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Heretical Christians: Who were they and what did they believe?

The expulsion of the Albigensians from Carcassone in 1209 – from Les Chroniques de France (British Library)

with Charles Freeman

at the Old Court, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday, 26th January 2013.

The Greek word for heresy originally meant “choice” but with the tightening of Christian orthodoxy, it came to mean “wrong choice”. This study day will explore the kinds of heresy that could be found in medieval Europe between 300 and 1500, who became a heretic and why, and how the forces of authority dealt with them.

Provisional Programme
(There may be variations to the programme on the day – all these subjects will be covered, but not necessarily in the advertised order.)
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 Creating an orthodoxy. How did the early church define what was correct and incorrect belief? This session will explore the problems of defining orthodoxy, why it was needed and the extent to which it was created by the emperors rather than the church itself. It will include an exploration of the famous Arian controversy and what was at stake here.  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.45 Sacred violence AD 400- 1150. This session will look at the influence of Augustine in developing a theory of persecution, how this came into play in the fourth and fifth centuries, especially in north Africa.It will also include some discussion of the iconoclastic dispute in Byzantium in which the creation of images of Christ became a heresy in itself.  
  12.45 Lunch break  
  14:00 The medieval papacy and the destruction of the heretics. This session will explore how the rise in papal authority between 1150 and 1500 went hand in hand with the definition and persecution of heretics. The Cathars will be treated as a study case.  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 Lollards and Hussites. A session on these two important movementsof the fifteenth century. Who were these heretics? How did they create and sustain networks? Were they the precursors of the Reformation?  
  16:20 Close  

About Charles Freeman

Charles Freeman is a Suffolk-based freelance academic author with a wide interest in the history of the Mediterranean. His published works include The Closing of the Western Mind (2002), A New History of Early Christianity (2009), and Holy Bones, Holy Dust, How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe (Yale University Press 2011). He is also Historical Consultant to the Blue Guides series and has written the historical introductions to many of the Italian volumes. He leads study tours to Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Deane, Jennifer Kolpacoff, A History of Medieval Heresy and Inquisition (Plymouth UK,2011). An excellent recent introduction.
Freeman, Charles, AD 381: Heretics, Pagans and the Christian State (London, 2009). This makes the argument that the earliest definitions of heresy were by the Roman emperors determined to achieve unity in the church.
Ladurie, Emmanuel La Roy, Montaillou, Cathars and Catholics in a French Village, 1294-1324 (London,2002). This classic book details the interrogations of Cathars and others by the Inquisition in a French village. (There are other editions/translations).
Lambert, Michael, Medieval heresy: Popular Movements from the Gregorian Reform to the Reformation. Classic introduction, now in its third edition (London, 2002).
Moore, R.I., The War on Heresy: Faith and Power in Medieval Europe (London, 2012). An excellent book by an authority on heresies in the Middle Ages.
O’Shea, Stephen, The Perfect Heresy: The Life and death of the Cathars (London, 2001). Lively and balanced introduction to a heresy that continues to fascinate.
Rex, Richard, The Lollards, London 2002). Possibly plays down the significance of the Lollards( according to some critics) but has the details of the movement. N.B. Melvyn Bragg discussed the Lollards in the ‘In Our Time’ programme of 16thJune, 2011. It is still available on BBC IPlayer.
Shaw, Brent, Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine (Cambridge , 2011). An important recent book if too detailed for our needs. If you find a copy, however, Chapter Seven has good material on heresies.


Please phone or email to check the availability of places. Study Days are 38 per person, which includes a full day of lectures, access to the NT site, parking, coffee and tea throughout the day, and access to the NT exhibition. Once you have reserved your place please send a cheque to confirm the booking. For your first booking please complete the application form to ensure that we have recorded your contact details correctly.

Wuffing Education,
4 Hilly Fields,
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4DX
tel : 01394 386498

Email cliff AT wuffingeducation.co.uk
(replace 'AT' by '@' in order to send email - we used 'AT' to avoid spam robots automatically sending us emails)
Website www.wuffingeducation.co.uk

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