A late medieval confession manual - its author and context
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This thesis focuses on the Summa Angelica de casibus conscientie written by Angelo da Chivasso (d. 1495), first printed in 1486. Angelo belonged to the Observantine branch of the Franciscan Order and was its vicar general four times. Having documented Angelo’s life and career, the thesis centres on the construction and purpose of his Summa. It assesses its originality within the tradition of confession manuals and the reasons for its popularity. It argues that the structure is very clear because Angelo intended it for the use of simplices confessores, by which he probably meant priests who did not have a university degree. He arranged his material alphabetically and in the longer sections, paragraphs were numbered, making cross-referencing easy. He included a list of authorities and explained the manner of quoting from them. Not all these features were original, but together they helped to make the Summa popular. There are several noteworthy features of Angelo's Summa. The procedures described had been laid down in earlier manuals, including the need for more rigorous questions - ad status – relating to the profession of each penitent and where this might lead to sin. Angelo however diverged from some earlier authorities by warning about excessive rigour. Circumstances were to be taken into account, and where possible penitents to be given the benefit of the doubt. The number of copies of Angelo's Summa printed throughout Western Christendom during his lifetime and following his death are a tribute to its importance. The period of fame however, was short. Martin Luther was a particularly virulent critic of the Summa, and the Catholic Church changed the method of hearing confessions, making much of it redundant, though it survived for some centuries more as a work of reference for confessors.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2023-10-29
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 29th October 2023
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