Pope Clement VI (Resided Avignon) 1291-1352

Pope Clement VI Demographics:
  • Name - Pierre Roger.
  • Born - 1291 (castle of Maumont).
  • Elected Pope - May 7, 1342.
  • Consecrated - May 19, 1342.
  • Died - Dec. 6, 1352, natural causes (buried at La Chaise-Dieu monastery).
  • Father - wealthy lord of Rosiers-d'Égletons.
Pope Clement VI Basic Facts:
  • He was strongly pro-French.
  • He purchased (for 80,000 crowns, which he never paid) the sovereignty of Avignon from Queen Joanna I of Naples, whom he had absolved from of her husband's murder.
  • His physician, Guy de Chauliac, helped protect him during the Black Death of 1348-1350.
  • Clement VI was devoted to lavish living, and his inherited treasury made that lifestyle possible.
  • As a catholic pope he is claimed to have said "... lived as a sinner among sinners."
  • His grave was desecrated and his remains burned by Huguenots in 1562.
Pope Clement VI Early Life:
  • He entered the Benedictine monastery of La Chaise-Dieu, France at age 10 years.
  • Studied at the College de Sorbonne in Paris.
Pope Clement VI Religious Life:
  • Abbot of Benedictine monasteries at Fécamp & La Chaise-Dieu.
  • Subsequently archbishop of Sens & Rouen, & then a cardinal.
  • Was the 4th pope to reside in Avignon.
  • He turned down an opportunity to return the papacy to Rome.
  • Clement sponsored crusading, with a naval expedition that took control of Smyrna.
  • Smyrna was given to the Knights of St. John, and this contributed to ending pirate raids in the Mediterranean.
  • He also had a role in the Hungarian invasion of the Kingdom of Naples.
  • He was a patron of artists & scholars; with the enlargement of the papal palace, producing a center of culture.
  • He offered protection to the Jews who were under suspicion and persecution for starting the Black Death.
  • He had disputes with Edward III of England, because of the latter's encroachments on ecclesiastical jurisdiction, & also with the kings of Castile & Aragon.

Image Credit - Cameo of Pope Clement VI by PHGCOM, GNU Free Documentation License

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Lollardy (Medieval Political and Religious Movement)

Important Lollardy Facts:
  • Political and religious movement of the Lollards.
  • Present from the mid-14th century till the English Reformation.
  • Lollards were followers of the theologian John Wycliffe (pictured).
  • The Lollards demands were primarily for Western Christianity reform.
Lollardy Beliefs:
  • Originated from an interest in the writings of John Wycliffe.
  • There was no central belief system, no official doctrine, & no single authority.
  • Like most protestants they worshipped Christ in his divine nature alone.
  • They were anticlerical, in that they did not accept the corruption within the Western Church nor the divine appointment of Church leaders.
  • They also began the process of translation of the bible into the vernacular so that more of the English peasantry could read the Bible.
  • The Twelve Conclusions of the Lollards were petitioned to Parliament by posting them on the doors of Westminster Hall in February 1395.
  • They also stated that the Roman Catholic Church had been corrupted by temporal matters & its claim to be the true church was not justified by its heredity.
  • Lollards also had a tendency toward iconoclasm, particularly as icons were seen as dangerous because of the potential of leading to idolatry.
  • They also believed in a lay priesthood, and felt that confession was unnecessary as priests had no special power to absolve sins.
  • Lollards also did not believe in the practice of clerical celibacy.
  • They also denounced the ritualistic aspects of the Church such as transubstantiation, exorcism, pilgrimages, & blessings.
  • Several Lollard writings also made the claim that the Pope was the antichrist, though generally they believed that the whole papal system embodied the antichrist.
Lollardy History:
  • Lollardy was attacked as heresy from it's first beginnings.
  • There was some initial protection from John of Gaunt (and other anti-clerical nobility), who used Lollard-advocated religious reform to obtain more revenue from England’s monasteries.
  • The University of Oxford, also by protecting John Wycliffe on the grounds of academic freedom, gave some protection to their own academics.
  • Lollardy was placed under serious peril when the Peasant’s Revolt occurred in 1381, because John Ball (peasant leader) was a lollardy follower.
  • The royalty & nobility, following the Peasant's Revolt, also became concerned that Lollardy was a threat to the English social order.
  • John of Gaunt's leaving England in pursuit of the throne of Castile (through his 2nd wife) also made the Lollardy cause more vulnerable.
Religious Resistance:
  • Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, was fiercely resistant to Lollardy.
  • John Badby, a layman & artisan who refused to renounce his Lollard views was burnt at the stake for heresy.
Royal Resistance:
  • King Henry IV (son of John of Gaunt) passed the De heretico comburendo in 1401 which prohibited the translating or owning of the Bible & also authorised the burning of heretics at the stake.
The Lollard Knights:
  • Group of gentry active during the reign of Richard II.
  • Known for an inclination to the religious reforms of John Wycliffe.
  • Principal Knights were Sir Thomas Latimer, Sir John Trussel, Sir Lewis Clifford, Sir John Peachey, Sir Richard Storey, & Sir Reginald Hilton.
  • They were men of discretion, & rarely gave any hint of open rebellion.
  • They managed to hold important positions and not be prosecuted during their lives.
Sir John Oldcastle and Lollardy:
  • He was the basis for Falstaff in William Shakespeare's Henry IV (pictured).
  • Oldcastle was brought to trial in 1413 once his Lollardy beliefs had been uncovered.
  • He managed to escape from the Tower of London, & tried to organize a rebellion, but failed.
  • He was executed for his beliefs & crimes.
Lollardy & The English Reformation:
  • Lollards were absorbed in to the Protestantism movement during the Reformation.
  • Since Lollardy had been an underground movement for > 100 years, the extent of Lollardy & its ideas at the time of the Reformation is still uncertain.

