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Title: The transformation of the medieval sermon
Author: D'Avray, D. L.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3401 1398
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1977
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In the last few years research on medieval sermons has entered a new phase, and the thesis needs to be placed in the context of recent work in Prance, Germany, and Italy; a few years ago there would have been little point in attempting to write on the subject I have chosen. The work of a German scholar has provided us with systematic guides to the authors, incipits, and manuscripts of medieval sermons, so that it is now possible to make efficient use of the manuscript sources; monographs on vernacular preaching have cleared the way for a study of the Latin 'popular' sermons and their international circulation; moreover work of a small group of scholars, based in different parts of Europe, has reached a stage at which an attempt to write a synthesis is desirable A general survey of the subject would be premature: instead I have tried to outline an interpretation of the main turning point in the history of high medieval preaching. The decisive change was the revival of preaching to the laity, which had ceased to play a major part in religious life between the fall of the Roman empire and the rise of the medieval towns. In the first two sub sections of the thesis (pp.1-22) I give a brief selective narrative of the external history of this transformation of preaching, but the greater part of the thesis is devoted to the less obvious changes which lay behind the revival. The remaining sub-sections of part I deal with the pocket books of sermons which itinerant preachers used (p.22 seqq.), the diffusion of stereotyped material - 'preaching aids' - to help the busy or inexperienced (p.36seqq.), the emergence of an educated lay 'sermon hearing public' (p.58 seqq.), and the training of preachers, especially the friars (p.73 seqq.). Parts II and III are on the form and content of sermons respectively The theme of part II (p.92 seqq.) is the new sermon form which came to maturity in the thirteenth century, and its relation to the revival of popular preaching. Here I state and attempt to explain the paradox that a form which was closely associated with academic milieux was alco used with success in the vast majority of sermons to the laity. Part III (p.134 seqq.) reaches a somewhat similar conclusion by a different route. I try to show how far the content of preaching was adapted to the new urban public, and here I discuss in detail a genre of preaching aid designed to provide ready made sermons specially adapted to different sorts and conditions of men. However, I go on to argue that, apart from this genre, the content of sermons was less affected by the auditory than might have been expected: popular sermons do not differ greatly from academic sermons. I conclude by trying to show why the' same sort of sermon could have been effective with both university and lay congregations. The fourth part of the thesis (p.212 seqq.) is a case study of a sermon collection, variously called Legifer and the 'Collectiones fratrum', whose history seems to be an exceptionally clear illustration of a theme which deserves special emphasis. For although I try to give an idea of the variety of different aspects of the preaching revival, I also argue a thesis in the older sense of the term. It seems to me that the close relation between the academic world and popular preaching is a theme which deserves special attention, and that the University of Paris contributed to the revival of preaching in two distinct ways. Firstly, Paris was a centre for the diffusion of model sermon collections. Popular preachers all over Europe preached from ready made model sermons written and/or copied at Paris. Secondly, Paris provided a training for the preachers themselves. Biblical lectures imparted preachable doctrine but in addition to this the system of university sermons ensured that theology students had a training of a more practice! kind. Bachelors and auditores could be called upon to preach before the University, and thir ordeal must have been a major hurdle - demanding careful preparation - for the more junior students. The evidence suggests that students would normally be asked to give a sermon after mid-day - a collatio - rather than a morning sermon. They were normally held in the houses of the Franciscans or Dominicans. The student friars, most of whom were destined to become 'professional' preachers, must have found the training especially valuable. It is the more significant in that it was the only direct and practical preparation for preaching that a friar was given. This argument presupposes the general similarity between academic and popular preaching which is discussed in Parts II and III. The Legifer collection has been singled out for special attention because it seema almost an 'ideal-type' of the link between the two types of preaching. It is a handbook of model sermons for popular preachers which appears to have been based on collations given at the houses of the friars, probably at Paris. Since it was diffused by the pecia system of the university stationers it also represents the other contribution of Paris to popular preaching. After outlining the evidence for Legifer's unusual history (p.212 seqq.) I make it the basis for a brief analysis of the theological culture which a section of the laity was beginning to share with educated clerics (p.225 seqq.). The thesis concludes with a selection of illustrative texts and an appendix. The documents are transcriptions, not editions, and thoir purpose is to illustrate points made in the main body of the thesis. The first two texts are examples of the old and the new sermon forms respectively. The third text is included to illustrate the use of the new 'scholastic' form in a sermon to a lay congregation. It is also an example of a sermon in which the content is specifically orientated to one kind of lay audience. The fourth, fifth, and sixth sermons show the other side of the coin. Text IV is a 'popular' sermon which could easily be mistaken for an academic one; texts V and VI are a university sermon and a model sermon for popular preachers respectively: they have the same theme, and when they are read together the general similarity of form and content is more striking than the differences. The last text is followed by an appendix, on franciscan preachers' pocket hooks, which gives some of the evidence too detailed to be included in the section (Part I,3, p.22 seqq.) on 'Preachers' books'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Preaching ; History ; Middle Ages, 600-1500