Penitence, Preaching and the Coming of the Reformation: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Penitence, Preaching and the Coming of the Reformation

1st Edition

By Anne T. Thayer


240 pages

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Hardback: 9780754606628
pub: 2002-10-18
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Why did the Reformation take root in some places and not others? Although many factors were involved, the varying character of penitential preaching across Europe in the decades prior to the Reformation was an especially important contributor to the subsequent receptivity of evangelical ideas. In this book, several collections of model sermons are studied to provide an overview of late medieval teaching on penitence. What emerges is a pattern of differing emphases in different geographical locations, with the characteristic emphases of the penitential message in each region suggesting how such teaching prepared the ground for both the appeal and the reputation of Luther's message. People heard and interpreted the new theology using the late medieval penitential understandings and expectations they had been taught. The variety of teaching found in the Church left different regions vulnerable or resistant to evangelical critiques and alternatives. Despite current academic claims that the establishment of the Reformation cannot have resulted from lay religious understanding, this study offers evidence that theological ideas did reach beyond religious elites to promote a degree of popular support for the Reformation.


'One of the outstanding strengths of Thayer's work is the voluminous evidence she adduces from primary sources to substantiate these characterizations of late medieval preaching of penitence. She translates extensive portions of sermons so that her reader may become familiar with the sources at hand to the preacher at the beginning of the sixteenth century. And she usually makes the Latin original available to the reader in that fast-disappearing aid to scholarship, the footnote… Thayer has provided […] the best resource yet available to examine what exactly was preached in churches in the years leading up to the Reformation.' Concordia Journal 'Thayer deserves praise for daring to think big and in so doing she has set the agenda for future research.' Ecclesiastical History '… this book is an important contribution on several counts.' The Catholic Historical Review '… a valuable and important book, for medievalists as well as early modernists. Its discussion of pre-Reformation penitential practices is the most significant since Tentler's of 1977.' Heythrop 'Anne Thayer's work is an excellent new study on the place of penitence in the period around the beginning of the Reformation itself and contributes significantly to the question of why the Reformation took root in some areas and not in others… This is a book that should be read by anyone interested in the late Medieval period and/or the early Reformation in Europe.' Colloquium

Table of Contents

Contents: Penitence and preaching on the eve of the Reformation; Printed model sermon collections; The pervasiveness of penitence; Rigorist, moderate and absolutionist sermon collections; Luther's response to the late medieval penitential system; Penitence, preaching and the coming of the Reformation; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

St Andrews Studies in Reformation History

With the publication of its 100th book in 2012, the St Andrews Studies in Reformation Studies series celebrated an impressive publishing achievement. Since its establishment in 1995 the series has consistently offered high-quality, innovative and thought-provoking research in the field of early modern religious history. By encouraging authors to adopt a broad and inclusive interpretation of ’Reformation’, the resultant publications have done much to help shape current interdisciplinary interpretations of early-modern religion, expanding attention far beyond narrow theological concerns. Each title within the series has added to a body of international research showing how the ripples of the Reformation spread to virtually every corner of European society, both Protestant and Catholic, and often beyond. From family life, education, literature, music, art and philosophy, to political theory, international relations, economics, colonial ventures, science and military matters, there were few aspects of life that remained untouched in some way by the spirit of religious reform. As well as widening conceptions of the Reformation, the series has for the last fifteen years provided a publishing outlet for work, much of it by new and up-and-coming scholars who might otherwise have struggled to find an international platform for their work. Alongside these monographs, a complementary selection of edited volumes, critical editions of important primary sources, bibliographical studies and new translations of influential Reformation works previously unavailable to English speaking scholars, adds further depth to the topic. By offering this rich mix of approaches and topics, the St Andrews series continues to offer scholars an unparalleled platform for the publication of international scholarship in a dynamic and often controversial area of historical study.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General