With the Gregorian Reform of the 11th century, a new, centralized Church bureaucracy was formed that invented, according to Michel Foucault, a new form of power that would survive the decline of Church power in the West. This form of power, which he termed ‘pastoral power’, was unique in that it was applied to individuals rather than groups, addressing their souls rather than their bodies. It was a power deployed by priests, modelled on the relation of the shepherd to his sheep. Through focusing on 12th-century developments in penitential discipline (the emphasis on confession) and in the architecture of the afterlife (the invention of Purgatory), this paper revisits the debate over the emergence of the individual in the West, tying the individuation of subjects to the centralization of Church power.
The lower ecclesiastical courts in England adjudicated over various cases of spiritual crime in order to settle disputes, administer justice, and police immoral behaviour. While most of the cases that came to these courts involved adultery, fornication, and other breaches of faith, there are also some cases in which the practice of sorcery is described. In this paper, I propose to examine the procedure by which the courts tried and dealt with suspected sorcerers. In addition, I will discuss the legal and social implications of the court’s procedural methods on the late medieval English community.