14th Century Oxford Theology Online

project director Stephen E. Lahey

A Brief Introduction to the Online Edition of Richard FitzRalph's
De Pauperie Salvatoris Books I-VII

Richard FitzRalph, Archbishop of Armagh from 1348 to 1360, was one of the most preeminent theologians and churchmen of the fourteenth century. Sadly, only those who study later medieval thought remember his contributions to theology and his reputation as an ardent supporter of orthodoxy. FitzRalph was very prominent in the mid-fourteenth century papal court at Avignon and influential in several controversies of the day. The last of these controversies surrounded the privileges of the mendicant orders and resulted in FitzRalph's final work, De pauperie Salvatoris, which espoused a theory of grace and dominion. To date there has been no complete published version of De pauperie. The first four books of this work were added as an appendix to the Wyclif Society's 1890 edition of Wyclif's De Dominio Divino because R. L. Poole, the editor, following the then-common scholarly opinion that Wyclif's thought regarding dominion was heavily reliant on FitzRalph, perceived a strong connection between the two works. The subsequent three books were then edited by Richard Brock in a 1954 unpublished dissertation for the University of Colorado. Neither of these editors appears to be aware that, in fact, there existed an eighth book of the work that was completed after its initial release in Oxford. Consequently, this final book can only be found in manuscript form. What follows is a brief introduction to a compilation of the Poole and Brock editions that have been rendered into a searchable form that will be accessible online in accordance with the Wyclif Online Project. This introduction will give a brief summary of the life of Richard FitzRalph and his involvement with the papal court, an overview of the structure and argumentation of DPS, a description of the work undertaken in forming the present edition, and finally a description of the work that yet remains.

Little is known about the life of Richard FitzRalph before his activities at Oxford in 1325 when he was cited as a fellow of Balliol Hall; however, it is certain that he was from an Irish family of some standing 1 . By 1332, he had risen to the position of Chancellor of the University; his turbulent tenure would last only two years and witness the Stamford Schism in which a group of masters and students broke with Oxford and established a headquarters at Stamford 2 . This difficulty would be the impetus for FitzRalph's first journey to Avignon, which would thrust him into prominence 3 . At this time, Avignon was embroiled in the debate over the beatific vision instigated by Pope John XXII's denial of the doctrine as unscriptural. This debate centered on whether the believer would see God face to face after death or only after the final judgment. FitzRalph, like all theologians present at the curia, was ordered to give his opinion regarding the matter 4 . In response, he delivered several sermons refuting the view of John XXII, which greatly enhanced his position after the pope's death in 1334. This allowed him to gain the favor of the new pope, Benedict XII, by whom he was appointed the dean of Lichfield Cathedral. Shortly after this, he would be engaged in another controversy surrounding relations with the Armenian Church. Out of this came his Summa de quaestionibus Armenorum, which details the disagreements between the two churches. This work would continue to have great significance in the coming centuries, both for its discussion of the Eastern Church and its exclusive use of Scripture for argumentation, since this was the only authority both sides accepted. This work, which also has yet to be fully edited, is also foundational to the theory of grace-based lordship that would be expounded upon in De pauperie Salvatoris 5 .

