Church Discipline and Social Satire in Medieval Portugal

Baubeta, Patricia Anne Odber de (1989) Church Discipline and Social Satire in Medieval Portugal. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The principal aim of this study is to clarify the topic of clerical abuse as it is depicted in the satirical literature of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In Chapter One we examine the satirical works of medieval Portugal (deemed to begin with the Galician-Portuguese satirical lyric, and to close with the works of the poet and dramatist, Gil Vicente). This analysis will establish which are the predominant stereotypes of the clergy and to construct a view of the kinds of representations of the Church that are found in a wide range of writings. Because of the scarcity of medieval Portuguese examples and information, it is essential to refer to the literatures of other, parallel Western European societies: the total volume of extant literary works in medieval Portuguese is too slight to permit us to draw realistically founded conclusions. Also included are comparisons of attitudes to the clergy and the Church, to allow insights into variations of local history and circumstance, and to supply the means to measure the performance of the Portuguese clergy against that of their peers. Once the survey has been carried out, it becomes clear that there are two distinct and opposing images of the clergy in medieval literature. The first of these corresponds to the ecclesiastical ideal, that of the Good Shepherd, the cleric who performs his duties and follows the rules and recommendations of his institution. The other stereotype, found in more than one genre and throughout the period under investigation, tends to be that of the corrupt cleric, a person who falls short of the Church's own clearly stated ideals. Much of the medieval anticlerical satire discussed derives from a perceived discrepancy between ideal and reality. It does not necessarily stem from a ridiculing of normal human weakness, but rather from the failure of the clergy to live up to the proclaimed ideals of their own institution. In Chapter Two, we compare the literary stereotypes of members of the clergy with more reliable, objective views and depictions. Literary descriptions, comments and criticisms of the clergy are set against opinions and views found in other kinds of documents and sources, principally in the writings of the clergy itself. By following this methodology, we are able, to some extent, to determine whether the vision of the clergy that emerges from the literature corresponds to the social reality of the Middle Ages. In order to gauge clerical success or failure in matching Church ideals, certain fundamental areas of clerical activity are singled out for examination: the duties of attending and convoking councils and synods and carrying out visitations. The conclusion reached is that clerical performance is not uniform or regular. This patchiness may be partially due to the uneven pattern of survival of medieval texts and documents, but even taking this factor into account, we must conclude that the Portuguese clergy did not always carry out these specific duties with the assiduity that was expected of them. After a careful review of copious listings of councils, synods, visitations and sermons, it was concluded that the weakest area of performance was that of convening councils and synods. There is documentation to show that visitations were carried out, in order to maintain the discipline of the Church, and to safeguard Church privileges and property. In Chapter Three, we explore another sphere of clerical endeavour, the preaching of sermons. The very small numbers of extant medieval Portuguese sermons might at first cause us to assume that the clergy neglected this obligation. However, a careful scrutiny of a range of source materials (letters, supplications, chronicles, exemplum collections, synodal statutes, ecclesiastical arbitrations, secular legislation) leads us to the conclusion that preaching, in general, is treated seriously and carried out regularly. Standards of preaching inevitably vary at different times and within different sectors of the clergy, but there is never a period within the three hundred years when an extensive variety of sermons are not being preached to an equally wide section of the population. In this respect, the clergy live up to the ideals of their own institution. Chapter Four contains discussion of a specific type of misconduct, and allows us to assess the official responses of the Church (and State) to delinquent behaviour by both clergy and laity. The area selected for scrutiny, superstitious beliefs and practices, lends itself to analysis because of the volume of documentation available for the period in question. This documentation serves a double function: it reveals clerical delinquency, but equally it reveals the mechanisms of ecclesiastical discipline in action, brought to bear as much against the clergy as against the laity. The fifth and final chapter of the thesis presents a review of gambling in medieval Portugal, drawing principally on the literature and legislation of the period. It becomes clear that this was a significant area of clerical abuse, but equally, we find, that the Church made serious and sustained efforts to denounce and punish those members of the laity and clergy who contravene the ecclesiastical laws against gaming. The conclusions reached are that the Portuguese clergy did, on the whole, carry out their duties as prescribed by the Church. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Religious history, Medieval history, European history
Date of Award: 1989
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1989-78422
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2020 12:09
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2020 12:09

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