William Wyclif

c1320 - 1384

By 1360 he was Master of Balliol College, Oxford, and a reknowned scholar. Under the patronage of John of Gaunt he became ambassador to the Avignon Pope during the Great Schism. He favoured strict adherence to the authority of the Bible, and particularly the New Testament, and apostolic simplicity. He protested against the ills of the Roman Catholic Church, such as: He championed the English state's right to withdraw church endowments. The 1351 Statute of Provisors had prohibited the granting of papal benefices and legal appeals to the Papal Curia (court). This was one of many statutes in this era attacking church wealth and privileges. John of Gaunt wanted church wealth to fund continuation of the Hundred Years' War. In 1378 England supported Pope Urban VII of Rome against Clement VII of Avignon.

Wyclif organised the first translation of the Bible into English, by Oxford scholars, to show there was no scriptural authority for the practices he condemned.

A church synod of 1382 condemned him and his followers, who were known as lollards (from the Dutch for mumbling), and he was expelled from Oxford University. Oxford's involvement may explain why it never was formally approved as a studium generale by a Pope.

Wyclif's teachings greatly influenced Jan Hus (c1369-1415) at Prague University. He in turn inspired Martin Luther (c1517).

The Council of Constance (1414 - 1418) was chaired by the Holy Roman Emperor and involved many bishops and cardinals. It voted along the four national lines - French, English, German and Italian. It ended the Great Schism (begun 1378) by electing a new Pope, Martin V, in 1417. Although the Emperor had guaranteed safe conduct for Hus, the Council condemned Lollardy and Hus was burned at the stake for refusing to recant.

Ian's history pages | Cambridge : History