HIS109Y1 Lecture Notes - Purgatory, Church Fathers, Papal Supremacy
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Western Civilizations: p. 398 - 425
& Vol. 1: p. 409 - 418
& Vol. 1: p. 419 - 454
& Seminar 3 - The Age of Dissent and Division (1500-1600)
October 10th & October 17th/2012
Perspectives From the Past: p. 409-418
Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam
-> believed in the renewal of Christian piety through the study of Christian literature, the
bible and Church fathers
-> the Colloquies were satires written as popular texts to inspire good Christian conduct
- two characters, Polyphemus and Cannius discuss the Gospels and the qualities that
good Christians have
- Polyphemus walks around with a book of the Gospels which Cannius denounces as
hypocrisy since Polyphemus does not present the morals and actions of a good
- Cannius informs Polyphemus that not everyone who carries the Gospel is devout, they
have to love the Gospel in their hearts
- to prove whether Polyphemus is devout, Cannius asks him what he would do if
someone hit him hard; Polyphemus says he would break his neck
- Cannius asks if he fasts; Polyphemus says he would except his belly tells him to eat
- Cannius asks if he is generous to the poor; Polyphemus says he has nothing to give
since he spends his excess money on drink and leisure
- Polyphemus ﬁnally admits that he is not the perfect follower of God
- Cannius concludes with the moral of the conversation, that supposedly “Christian”
society is perpetuating the sins that were prevalent before the great ﬂood, therefore
the end of the world is near
1) Erasmus uses the dialogue form because it is more casual and speaks to a larger
audience rather than the traditions latin texts which were largely only viewed by
2) Through this text, Erasmus indicates that the people who appear to be good
Christians are not necessarily so since in many cases, they do not present the same
3) Erasmus compares the current state of society to the older state of christianity where
society was dedicated to the Gospel and very pious.
4) The ﬂaws and sins in the new society were hunger and thirst in the poor, robbery,
war, plague, sedition and poverty
5) From these conversations the ideal Christian behaviour of piety emerges. This is
someone who fasts, gives to the poor, does not perpetuate violence, pays penance
for his sins etc...
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6) The template for the ideal Christian is something that the old mode of religion
perpetuated yet this new era was different, and sin was prominent.
7) This new form might be better suited to the instabilities of life in the Renaissance
since it allowed the individual to keep everything they had, since they never knew if
they would be in poverty the next day.
Sir Thomas More
-> educated by the Archbishop of Canterbury but decided to marry rather than become
-> wrote two books to illustrate the difference between the system of European
countries and that of Utopia (based upon discoveries in the New World)
-> in 1529, More succeeded Cardinal Wolsey as the lord chancellor under Henry VIII,
however they fell out over King Henry’s dispute with the Catholic Church
-> when he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy so he was executed
- More argued that as long as private property existed, it was not possible for a nation to
be governed justly
- for this reason, Utopians are well governed with few laws
- often in societies like European ones, the rich have everything but are greedy and
cruel while the poor work hard for the beneﬁt of the public but reap few rewards
- everyone in a Utopian society will work in agriculture, and each individual would also
learn a trade like wood-working (sons would learn their father’s trade)
- the job of the chief is to ensure that no one site idle, and everyone does their share
- in the new world, gold and silver do not have the same value that they have in Europe,
they would be similarly useless in Utopia
- slaves would still exist in Utopia, either voluntarily (they want to work extra hours) or
because they committed some crime
- if people want to leave, they are free to do so
1) More chose to call this ideal place Utopia (nowhere) because it is an idea which does
not actually exist anywhere in Europe; it is a dream/fantasy.
2) More connects the idea of Utopia to the systems of governance in the New World,
since collective property was already in place there.
3) More’s Utopians differ from the traditional model of Medieval Christians because hard
work and suffering were not the paramount of pious behaviour in Utopia. Leisure and
limited work were acceptable.
4) More’s ideas about Utopia reﬂect some of the ideals of the Renaissance because it
promoted time for the study of literature which was a common theme in humanism.
This society was also based upon pagan cultures in North America which mirrored
the Renaissance throw back to pagan literature (classicalism).
5) Utopia is also critical of the Renaissance because it is a reaction to the loss of
Christian piety which Renaissance revolutions have caused.
6) More’s Utopians and Erasmus’ Colloquials have much in common, since they both
hope to encourage better Christian behaviour by pointing out what is wrong with
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