Fortress Press

Heresy in the Middle Ages: A History of Authority and Exclusion

Heresy in the Middle Ages

A History of Authority and Exclusion

Andrea Janelle Dickens (Author)


Available August 6, 2024

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From the high Middle Ages to the late Middle Ages, heresy evolved from individual outbreaks to more widespread movements. Accused heretics were often motivated by the same concerns as movements that found acceptance within the church, such as a zeal to live the apostolic life.

This book explores the growing sense of Christian identity as it developed in agreement with and opposition to closely affiliated groups in the Middle Ages. It documents the development of the idea of heresy, and it listens to the voices that shaped official and unofficial theologies. Developing manuals of heresy and elaborate trial procedures spanning both canon law and secular justice, the church defined religion and religious life more tightly and regulated praxis.

Considering nine heretical movements of the Middle Ages, starting with the Petrobrusians and finally ending with the Hussites and late medieval witchcraft, this book examines the shifting line constructed between heresy and orthodoxy, and how the saint and the heretic were often responding in similar ways to the same motivations. Through its investigations, this book considers the reasons for inclusion and exclusion of these various groups and the impact of the development of this heresy-routing apparatus on medieval Christianity's self-identity.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506498218
  • eBook ISBN 9781506498225
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 263
  • Publication Date August 6, 2024


Written with students in mind, Andrea Janelle Dickens's survey offers compelling case studies of religious movements ranging from the Petrobrusians to the Hussites and those accused of witchcraft. Combining a focus on the mentalities of persecutors with recovery of the voices and perspectives of a staggering variety of individuals and communities labeled as "heretics," Dickens resituates the condemned within the larger context of beliefs and practices in medieval Europe and considers on a case-by-case basis the factors which led to their repression.

Jessalynn Lea Bird, Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana

Dickens offers a valuable new survey of medieval heresy from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries that offers important insights into the actual beliefs of the heretics, as well as into orthodox ecclesiastics' perceptions of them. This book also effectively explores the fine line between what those in the Middle Ages regarded as heretical and what they saw as saintly, and it provides a thoughtful evaluation of the ways in which the church used the growth of heresy, or the perception of that growth, as a means of establishing doctrinal and social control.

Michael Frassetto, University of Delaware