Supplications from England and Wales in the Registers of the Apostolic Penitentiary, 1410-1503, ed. Peter D. Clarke and Patrick N. R. Zutshi, 3 volumes, Canterbury and York Society Series, volumes 103-105 (2013-15).
Since at least the early thirteenth century the Apostolic Penitentiary has been the highest office in the Catholic Church concerned with sin and matters of conscience. The office’s origins partly lie in the fact that the papacy had reserved to itself absolution from certain grave sins by as early as the twelfth century. Successive popes empowered the cardinal penitentiary in charge of the office to absolve sinners in these reserved cases, which included violence against or by the clergy and abandonment of the religious life. In addition, the cardinal was authorised to grant other favours that were also a papal monopoly, including dispensations, notably for marriages between close relatives normally forbidden by church law, and special licences, for example allowing confession to a personal chaplain rather than one's parish priest. Petitioners from across Western Europe, both men and women, clergy and laity, requested such favours in their thousands and their supplications shed important new light on religious, social and even political history, covering themes as varied as marriage, sexual deviance, violence, the religious life, popular piety, illegitimacy, and pilgrimage. Examples of supplications from England and Wales include one concerning two priests fighting over a penny, which resulted in one killing the other and seeking exoneration from murder charges in the church courts on grounds of self-defence; another sought a dispensation from certain impediments to the marriage of the future Richard III and Anne Neville.
This valuable evidence, recorded in the registers of the Apostolic Penitentiary formerly held in the Vatican Archives and now in the office’s own archives in the Apostolic Chancellery, has only been available to researchers since 1983 and even then only to those granted the office’s permission to consult its archives. This edition, being published with the office’s imprimatur, makes accessible for the first time over 4,000 supplications concerning England and Wales, or rather the provinces of Canterbury and York, in the office's fifty earliest extant registers; they are presented with extensive annotation, a fifty-page introduction and other apparatus.
The first volume, published in January 2013, comprises the introduction and supplications from the period 1410-1464. The second volume, to appear early in 2014, will include those from 1464-1492, and the third, to appear early in 2015, those from 1492-1503 and the indices of personal and place names, subjects, and Apostolic Penitentiary personnel.
Many members of the Ecclesiastical History Society will surely wish to acquire this edition. The volumes will be available from our publishers, Boydell and Brewer Ltd (http://www.boydellandbrewer.com) for £35 each. However, subscription to the Canterbury and York Society for the years 2013/4 and 2014/5 (covering volumes II and III) costs only £20 per annum. As a special offer, members of the Ecclesiastical History Society who subscribe to the Canterbury and York Society for the next two years will be able to obtain volume I for the price of an ‘arrears’ subscription for 2012/3 of £15.00. To take advantage of this offer, please contact the Society’s Honorary Treasurer, Dr Rosemary Hayes, 18 Murrayfield Drive, Edinburgh EH12 6EB; 0131 337 1385; email@example.com. She also has details of back volumes for sale that may be of interest to members of the Ecclesiastical History Society.