The Trial of the Heretics

RC deWinter

Fairfield, United States

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© 2010 RC deWinter ~ All Rights Reserved

15th-century English Lollards stand, impassively defiant, in a dungeon before an ecclesiastical court.

Lollardy was a late medieval (originating c. 1382) religious movement based on the writings and teachings of John Wyclif, a theologian at Oxford University. Wyclif was a scholar-priest who initially advanced to hold several important posts at Oxford and was an early translator of sections of the Latin bible into English.

In defiance of the established Church view of religion as an outward, power-and-ritual-based hierarchy of God’s word interpreted and passed down by clerics, Wyclif’s writings and teachings declared, among other heresies, that religion could be a private experience between an individual and God, and that the mysticism of God’s grace was revealed to people through the Bible.

Many of those involved in the seminal Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 (also known as The Great Rising or Wat Tyler’s Rebellion) were followers of Wyclif, notably John Ball, a Lollard priest famous for his couplet on the equality of man:
When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman?

Although the revolt was a failure, it marked the beginning of the fall of serfdom in the British Isles, and Lollards would preach the the equality of man as created by God, the necessity of a bible in the vernacular, the ordination of women and other issues abhorrent to the powerful Church into the 15th and 16th centuries (from the reign of Richard II to that of Henry VIII); ecclesiastical courts then progressively increased the trying, condemning and burning of Lollards at the stake, which had begun at the turn of the 15th century.

Digital oils; the figures are from an original photograph shot May 22, 2010.

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