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Confession and religious controversy

800 years of Dominican books

From the beginnings of the order in 1216 the Dominicans became a popular choice as confessors and during the thirteenth century they wrote several manuals to help confessors in their task. The reform of the pastoral activities of parish priests, resulting from the …. of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, made these manuals and related treatises on the virtues and vices and the nature of sin suitable for use by parish priests. Such writings on confession and sin range in complexity from the Summa confessorum of John of Freiburg (ca 1250–1314) to somewhat simpler versions such as the Summa de viciis et virtutibus of Guilelmus Peraldus (ca 1200–1271) which became translated, adapted or partially incorporated into vernacular versions in Anglo-Norman, Middle English and other European languages.

Also from the early days of the order the Dominicans were much involved in opposing heretical movements such as that of the Cathars. In England in the late fourteenth century the heresies of the Lollards were opposed by Dominicans, notably Roger Dymock’s treatise against their twelve errors.

Image reproduced by kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Trinity Hall.