Image Credit - Derivative work of John Wycliffe from Randy OHC (cc)
Image Credit - Falstaff by lowfatbrains (cc)

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Medieval Warm Period (MWP, Medieval Climate Optimum)

MWP General Facts:
  • Medieval Warm Period (MWP) also known as Medieval Climate Optimum.
  • Time of warm climate in the North Atlantic region.
  • The period lasted from about ~ AD 800–1300.
  • This was then followed the Little Ice Age in the North Atlantic region.
  • The phenomenon was most clearly documented in Europe.
IPCC Report (2001):
"…current evidence does not support globally synchronous periods of anomalous cold or warmth over this time frame, and the conventional terms of 'Little Ice Age' and 'Medieval Warm Period' appear to have limited utility in describing trends in hemispheric or global mean temperature changes in past centuries".
Medieval Warm Period Research Evidence:
  • Global temperature records (ice cores, lake deposits, tree rings) have been examined.
  • Globally, the Earth may have been slightly cooler (by 0.03 degrees Celsius) during the 'Medieval Warm Period' compared with the early-20th & mid-20th century.[1]
  • No good evidence for a similar effect of medieval warming in the Southern hemisphere.


[1] - Raymond S. Bradley, Malcolm K. Hughes, Henry F. Diaz (2003). "Climate in Medieval Time". Science 302 (5644): 404–405.

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Elsing Spital (Medieval Hospital, London) Founded 1331

Elsing Spital Hospital Details:
  • Founder - William Elsing (Merchant).
  • Previously - St. Mary within Cripplegate (date founded ~c. 1000). [5]
  • Town & Diocese - London
  • Dedication - St. Mary.
  • Date Founded - 1331
  • Date Terminated - 1536
  • Religious Order - Augustinian (from 1340).
  • Function - Medieval hospital.
Foundation Details & Medieval History:
  • Founded at London Wall in 1331 by a merchant (mercer) called William Elsing.
  • The hospital foundation was intended as a refuge for blind beggars of both sexes, paralysed priests & if space was still available then beggars who wandered about the city were admitted.
  • Initially it housed 32 inmates, then 60, & finally 100.
  • Performance of religious duties was the responsibility of 5 secular priests; one of whom was the warden.
  • The warden was required to render annual accounts & a complete suit of the same colour (not to exceed 30 shillings) to be given every year.[4]
  • In 1337 William Elsing became worried about the seculars wandering about the city, so he petitioned for a replacement with regular Canons.[4]
  • 5 Augustinian Canons and a prior were elected with the assent of the Dean & Chapter of St. Paul’s.[4]
  • This meant that by 1340 the hospital was under the care of Augustinian Canons.
  • By 1438 the hospital was significantly in debt, possibly because of enlarging the church.
  • The hospital was closed down by Henry VIII in the early 16th century [1]; the property then being granted to Sir John Williams, knt. master of the king's jewels, & afterwards Lord Thame, & on the next year on Christmas eve was burnt down. [6]
Modern History:
  • Only the church tower remains from the original 14th century hospital building.[4]
  • Ruins of St Alphage Church contain old Elsing Spital chapel of Priory tower within (see image). [2]

[1] -
[2] -
[3] -
[4] -
Medieval Hospitals of London, Lecture by William Ayliffe, Gresham College, 7 April 2008
[5] -
[6] - Thomas Allen (1837). The history and antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and parts adjacent. Volume 3. Cowie & Strange, London.

Image Credit - by jypsygen (cc)

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St. Roach (Poem by Muriel Rukeyser) 1976


For that I never knew you, I only learned to dread you,
for that I never touched you, they told me you are filth,
they showed me by every action to despise your kind;
for that I saw my people making war on you,
I could not tell you apart, one from another,
for that in childhood I lived in places clear of you,
for that all the people I knew met you by
crushing you, stamping you to death, they poured boiling
water on you, they flushed you down,
for that I could not tell one from another
only that you were dark, fast on your feet, and slender.
Not like me.
For that I did not know your poems
And that I do not know any of your sayings
And that I cannot speak or read your language
And that I do not sing your songs
And that I do not teach our children
to eat your food
or know your poems
or sing your songs
But that we say you are filthing our food
But that we know you not at all.

Yesterday I looked at one of you for the first time.
You were lighter than the others in color, that was
neither good nor bad.

I was really looking for the first time.
You seemed troubled and witty.

Today I touched one of you for the first time.
You were startled, you ran, you fled away
Fast as a dancer, light, strange and lovely to the touch.
I reach, I touch, I begin to know you.

by Muriel Rukeyser
from The Gates, McGraw-Hill, 1976

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