Further showing his favor before the papacy, Clement VI on July 31, 1346, named FitzRalph to the Archbishopric of Armagh in his native Ireland. He assumed this position in April of 1348. Although he was renowned for great preaching ability and care of his flock, the draw of the curia was great. During his tenure as Archbishop, he spent nearly half of it at Avignon. It was after this elevation that he began his campaign against the mendicant orders 6 . These orders, the Augustinians, the Dominicans, the Carmelites, and the Franciscans, were founded in the early to mid 13th century upon the principle of apostolic poverty, typified in the "preaching journey" in Luke 9:1-6 7 . This belief led to uneasiness regarding the mendicants among the secular clergy, who objected to their privileges outside of the traditional church structure, such as hearing confession and performing burials, and some who felt that apostolic poverty indicted the ownership of property by the institutional church. One of the reasons for FitzRalph's campaign was the interaction in his archbishopric with the friars, whom he thought to be acting improperly outside the traditional structure of the church. This increased opposition to the mendicant orders culminated in 1356 when FitzRalph arrived in Oxford with his work De pauperie Salvatoris, which he began while in Avignon and completed in Armagh. In addition to this, he delivered a series of six sermons indicting the friars' observance of the doctrine of apostolic poverty and the misuses of mendicant power within the church. These sermons caused a sharp reply from the four mendicant orders, who took the case before King Edward III. The king ordered that FitzRalph remain in England in an attempt to prevent the issue being brought before the pope; however, this attempt failed and the archbishop arrived in Avignon with a continued fervor against his adversary. Here he completed the eighth book of De pauperie, in which he attempted to clarify his arguments and answer the objections that had been raised, but the proceedings seemed to die alongside him in November of 1360 8 .

We now turn to De pauperie Salvatoris itself to examine its historical context, structure/argument, and legacy. FitzRalph is by no means the first to raise a voice against the claims of apostolic poverty by the mendicant orders, particularly the Franciscans. Shortly after the legitimization of the orders, the idea came under criticism. In response to this attack, Bonaventure of the Franciscans wrote in defense of apostolic poverty in his work Apologia pauperum in 1269. He asserted that in Scripture Christ gave a "double profession" of poverty. On the one hand, he rejected property such as the command of Christ prior to the "preaching journey," but on the other he and the apostles carried a common purse. Bonaventure took this to mean that for those seeking a life as apostles, vita apostolica, all personal property should be rejected while the purse represented a concession that the institutional church could rightly own property. This formulation was widely accepted and officially endorsed by Nicholas III in 1279 9 .

The "double profession" of Bonaventure was accepted for many years, but as the fourteenth century dawned, Giles of Rome, the archbishop of Bourges, rose in opposition. Giles rejected the idea of the "double profession" completely, claiming that it belonged to the developmental stage of the church when it was poor and persecuted. He also introduced the term lordship, dominium, which covered all forms of authority whether over use or possession. This term would be very prominent in the work of FitzRalph 10 .

Perhaps the most prominent opponent of apostolic poverty was Pope John XXII. His papal bull in November 1323, Cum inter Nonnullos, condemned the extreme view of apostolic poverty held by the Spiritual Franciscans that Christ and his disciples owned nothing privately or communally under civil law 11 . The Friar General, Michael of Cesna and others, including most notably William of Ockham, quickly opposed this edict. This dispute would even lead to a minor schism, when the Holy Roman Emperor, Lewis of Bavaria, declared John a heretic and appointed an anti-pope. Like many of the conflicts surrounding this issue, it died away as the major proponents of the opposing views passed away. After this, FitzRalph's interest in the subject arose from his time in Avignon and the bequest of Pope Clement VI to begin an inquest into the seemingly contradictory bulls of Nicholas III and John XXII in 1350. While, this inquiry came to naught, it appears to have incited his interest in the subject and led to De pauperie 12 .

Unlike his predecessors, Giles and John XXII, FitzRalph departed from the traditional arguments raised against the friars. Instead of arguing against the correctness of apostolic poverty, he attacked the consistency of Franciscans' claim to have no ownership while retaining just use of their property and goods. He asserted the arrangement created by Nicholas III, that the Franciscan property was in fact owned by the papacy, was in contradiction to their vow of poverty. Upon this ground, FitzRalph demanded that the friars' claims to the rights to hear confession and other privileges, which were traditionally the privy of the secular clergy, should be revoked.

