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The Medieval Church

Seminar and Essay Questions

  • How effectively did the Church minister to the spiritual needs of the laity in the middle ages?
  • What were the reasons behind anti-clerical sentiment in the Middle Ages?
  • Why were popes, from the time of Gregory VII onwards, so keen to reform the Church?
  • What was monasticism for?
  • Were people's religious practices shaped more by Church doctrine or popular piety?


Essential Reading

Barber, The Two CitiesLink opens in a new window, chapters on the papacy, monasticism and friars and popular religion

Bartlett, The Making of EuropeLink opens in a new window, 243-269, 270-280

Power, The Central Middle AgesLink opens in a new window, 121-148

Waley and Denley, Later Medieval EuropeLink opens in a new window, 41-43

Recommended Reading

Swanson, R.N., 'The Pre-Reformation Church' in A. Pettegree, ed., The Reformation WorldLink opens in a new window (London, 2000), pp. 17-24


Further Reading


Gorski, Philip S., 'Historicizing the Secularization Debate: Church, State, and Society in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, 1300-1700'Link opens in a new window, American Sociological Review 65 (2000), 138-67.

Head, T., and R. Landes (eds), The Peace of God: Social Violence and Religious Response in France Around the Year 1000 (Ithaca, 1992)

Lynch, Joseph H., The Medieval Church: A Brief History (Harlow, 1992)

Oakley, Francis, The Western Church in the Later Middle Ages (Ithaca, NY, 1980)

Ozment, Steven, The Age of Reform 1250-1550 (New Haven, 1980)

Southern, Richard, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages (Harmondsworth, 1970)

Tellenbach, Gerd, Church, State, and Christian Society at the Time of the Investiture ContestLink opens in a new window (Toronto, 1991)

Van Engen, John, 'The Christian Middle Ages as an Historiographical Problem'Link opens in a new window, American Historical Review 91 no. 3 (1986), 519-52.

Religion and Religious Life

Barber, Malcolm, The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple (Cambridge, 1994)

Bossy, John, Christianity in the West, 1400-1700 (Oxford, 1985)

Brooke, C.N.L., and Brooke, R.B., Popular Religion in the Middle Ages: Western Europe 1000-1300 (London, 1984)

Brown, Peter, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin ChristianityLink opens in a new window (Chicago, 1981)

Burgess, Clive, 'The Right Ordering of Souls': The Parish of All Saints' Bristol on the Eve of the Reformation (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2018), particularly Chapter 6 on pp. 193-222.

Bynum, Caroline Walker, Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle AgesLink opens in a new window (Berkeley, 1982)

Goldberg, P.J.P., ‘From Tableaux to Text: The York Corpus Christi Play c.1378-1428’, Viator, 43 (2012), pp. 247-76.

French, Katherine L.,The Good Women of the Parish: Gender and Religion After the Black Death (Philadelphia, 2008), Chapter 5.

Hamilton, Bernard, Religion in the Medieval West (London, 1986)

Lawrence, C. H., Medieval Monasticism: Forms of Religious Life in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, 2nd ed. (Harlow, 1989)

Le Goff, Jacques, The Birth of Purgatory, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (London, 1984)

Russell, Jeffrey Burton, Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages (Ithaca, NY, 1984)

Swanson, R.N., Religion and Devotion in Europe c.1215 - c.1515 (Cambridge, 1995)

Vauchez, Andre, Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1997)

Vauchez, Andre, The Laity in the Middle Ages: Religious Beliefs and Devotional Practices (Notre Dame, 1993)

The Papacy

Barraclough, Geoffrey, The Medieval Papacy (London, 1968)

Burns, J.H., and Thomas Izbicki (eds. and trans.), Conciliarism and Papalism (Cambridge, 1997)

Duffy, Eamon, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (New Haven, 1997)

Morris, C., The Papal Monarchy: the Western Church from 1050 to 1250Link opens in a new window (Oxford, 1989)

Partner, Peter, The Lands of St Peter (London, 1972)

Robinson, I.S., The Papacy 1073-1198: Continuity and Innovation (Cambridge, 1990)

Sayers, Jane, Innocent III: Leader of Europe 1198-1216 (London, 1994)

Ullmann, Walter, A Short History of the Papacy in the Middle Ages (London, 1974)

Ullmann, Walter, The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages, 3rd ed. (London, 1970) [2nd ed onlineLink opens in a new window]


Barber, Malcolm, The Cathars: Dualist Heretics in Languedoc in the High Middle Ages (Harlow, 2000)

Biller, Peter, 'Through a Glass Darkly: Seeing Medieval Heresy', in Peter Linehan and Janet Nelson (eds), The Medieval World (London, 2001), pp. 308-326.

Cohn, Norman, The Pursuit of the Millennium, rev. ed. (London, 1993)

Eco, Umberto, The Name of the Rose, trans. William Weaver (London, 1984)

Hamilton, Bernard, The Medieval Inquisition (London, 1981)

Kamen, Henry, The Spanish Inquisition: An Historical Revision (New Haven, 1998)

Kieckhefer, Richard, Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer's Manual of the Fifteenth Century (University Park, 1998)

Kieckhefer, Richard, Magic in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1989)

Kors, Alan, and Edward Peters, eds., Witchcraft in Europe, 1100-1700: A Documentary History (Philadelphia, 1972)

Lambert, Malcolm, The Cathars (Oxford, 1998)

Lambert, Malcolm, Medieval Heresy: Popular Movements from the Gregorian Reform to the Reformation, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1992)

Leff, Gordon, Heresy in the Later Middle Ages, 2 vols (Manchester, 1967)

Le Roy Ladurie, Emmanuel, Montaillou, trans. Barbara Bray (London, 1978)

Wakefield, W, Heresy, Crusade and Inquisition in Southern France, 1100-1250Link opens in a new window (London, 1974)

Wakefield, Walter L., and Evans, Austin P. (eds. and trans.), Heresies of the High Middle Ages (New York, 1969) [An important collection of documents]

The Friars

Armstrong, Regis J., and Brady, Ignatius C. (eds.), Francis and Clare: The Complete Works (New York, 1982)

Armstrong, Regis J., et al. (eds. and trans.), Francis of Assisi: Early Documents: The Saint (Hyde Park, NY, 1999)

Eco, Umberto, The Name of the Rose, trans. William Weaver (London, 1984)

Hamilton, Bernard, The Medieval Inquisition (London, 1981)

Kamen, Henry, The Spanish Inquisition: An Historical Revision (New Haven, 1998)

Lawrence, C.H., The Friars (Harlow, 1994)