nineteenth century read Chaucer ‘straight’ as a medieval Catholic poet. Instead, there grew up a wide range of critical strategies to put Chaucer off-side with medieval Catholicism, creating interpretations in which he features in almost every conceivable non-orthodox role: zealous proto-Protestant; undoctrinal nature-worshipper; Chaucer as Catholic child 173 trifler in belief; ‘manly’ figure of English liberty, with a religion independent of the institutional church of the day; Laodicean; and a ‘child’ at heart. In what follows here, while risking over
itself.32 If it came from the Pope, did that validate its authenticity or render it useless? The answer depended not on the material paper but on religious conviction. Was St Peter’s 30 Transporting Chaucer successor the rock of the institutional church, or the embodiment of Antichrist? Even if one were not a reformist, only God could provide ultimate proof that the document was not a fake. It is not only in the pilgrim context of The Canterbury Tales that Chaucer raises these questions. In The House of Fame, having demonstrated that there is no ontological
, Wimbledon assigns the task of pruning, whereby they cut away branches destroyed by sin through preaching ‘wiþ þe swerd of here tonge’. Railing, assigned to knights, involves a greater variety of tasks for protecting both the institutional church and the realm, including preventing theft, maintaining God’s law and those who teach it, and protecting the land from foreign enemies. Finally, labourers should work in a way that recalls the physical labour in the vineyard, as ‘wiþ here sore swet [labourers] geten out of þe erþe bodily liflode for hem and for oþer parties’.42
characterise themselves as outside the institutional Church while employing academic arguments and often spreading clerical texts to lay audiences. Somerset’s analysis includes Langland and Trevisa as extraclergial writers, but she calls Wycliffites its ‘most prominent and most extreme proponents’. See Somerset, Clerical Discourse and Lay Audience in Late Medieval England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 17–18. 14 Somerset uses the term lollard to refer to texts ‘influenced by the writings of John Wyclif, often in ways that attention to questions asked in
common tendency to connect the expelled figure with sinful clerics and to use the parable to ‘interrogate the institutional church’.9 While I agree that the parable held special interest for clergy, especially as retold in Cleanness, the questions and debates it provoked go far beyond clerical or even lay conduct. Narrowly focused on the expelled man, Staley’s analysis, like many others’, takes for granted that the host acts justly. If we shift our attention from the figure expelled to the one who expelled him, we find that the parable presents an intellectual quandary
The church as sacred space places the reader at the heart of medieval religious life, standing inside the church with the medieval laity in order to ask what the church meant to them and why. It examines the church as a building, idea, and community, and explores the ways in which the sanctity of the church was crucial to its place at the centre of lay devotion and parish life. At a time when the parish church was facing competition for lay attention, and dissenting movements such as Lollardy were challenging the relevance of the material church, the book examines what was at stake in discussions of sanctity and its manifestations. Exploring a range of Middle English literature alongside liturgy, architecture, and material culture, the book explores the ways in which the sanctity of the church was constructed and maintained for the edification of the laity. Drawing on a wide range of contemporary theoretical approaches, the book offers a reading of the church as continually produced and negotiated by the rituals, performances, and practices of its lay communities, who were constantly being asked to attend to its material form, visual decorations, and significance. The meaning of the church was a dominant question in late-medieval religious culture and this book provides an invaluable context for students and academics working on lay religious experience and canonical Middle English texts.
enter the material church physically but lacking membership of the true spiritual church. This ties in to the dedication sermon in which the first definition of the church is ‘men þat shulen be saved’. While on earth, the predestined mingle with the damned in the material church which, rather than a sacred space, is merely a place where ‘boþe gode and yuel’ gather, as the dedication sermon states. There is a clear distinction, then, between the ‘visible, institutional church and the invisible community of those who will be saved’, as J. Patrick Hornbeck argues.37 And