Heresies of the High Middle Ages

Heresies of the High Middle Ages

Heresies of the High Middle Ages

Heresies of the High Middle Ages

Excerpt

This volume presents translations of documents relating to the popular heresies in Western Europe in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. Neither this Introduction nor the translations which follow constitute a complete history of medieval heresy or heretical sects. But since some readers perhaps are approaching the subject in detail for the first time, it seems advisable in introductory comment to speak of the general characteristics of the heretical movements and to trace their history briefly, wherever possible calling attention to the thickets of scholarly controversy which lie along the path. Mention must also be made of the nature of the available source materials from which these translations were selected and some of the problems encountered in studying them.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE POPULAR HERESIES

First, we must examine the meaning of the word "heresy" in the Middle Ages and attempt to define more specifically the term "popular heresies." Medieval Christianity comprised a body of faith drawn from the Scriptures, discussed and defined by the Church Fathers, the popes, and the ecclesiastical councils, and taught by the clergy. The criterion of orthodoxy in the West was the teaching of the Roman see, which the good Christian would accept as a whole, although as late as the eleventh century considerable variations in practice and belief did not raise serious questions about the fundamental unity of the Western Church. But the experience of every Christian generation had corroborated Paul's warning: "There must also be heresies." Disavowal of, or dissent from, the truth preserved by the Church meant damnation; out-

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