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Title: Excommunication and politics in thirteenth-century England
Author: Hill, Felicity
ISNI:       0000 0004 6059 8817
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2016
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Excommunication, the medieval church’s severest penalty, played a significant role in thirteenth-century English politics. Kings and their ministers were threatened with the sanction, as were rebels threatening the peace or the king’s rights. Disputes involving clerics invariably involved excommunication, which clergy used against anyone who infringed their rights. This thesis examines the various political and social consequences of papal and episcopal excommunication in thirteenth-century England. The implication of excommunication, strengthened by a solemn ritual ceremony, was that it condemned the sinner to hell. Its social effects were equally severe. An excommunicate was infected with spiritual leprosy, and the faithful were therefore obliged strictly to shun excommunicates as entirely separated from Christian society. In practice, the reactions of individuals and communities to excommunication varied considerably. Some were undoubtedly terrified of excommunication’s spiritual consequences, but many others demonstrated little concern. Sometimes temporal concerns were prioritised, yet individual consciences might excuse contempt for the sanction when it was misused. Communities might equally reject the church’s use of excommunication, refusing to treat excommunicates appropriately. Nevertheless, excommunication could be exploited. Though many obstacles prevented excommunication being consistently effective, it might be used to justify rebellions or attacks against excommunicates, who were no longer part of the Christian community. It provided religious validation for enterprises that might otherwise be unacceptable. The publicity given to sentences of excommunication could be used to influence public opinion, generating support for a war, tarnishing a reputation or denouncing the acts of a rival faction. Fulminations describing excommunicates’ crimes accompanied by a striking liturgical rite could be an effective way to influence the attitudes of audiences. Such publicity might be accepted or rejected. It might provoke scandal and public unrest. The use of excommunication in this way certainly, however, increased the political awareness of English parishioners.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available