03.02.07, Lambert, Medieval Heresy

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Andrew Traver

The Medieval Review baj9928.0302.007


Lambert, Malcolm. Medieval Heresy: Popular Movements from the Gregorian Reform to the Reformation. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2002. Pp. ix, 491. ISBN: 0-631-22276-6.

Reviewed by:
Andrew Traver
Southeastern Louisiana University

In the third edition of his seminal work, Medieval Heresy Popular Movements from the Gregorian Reform to the Reformation, Malcolm Lambert builds upon the foundation of the first two editions (1977, 1992) by incorporating the most recent secondary scholarship into this revised study and by expanding his assessment of eleventh-century heresy, Catharism, urban Waldensianism, and Lollardy. It retains the same format as the previous two editions, designed as a convenient one-volume survey of medieval heresy intended both for undergraduate students and as a handbook for the scholar working in one portion of the field, for quick reference to the subject as a whole (8). Overall, the text is eminently readable and easy to use; Lambert provides a glossary of heretics (422-5) and a good distribution of maps ranging from the distribution of Waldensianism c. 1177-1277 (78-9) to the site of the martyrdom of the Marian martyrs in England (402-3). He has also included several charts and the text is generously interspersed with illustrations.

The work itself is divided into five parts of twenty chapters. Part One, "The Beginnings" contains two chapters considering respectively "The Problem of Heresy" and "The Revival of Heresy in the West in the Eleventh Century." In the first chapter, Lambert explains the need for a revised edition and presents an overview on the present state of research on medieval heresy. His definitions remain the same as in the first two editions; he identifies heresy as whatever the papacy explicitly or implicitly condemned during the period, while the use of the word "popular" in the title means that the work considers heretical movements which attracted large numbers of the laity. Lambert only includes individual heretical episodes involving small numbers of people inasmuch they reveal a stage of growth in a movement at a larger level (8). Moreover, the present edition -- like the previous two -- does not consider intellectual heresy (e.g. Abelard) except in cases in which it provided a direct impetus to a larger heretical movement (e.g. Wyclif). Chapter Two assesses the state of research on eleventh-century heresy and dismisses the view that too much has already been written on the relatively minor and isolated outbreaks (9). Lambert offers a rapid overview of early medieval heresy (30-2) and examines the thesis of Bogomil infiltration and evangelization as a partial explanation for the revival of eleventh-century heresy (37).

Part Two comprises three chapters (three to six); the first, "Orthodox Reform and Heresy" considers orthodox lay movements that desired radical change within the church and clerical reformers. His discussion treats the case of the lay movement of the Patarenes in Milan before briefly reviewing the familiar orthodox wandering preachers of the twelfth century, Robert of Arbrissel, Norbert of Xanten, and Bernard of Tiron. In chapter four, Lambert examines heretical preachers and the rise of Catharism. In this chapter, Lambert surveys the widely discussed heretical Wanderprediger of the mid-twelfth century: Henry the Monk, Peter of Bruys, Tanchlem of Antwerp, Arnold of Brescia, Eon de l'Etoile. He then discusses early Catharism from the earliest recorded dualist outbreak at Cologne (1143-4) and continues by examining dualist episodes throughout the twelfth century. Chapter five considers the early Waldensians until the Conference of Bergamo (1218) which definitively split the Waldensians into two groups, Lyonists and Poor Lombards, on the issue of the Lombards' Donatism. As one might expect, the two longest sections of the work are Parts Three and Four. Part Three contains six chapters (six to eleven) that deal almost entirely with thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century heresies. Chapter six treats papal policy towards heresy from the pontificate of Innocent III (1198-1216) to Innocent IV (1243-54), a period that witnessed dramatic changes in ecclesiastical policy towards heretics. As scholars have frequently noted, while Innocent III welcomed many enthusiasts of wandering preaching back into the Church and provided them with orthodox outlets, he also called a crusade against the Cathars of southern France. To address the deficiencies of episcopal prosecution of heresy, Gregory IX created the Inquisition. Chapter seven concerns the development of Cathar doctrine and the spread of Catharism until the mid/late-thirteenth century. Chapter eight examines the Waldensians after the Conference of Bergamo to the sixteenth century and a brief chapter nine surveys papal policy towards heresy from Gregory X (1271-6) to John XXII (1316-34). Chapter ten deals specifically with the Inquisition while chapter eleven treats Spiritual Franciscans and Heretical Joachimites.

Part Four contains nine chapters (twelve to twenty) which span the period from the fourteenth century to the Reformation. The bulk of the information here is devoted to Wyclif, the Lollards, and Huss. Yet chapter sixteen also offers a detailed study of politics and Hussitism in Bohemia, chapter seventeen deals with the Hussite Wars, and chapter eighteen surveys the development of confessions in Hussite territories. The remaining two chapters survey the Lollards, Waldensians, and Hussitism into the period of the early Reformation.

The most revised chapter, as Lambert states, is chapter eight on later Waldensianism (11). It begins with a study of Bishop Jacques Fournier of Pamiers' investigation of the Waldensian deacon Raymond de Sainte-Foy. And while Raymond agreed with Bishop Fournier on most doctrinal matters, he vehemently refused to accept oath-taking and belief in Purgatory on the basis that they had no scriptural warrant. Raymond's Waldensian group followed Catholic practice on most matters as it thought it consonant with Scripture. However in cases in which it saw a conflict between Scripture and Church doctrine, the former carried the ultimate authority. The remainder of the chapter considers the success of the Waldensians in the urban milieu of Italy and Germany.

In his discussion of Lollardy, Lambert has incorporated the conclusions of Hudson, Lutton, and others, particularly with respect to McSheffrey's research on woman and Lollardy. Lambert concludes that women had no more significant role in Lollardy than in ordinary society, a view corroborated by existing analyses of women in Waldensianism and Catharism (12, 292).

What Lambert has done is to synthesize a mass of material drawn from a wide variety of secondary sources and present it in a coherent and comprehensive manner to an English audience. Although Lambert's work surveys a large geographical area and a vast chronological period, he nevertheless includes extensive footnotes and a complete bibliography for those interested in further reading on a topic. Lambert has successfully written a thorough survey of late medieval heresy that will appeal both to the scholar as a useful reference work and to the undergraduate student as an introductory volume.

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Andrew Traver

Southeastern Louisiana University