Church History from 1054

until the Eve of the Reformation

Talks in this series are presented by either David Hunter, marked DH below or by Fr Seán Finnegan, marked SF. 
Talks mostly average half an hour, except where noted.

For the course on First Millennium History, please go to this page here.

1. Introduction to the High Middle Ages. SF

This does what introductions do. It introduces a subject in a kind of introductory way such that the viewer has an introduction to the subject. Clear?

2. Early Norman England SF

This describes how William the Conqueror pacified England after his invasion of 1066, and how he used both military force and the Church to achieve this. We hear about the Harrying of the North and the compilation of the Domesday Book. Then we consider the reign of the Conqueror's successor William II Rufus and his troubled dealings with St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury.

3. Background to the First Crusade DH

In this video, David Hunter lays the background to the First Crusade; the decline of the Byzantine and Persian Empires, the irruption of the Seljuk Turks into the near East and their attitude to Christian pilgrims, which differed from the more tolerant policy of their Egyptian Fatimid predecessors. We learn how this first Crusade was not conceived as an attack on Islam as such, but more an attempt to restore and protect Christian access to the Holy Places which had been disrupted by the Turks.

4. The People’s Crusade  SF

This extraordinary episode was what opened the Crusading age; a hundred thousand ordinary folk took the road to the Holy Land, but never actually got to Jerusalem. However they managed to do a lot of mischief along the way.

5. The Official ‘Princes’ Crusade DH

The main events leading to the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, and the process of the establishment of the 'Crusader States' in the Holy Land and surrounding territories.

6. St Bernard and the Cistercians SF

Here we learn about the foundation of the Cistercian order under Robert of Molesmes, St Stephen Harding and St Bernard of Clairvaux, We hear of the preaching of the Second Crusade and the foundation of the Knights Templar.

7. St Hildegard of Bingen SF

This is about one of the most remarkable women in the history of the Church; Hildegard of Bingen, the 'Sibyl of the Rhine'; Doctor of the Church, mystic, Abbess, writer, theologian, musician, physician and natural scientist.

8. The Survival of the Crusader States DH

This describes the events leading up to the Second Crusade, notably an Islamic military resurgence and the capture of Edessa.

9. The Second Crusade DH

Here we learn of the events of the Second Crusade itself, and something about the military orders that grew up as part of the Crusading movement.

10. The Third Crusade Part 1 DH

In this video we pick up the story from the end of the 2nd Crusade through till the Battle of Hattin and the recapture of Jerusalem by Saladin in 1187 (which prompted the calling of the 3rd Crusade). On the way we discuss the battle for Egypt between the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Nur a Din and Shawar, the rise of Saladin and the unification of the Muslim world which enveloped the Crusader states. We also discuss briefly about life in the Crusader states as reported by Muslim sources.  50m long

11. The Third Crusade Part 2 DH

In this video we look at the events of the 3rd Crusade. We examine the march of Emperor Fredrick Barbarossa and the contributions of Phillip of France and Richard the Lionheart mixed in with the politics of the Crusader States. This talk includes the siege of Acre, the Battles of Arsuf and Jaffa and concludes with the Treaty of Jaffa. 42m long

12. Pope Innocent III and the Fourth Lateran Council SF

Pope Innocent III was one of the very greatest and most dynamic popes; among many other achievements, he called and directed the great Fourth Lateran Council which did more than any other initiative to bring reform to the Church in the Middle Ages.

13. The Fourth Crusade DH

In this video we discuss the 4th Crusade, why it was called, how it ended up not in the Holy Land but in Constantinople and embroiled in the politics of the Byzantine Empire. In particular the contract between Venice and the Crusaders is discussed and we also examine whether the popular narrative of the 4th Crusade being a conspiracy to conquer Constantinople from the beginning is really tenable.

14. Heretics; Bogomils and Cathars SF

The Middle Ages were known for heresy and robust rebuttal. The Cathars were perhaps the best-known group, still regarded with a certain romanticism in the South of France. This traces the history of the Cathars right back to Marcion in the very first centuries of the Church, looks at what they believed, and the effects of those beliefs in the South of France and Northern Italy.

15. St Dominic, the Dominicans and the Inquisition SF

Briefly this video speaks of Dominic and the foundation of his new order, but mostly addresses the Spanish Inquisition, its foundation under Ferdinand and Isabella, the attempts of the Papacy to restrain it, and about the 'Black Legend' that grew up around it. It's about 45 minutes long.

16. The Franciscan Movement SF

This video goes over the life of St Francis of Assisi, and discusses the various groups that took rise from his example; the Friars Minor, the Fraticelli, the Spirituals and even the Beghards and Beguines.

17. The Fifth and Sixth Crusade DH

In this video we return to the Holy Land and examine the 5th and 6th Crusades. We follow the disorientated and often indecisive leadership of the 5th Crusade which worked under the shadow of Emperor Fredrick II possibly joining them at some unspecified point. We also have a brief cameo from St Francis of Assisi before tracing the disastrous march of Pelagius and the 5th Crusaders towards Cairo. Then we switch our attention fully to the cultured but difficult to pin down Fredrick II, who eventually sets out on the 6th Crusade, 13years after first promising to go on Crusade. We examine whether his excommunication after multiple delays was entirely unreasonable or had he proved so unreliable that it was inevitable, then we track Fredrick II’s unique approach of diplomacy and threats of force to regain Jerusalem in 1229 without any bloodshed, and enter the city still excommunicated! (Length 45 mins).

