Seeing through the ‘Priest’s Eye’: Teaching Medieval Codicology and Book History through William of Pagula’s Oculus sacerdotis
Johnson, Eric J.
Past or Portal? Enhancing Undergraduate Learning through Special Collections and Archives, Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, (2012)
In 1281, John Pecham, Archbishop of Canterbury, promulgated his Ignorantia sacerdotum (On the Ignorance of Priests). A clarion cry to all clergy under his authority, the Ignorantia condemned the woeful state of priestly education and training in England during the late-thirteenth century, asserting that the ignorance of priests leads people into doctrinal and moral error and cheats them of a true understanding of God. Pecham’s decree did more than just condemn his subordinates’ ignorance, however. It also set forth the framework for the systematic teaching of priests—and by extension the people to whom they ministered—in the basic literacy of Christianity. Over the course of the following century, a number of learned priests put quill to parchment in an effort to provide their less knowledgeable brethren with books explaining these fundamental principles of the Christian faith. Chief among these texts was the Oculus sacerdotis, or The Eye of the Priest, written in the 1320s by an English clergyman named William of Pagula, vicar of Winkfield, a small parish in Berkshire in south-central England.