This paper will talk about the short confession manuals that survive in relatively high numbers from medieval England and in particular one that I’ve been working on recently, an anonymous 13th-century text which begins with the words Sciendum autem est sacerdotibus. It has often been assumed that because these texts are short and simple, dealing with the basics of confession, that they were written for parish priests. However, to my knowledge no one has tried to test this suggestion. I will examine what Sciendum autem est has to say about pastoral care, and also talk about the manuscripts in which it is found: do the manuscripts’ format and the other texts that are copied with it suggest that the text had an audience of parish priests, or for that matter an audience concerned with pastoral care?
In c. 1340, a copy of Gregory IX’s Liber Extra was given a deluxe makeover by its owner, a member of the Augustinian community at St Bartholomew’s in Smithfield. This refurbishment involved the illumination of every one of the book’s 614 pages, and included hundreds of bas-de-page narrative images. This paper observes that images of the sacraments – especially penance, baptism, and the Eucharist – are a key theme in this manuscript, and argues that taken together they constitute a collection of pictorial exempla that support the fundamentals of the doctrinal programme promulgated by Archbishop Peckham in 1281. Viewing the Smithfield Decretals within the context of Peckham’s Ignorantia Sacerdotum and the many texts that it inspired in the ensuing decades, this paper argues that the manuscript is an important witness to the visual culture and pastoral concerns of the Augustinian order.
The Latin Elucidarium of the first half of the 12th century sought to provide a summary of Christian doctrine in the form of a dialogue between a Master and his Disciple. It proved to be an extremely popular text, being translated into several European vernaculars, and there are a number of extant Middle English translations of parts of the original produced in the 15th century. These translations fall into several distinct versions or translation traditions, and in this paper I examine two of those versions: the Lucistrye, represented by Cambridge UL MS Ii.6.26, Cambridge St John’s College MS G.25 and National Library of Wales MS Peniarth 12, and Lucidus and Dubius, represented by Winchester College MS 33.
These two versions differ in length, form and content, representing distinct attempts to transmit portions of the doctrine contained in the Elucidarium to a vernacular audience. I argue that these differences offer significant insights into issues of contemporary doctrinal debate, such as Eucharistic theology, and raise important questions about intended audience and the ways in which pastoral care, in the form of a popularised theology, was undertaken in the late Middle Ages.