The Tenor of Late Medieval Christianity

I. Discussion: The Reformatio Sigismundi (c. 1438) and “The Perpetual Public Peace” (1495)

Map: The Holy Roman Empire, c. 1400

II. The Fifteenth-Century Church
A. A Very Big Tent: Authority, Orthodoxy, and Plurality
B. The Formation of Regional and National Churches
1. The “Gallican Church”
2. The “Anglican Church”
3. The Czech Church
C. Excursus: Temporal and Spiritual Authority

Image: Jan Hus (1369-1415)
Image: Execution of Jan Hus (1415), from the Spiezer Chronik (1485)
Map: The Hussite Wars (1420-1436)

Map: The Papal States, c. 1400
Map: Ecclesiastical Territories in the Holy Roman Empire, ca. 1500
Image: Dante Alighieri (c. 1265-1321)

III. Schism, Reform, and the Conciliar Movement

IV. A Crisis of “Secondary Responsibilities”?
A. Economic Strains on the Church
1. Church Incomes—Spiritual and Temporal
2. Structural Contradictions
3. The Abuse of Priestly Status
B. The Burdens of “Bureaucratic Inflation”

Map: The Great Schism (1378-1417/1437). Image right: A procession of clergymen attending the Council of Constance (1414-1417), from the Chronicle of the Council of Constance by Ulrich von Riechental (UNESCO).

SevenDeadliesV. Interpretations: Stories of a “Golden Age”

VI . Interpretions: Narratives of “Spiritual Decay”
A. “Symbolic Inflation”
B. Entanglement of Sacred with the Profane
C. A Case in Point: Indulgences

VII. Flesh and Spirit: Three Examples of “Christocentric” Religiosity
Case 1: Bleeding Host Shrines
Case 2: The Festival of Corpus Christi

Image: The Bleeding Host Shrine at Wilsnack
Map: Margery Kempe's Third Pilgrimage (1433-1434)
Link: The Regensburg Pilgrimage, 1519
Image: A pax board (15th century)

Image right: Hieronymus Bosch, The Seven Deadly Sins (c.1485), Prado, Madrid. The Seven Deadly Sins is a painted rectangle with a central image of the eye of God, with Christ watching the world. The Seven Deadly Sins—pride, envy, anger, avarice, gluttony, sloth, and lechery—are depicted through scenes of worldly transgression, arranged around the circular shape. The circular layout represents God's omniscience: no sin goes unnoticed. In the corners of the image appear the "Four Last Things" mentioned in late medieval spiritual handbooks: Deathbed, the Last Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. Source:


Graph: The Liturgical Calendar

Image left: Matthias Grünewald (c. 1470-1528), Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1512-1516). The Isenheim Altarpiece was executed for the hospital chapel of Saint Anthony's Monastery in Isenheim in Alsace and is now at the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar, a nearby town. It is a carved shrine with two sets of folding wings and three views. The first, with the wings closed, is a Crucifixion showing a harrowingly detailed, twisted, and bloody figure of Christ on the cross in the center flanked, on the left, by the mourning Madonna being comforted by John the Apostle, and Mary Magdelene kneeling with hands clasped in prayer, and, on the right, by a standing John the Baptist pointing to the dying Savior. At the feet of the Baptist is a lamb holding a cross, symbol of the "Lamb of God" slaughtered for man's sins. The drama of the scene, symbolizing the divine and human natures of Christ, is heightened by the stark contrast between the vibrantly lit foreground and the dark sky and bleak landscape of low mountains in the background. Image source: CGFA.


First Lateran Council (1123)
Fourth Lateran Council (1215)

Statutes of Provisors (1351) and Praemunire (1353, 1365)
Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438)

“Spiritual” Incomes:  Tithes, Fees for Services, Indulgences (etc.)
“Temporal” Incomes: Rents, Tolls, State Taxes (etc.)
Papal Incomes: “Annates,” “Expectancies” (etc.)

First Lateran Council (1123)
Fourth Lateran Council (1215)

Historians who propound “Golden Age” narratives:
Eamon Duffy, John Bossy

Historians who propound “Decay” narratives:
Jan Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages

Mass of Saint Gregory (Gregormesse)