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Kofinakis Andreas
In English

The late medieval city as a field of religious dissent and clash

Purpose and aim of the announcement is to highlight the cities of the period between the 11th and 15th century as the main field of religious clash and dissent, as seen through the history of the revival of Heresy in the West. The combination of the emergence of the medieval town and of the renewed popular religious feelings the period after the Gregorian Reform, led heresy to move from the countryside to the city. Urban development and the following material prosperity favored the proliferation of disparate heretical concepts based on a heterodox reading of the Gospel, subversive to social domination and subordination relations. The evangelical poverty, the unlicensed itinerant preaching, the denial of the holy mysteries and the refusal of the cleric’s mediating role -in general anti-clericalism- and finally the question of papal power itself were articulated as subversive requests within the urban landscape, either by those who have chosen to forsake the achievements and pleasures of urban culture either by those who have never tasted them. Alongside the orthodox Catholic response against heresy both in legislation and prosecution became crucial for the future shape of urban mentality. Therefore the cities of the late and high middle ages provide the necessary and preparatory background, incubator for the large urban religious conflicts of the Reformation.

Firstly we refer to the emergence of cities in the medieval period with particular reference to two of the main historiographical trends, that of Henri Pirenne and that of Western Marxism. Leaving aside their crucial differences we emphasize to the central role and importance that both “schools” recognize on the revival of trade for the rise of the medieval city. Afterwards we mention the revival of western heresy in the aftermath of the Gregorian Reform and its spatial course to the city, where existed the favorable material conditions (monetary economy, fragmentation of labor, discontented social strata) in order for the heresy to develop and outbreak. Subsequently we present historical examples that demonstrate the transfer of heresy within the city walls. We take notice of the chronological coincidence of the two historical phenomena -revival of western heresy and emergence of medieval city- , starting in the 11th century, but without attempting to argue that existed a causal connection between the two. Also we emphasize on the twofold cause, spiritual and material, for the revival of the heretical phenomenon in the West as seen inside the medieval city.

Through the presentation of more detailed historical examples of heretical phenomena we argue furthermore of the synthesis of urban material conditions -particularly the new civic aspects of poverty- and of renewed popular religious mentalities, as key sources for the eruption of popular evangelical movement in the 12th century and after on. Commentary of both heretical and orthodox mendicant evangelical trends of the period. Moreover we point to the interaction between the urban culture and the religious deviation approached through the transformation that the religious sermon -Catholic and heretic- sustained both in topics and in methodology, focusing on the role of medieval university in the strengthening of scholasticism that favored the emergence of the individual’s will on the interpretation of Scripture. We analyze briefly the shifting of the heresy from the dogmatic field to that of practical defiance against the centralized power. Subsequently we deal with the suppression of heresy inside the city with the activation of the Holy Inquisition and its contribution to the formation of a new urban ethos towards the divergent subject, but also to the transformation of the cityscape itself.

Finally we note once more the interaction between the new urban reality and religion in their reciprocal formation, emphasizing on the contribution of heresy as discord and dissent in the emergence of the autonomy of individual’s will and consciousness. In conclusion, we set a broader methodological question concerning the historical study of medieval heresy, which seeks to highlight and give prominence to the methodological need for synthesis in social history, according to the teachings of Georges Duby. During the announcement we occasionally make brief references to the scientific approaches and thesis of well-known contributors to the historiography of medieval heresy and culture such as Rodney Hilton, Bob Moore, Jacques Le Goff, Jean-Louis Biget, Malcolm Lambert, Barbara Rosenwein and others.

© EPLO 2017