2015.04.15: Amanda Power, Franciscan friars in medieval England

Speaker: Dr Amanda Power (University of Sheffield)

Title: Pursuing a ‘redemptive regime’ in medieval England: Franciscan friars in church and state

Date, time, location: Wednesday 15th April 2015, 17.30, MB3201 (Minerva Building)

Abstract: The France of Louis IX has recently been described as a morally repressive ‘redemptive regime’ (Jordan, 2014, drawing on Le Goff, 1996). This reading focuses on the determination of the king and his inner circle to impose a restrictive morality on his subjects through wide-ranging inquisitions and harsh punishments for what might seem minor infractions. The context for their endeavours was a fierce drive to strengthen the power of the church in society by agents acting within many areas of European life. In this paper, I will examine the efforts of the new order of Franciscan friars, together with reforming bishops such as Robert Grosseteste, to create a similar environment in England during the middle decades of the thirteenth century. These men were closely connected to the court of Henry III and prominent barons such as Simon de Montfort, as well as to the emerging universities and other centres of power. The idealised view of Francis of Assisi and his order as poor, gentle and humble, has tended to obscure the fact that the friars were members of an educated male elite that sought to re-shape the religious imagination and behaviour of the whole population through intensive pastoral practices including compulsory confession.