy, and through these clergy to the laity. Chapter three concerns one particular aspect of presenting the basics of doctrine to the laity, viz., preaching. An examination of a sample of three works of religious instruction for clergy and three sets of model sermons shows how parochial clergy, Franciscans, and Dominicans preached the basics of Christian doctrine. The distribution of the manuscripts of these works shows a broad distribution among parochial clergy, Augustinian canons, and Franciscan and Dominican friars. Such a broad distribution suggests that the Augustinian canons may have been carrying out a good deal of pastoral care and catechetical instruction and that the ready access of preaching aids to clergy indicates that those with responsibility of preaching Christian doctrine to laypeople would have had resources available to do so. Chapter four concerns vernacular literature as a means of religious instruction.

Most thirteenth-century literature of religious instruction was in Anglo-Norman, a language spoken and read by aristocrats, clergy, and the upwardly mobile. Three Anglo-Norman works, the Château d’amour by Robert Grosseteste, the Mirour de Seinte Eglyse by Edmund of Abingdon, and the Manuel des pechez by William of Waddington all contain the foundational Christian doctrines contained in the Articles of Faith. The manuscript distribution of all three show that they were owned by both clergy and laity, indicating that they served as teaching aids for clergy, and also that they served to provide laypeople who could afford copies of them with unmediated religious instruction.

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