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Peddlers of Paradise

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The Sale of Indulgences and Confraternity by the English Austin Friars in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

image of Church History and Religious Culture

This study investigates the activities of the Austin Friars in England in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries regarding the sale of expurgatory services. Through an analysis of their letters of confraternity and indulgences, this study argues that around the end of the fifteenth century, the Austin Friars experienced a change in attitude in the sale of their religious services. They exponentially increased their efforts in selling indulgences and letters of confraternity and in advertising their popular Scala Coeli services, an attitude that reached its zenith in 1516 when Pope Leo X licensed the Austin Friars to sell and promote a lucrative plenary indulgence. This change has significant consequences for considerations of the actions of English Augustinian reformers in the sixteenth century, primarily Robert Barnes, whose criticisms of clerical wealth are put into relief when examined within this monastic context.

Affiliations: 1: Keble College, University of Oxford


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