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lollardy

lollardy. Described recently as ‘the premature reformation’, lollardy developed originally from Wyclif's teaching. Lollards (from middle Dutch lollaerd—a mumbler) were a motley group lacking theological coherence. Few lollards emulated Wyclif's intellectualism, but Oxford lollardy lingered on with a resurgence in the 1400s under William Taylor and Peter Payne. Though Archbishop Arundel dealt the death blow to academic Wyclifism at the Council of Oxford (1411), the last academic, Richard Wyche, was not put to death until 1440. Lollardy also attracted influential men, close to the court, some driven by genuine puritanism, some anticlerical, some selfishly cynical with eyes on clerical wealth. These included the archbishop of York's brother William Neville, and even Arundel's relatives had lollard friends. Providing havens for writing and copying texts, they patronized lollard preachers, which alarmed the government, who enacted the statute De heretico comburendo (1401) to arrest unlicensed preachers and sometimes hand them over for public burning. After Sir John Oldcastle's abortive revolt (1414) and death (1417), aristocratic lollardy was a spent force. Chased from university and aristocracy, lollardy became geographically disparate, embracing local artisans and yeomen farmers, who held negative, often simplistic, views. They banned organ music and church bells, but caused greater concern by criticizing transubstantiation, confession, indulgences, and pilgrimages. Though the authorities feared lollards as dangerously articulate with a backbone of literacy, their negative ideas had little popular appeal except for emphasis on Bible-reading. A small Wyclifite group produced the lollard Bible, the first full translation from the Vulgate (1390), a ‘very literal almost unreadable version’ which the Church unsuccessfully banned (1407). By leaving biblical translation in the hands of this radical group, ecclesiastical authority damaged the case for authorized Bible translation, which existed on the continent. Though lollardy went underground, its extremism made the mass of lower orders, already conservative, more so. Modern historians feel that Wyclif ‘did little or nothing to inspire [the Reformation] and in effect [unintentionally] did every thing possible to delay’ it by discrediting even moderate reform.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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Lollardy

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