18. The Seventh Crusade DH

In this video we continue the story with the expiration of the 10yr peace treaty agreed in 1229 at the end of the 6th Crusade. We cover the all too brief optimism following the ‘Baron’s Crusade’ of 1239-1241, then track how the Mongol invasions of the Middle East caused a successful military alliance between displaced Muslims and Ayyubid Egyptians, which led to the great battle of La Forbie and the fall of Jerusalem in 1244.  Then we cover the preparations for and the military campaign of the 7th Crusade led by King Louis IX of France and how it all went so disastrously wrong, largely thanks to the commander at Mansurah called Baibars. We also examine the overthrow of the ruling Egyptian class by their highly militarised slave class (the Mamelukes), the epic clash at the Battle of Ayn Jalut in 1260 between the all conquering Mongols and the Mamelukes, which led to the rise to power of Baibars. (Length 42 mins).

19. The Eighth and Ninth Crusades, the Fall of Acre and the Dissolution of the Templars DH

In this final video we cover rather a lot of ground in one go so prepare a drink beforehand! We continue following the career of Baibars and his systematic ruthless harrying of the Crusader states which then morphs into a policy of completely annihilating Crusader cities and castles so they cannot be reused. We cover the slaughter of Antioch and the end of the Principality of Antioch in 1268. This then prompts the 8th Crusade and Louis IX of France and Prince Edward of England to set out to the Holy Land, except Louis diverts to Tunis and dies there and with him any hope of providing decisive help to the Crusader states. Edward continues onward and this becomes known as the 9th (and last) Crusade though with so few troops his impact is limited, even if he did punch a would-be assassin so hard he knocked him out! We then cover Baibars’ death and how his successors continued his policies, ending with the destruction of Acre in 1291 (the most important, best defended and most prosperous Crusader city). We then see that by 1303 the Crusader presence in the Levant and Syria had been completely removed. The video concludes with the suppression of the Knights Templar, what happened and why,  and with hindsight it becomes obvious this is a chilling precursor to what would happen in England some 200 years later. (Length 58 mins).

20. The Avignon Papacy and the Great Western Schism SF

As part of the struggle between Church and State, this describes the period in the fourteenth century when King Philip IV of France managed to secure control of the papacy and succeeded in relocating it to Avignon; it goes on to describe how the move back to Rome many decades later prompted Avignon to continue to elect its own popes and the resulting chaos and schism. This one is 47 minutes long, so put the kettle on now (or pour yourself something stronger).

21. The English Church and Crown in the Middle Ages  SF

This documents the relations of Church and Crown during the reigns of the later Norman and the Angevin dynasties; Saints Thomas Becket, Edmund of Abingdon and Richard of Chichester all feature.

22. The Black Death; John Wycliffe and the Lollards SF

We are now in the fourteenth century, when the Black Death spread its way through Europe with devastating effect. A towering figure emerged; this was John Wycliffe, a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation, and his disciples, the Lollards.

22.b St Simon Stock and the Carmelites DH

In this video we discuss the Carmelites, their origin, move to Europe and rapid growth in the high medieval period. We also examine the life of St Simon Stock and in particular the legacy of the brown scapular, a devotion still very much alive today. Briefly examined is the impact of the black death and the work of two prior generals (Blessed John Soreth and Nicholas Audet) fighting against laxity in the lead up to and during the reformation, paving the way for Saints Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross. (Length 32 mins).

23. Popes, Councils and Conciliarism in the Fifteenth Century SF

This follows the great councils of the fifteenth century; Constance, Basel and Florence, and the discussions over whether a pope should be subject to a council or vice versa. We look at Jan Hus the Czech heretic and the brief reunion of the Eastern and Western Churches.

24. Those Borgias: Truth and Myth  SF

This speaks about the reigns of the two Spanish Popes Callixtus III and Alexander VI. They have gone down in legend for their decadence and corruption; as always, the truth is more complicated. We will also discuss the strange Florentine preacher, Girolamo Savonarola.

25. Church Life 1: The Great Churches SF

We talk about where the real life of the Church was to be found, as opposed to the goings-on at the level of governance. We then look at how the great cathedrals and abbey churches operated.

25b. A Sarum Rite Solemn Mass

This is a Catholic celebration, in Merton College, Oxford, for the feast of St Frideswide, 1996.

26. Church Life 2: The Parish Church SF

What did a late mediæval parish church look like? What was it like to go to Mass on Sunday?

26b. A Mediæval Parish Mass, 1450

This is a link to a YouTube video of a reconstruction of Sunday Mass in a Scandinavian Parish in 1450. It isn’t quite as it would have been in England; the church would have been a lot more colourful, the rood screen would have been different, and I’m pretty sure the laity would have been much more involved than here, but it shows very successfully how it would have worked, with simply one cantor, a clerk to serve the Mass and a priest.

27. Church Life 3: Merrie England SF

This goes into how the parish functioned and paid for itself—and had a lot of fun doing it.