Image, Text and Church, 1380-1600: Essays for Margaret Aston

By Lutton, Rob | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2011 | Go to article overview
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Image, Text and Church, 1380-1600: Essays for Margaret Aston


Lutton, Rob, The Catholic Historical Review


Image, Text and Church, 1380-1600: Essays for Margaret Aston. Edited by Linda Clark, Maureen Jurkowski, and Colin Richmond. [Papers in Mediaeval Studies, 20.] (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. 2009. Ppxiv, 289. $90.00. ISBN 978-0-888-44820-0.)

This Festschrift in honor of Margaret Aston is testimony to the influence of an extraordinarily gifted scholar. In chronological range and breadth of subject matter it is a fitting tribute to the scope and depth of Margaret Aston's own research and publications. The latter are fully documented in a bibliography at the end of the volume. An introduction, including a brief biography, is followed by a touching personal appreciation by Colin Richmond.

Anne Hudson's illuminating investigation of the books consulted by John Wyclif during his time in Oxford is the first of eleven essays. Hudson makes a persuasive case for Wyclif 's extensive and surprisingly pragmatic use of the library of the Oxford Greyfriars, perhaps right up to his departure from the university in 1381. The other most likely source of material was the Merton College library, where Wyclif had friends and supporters.

Ann Eljenholm Nichols examines the elaborate figurai illustrations in latefourteenth-century copies of non-Wycliffite glossed gospels of Mark and Luke in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 32. Containing an English commentary on the Latin gospels, the manuscript was probably intended for lay liturgical and devotional use within the household. It provides further evidence of the circulation of non-Wycliffite English biblical material for the laity before the fifteenth century.

Alison McHardy's fascinating study of John Searle, chancery clerk, reflects Aston's doctoral research on Thomas Arundel, Scarle's master in the royal chancery and later archbishop of Canterbury. Searle advanced through royal service, legal and parliamentary work for religious houses, money-lending, and ecclesiastical preferment and prospered from the political turbulence of the 1380s and 139Os. King Henry rv made Searle chancellor at Arundel's suggestion and bestowed on him the archdeaconry of Lincoln. Searle recorded some of King Richard Hs least flattering episodes in the Parliament Rolls and provided eyewitness testimony and official documents for the Westminster Chronicle's uniquely well-informed account of Richard's reign.

Arundel is the central focus of a typically perceptive essay by Jeremy Catto; in this case, his personal devotional interests and efforts to mount an orthodox response to the Wycliffite challenge that went beyond the often ineffective use of the law. Arundel pursued scholarly tastes and shared an interest in the contemplative life and the production of compilations for private meditation with his family circle and members of his household. From his restoration in 1399 personal interest became national project as Arundel strove for higher educational standards among the clergy and a revitalisation of public religious rites alongside the dissemination of the mixed life to an increasingly independently-minded laity.

Maureen Jurkowski 's reconstruction of the career of the Lollard preacher Robert Herlaston is the first of three chapters on heresy. Ordained in 1392, Herlaston was preaching Wycliffite ideas from at least 1409 and, until his arrest in 1427, enjoyed the patronage of midlands gentry families either sympathetic to, or on the fringes of, Lollardy who had close connections with families associated with the Lollard knights. Gentry support for dissent clearly continued for some years after the Oldcastle Rebellion. Norman Tanner widens the focus to the ecumenical and general councils and the ways that they addressed dissent. For a variety of reasons councils did not always name individual dissenters in decrees that condemned their teachings, but the Council of Constance (1414-18) did not just name Wyclif but issued the longest personal critique of all the twenty-one councils, and emphatically constructed Wyclif as the root of wider European religious dissent, not least that led by John Hus.

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