De pauperie consists of a total of eight books, the first seven of which were completed by 1356. Book VIII was completed in Oxford and Avignon in response to the arguments raised against the work. Of the first seven, Books I-V deal with the more abstract issues of defining terminology and setting up the argument against the mendicants. Then, Books VI and VII treat the mendicant issue, as well as the bulls of Nicholas III and John XXII. FitzRalph begins in the first book of the work to define the terms of the argument, such as "lordship", "property", "possession", and the "right of using." He asserts that "lordship," dominium, is above all of these. He establishes this by expounding upon divine lordship and its pervasiveness over all of creation. FitzRalph then goes on to claim that man only has lordship through the grace of the Almighty, and that in allotting man a form of lordship he in no way diminishes His own 13 .

In Book II, he discusses the pre-lapsarian or original lordship of man. He points to Adam receiving lordship in Eden from the Lord as his privilege as an image-bearer of God. After Adam sinned, this original lordship passed away and only after his repentance was it returned in an enervated form. FitzRalph speculates that if man were to have remained in the state of innocence, each person would have retained an equal amount of original lordship, although some men still would be preeminent over others. After the Fall, this is no longer the case, since lordship is now tied to righteousness, and civil authority and property are a result of man's fallen state 14 .

Then in Book III, he moves on to discuss the relationship of original lordship to possession and use. He states that possession is a visible sign of lordship and that in the state of purity man had righteous possession of all things. Property is a result of the current imperfect nature and its existence is caused by man's iniquity, so, as with lordship, possession is only achieved through grace and is lost through sin. Use is the "fruit and end" of lordship and is more desirable than lordship itself. Yet, this use is to be only the reasonable employment of a thing and anything beyond this is, in fact, abuse. Charity is then extolled as the highest use of lordship, and a general attitude for communal use of things, although giving of a thing under original lordship does not relinquish one's lordship, as with God and man. Then the question is raised as to the need for civil authority, and affirmed as only a way to maintain worldly property among a wicked people 15 .

As he moves into Book IV, he characterizes post-lapsarian property as merely an accident of this exercise of civil authority that limits the use of a thing to a particular person. This theme of the circumstantial nature of civil lordship continues with the example of primogeniture. He states that although by civil law the eldest son will "rightly" obtain the lordship of the property, this is merely nominal owing to the nature of grace-based lordship. The corollary of this is that a man in mortal sin not only loses original lordship by also his civil lordship. FitzRalph acknowledges that his scheme seems inconsistent with the way civil lordship is exercised. He responds that although civil lordship can be nominally passed in the eyes of the governing authorities, this has no true effect on actual lordship, either original or civil, because lordship is only gained through grace. The act of giving in regard to civil lordship is then placed in contrast with its manner in regard to original lordship. One does not retain any claim to a thing given under civil lordship, but under the governing authority, the fullness of that thing is passed to the recipient. From this, he addresses property and the right of use under civil lordship. In this case, property is defined as that over which one has civil lordship; however, this is limited in a sense by feudal responsibilities. For instance, the higher lord does not have possession of the vassal's property, merely his oath of subjection or fealty. Then begins the treatment of use, which in itself has no direct need for a user's lordship such as a servant's use of his master's goods 16 .

Book V is an exposition on how man, God, and angels are considered to have wealth. FitzRalph defines one as being rich if he possesses resources justly and has just use over those resources. This is to show the interrelation between possession and just use. He then goes on to distinguish between three kinds of common lordship: predicative, contentive, and subjective. The original lordship of Adam and Eve is predicative, as is all man's right to the earth, sea, and air; however, after the fall and with the coming of civil dominion this is not enough to make one wealthy. Contentive lordship is that which a king or other civil authority possesses, and is tied to the right to make use of subjects' possessions. Subjective lordship is what one has over a single thing, such as with property. The poor man is then defined as one with few resources, and the question is posed whether God would indeed be poor if Creation was destroyed. FitzRalph claims that if there were not matter that wealth itself would be irrelevant, so the destruction of creation would leave God neither rich nor poor. The next concern is the wealth of angels, which lack corporal dominion and therefore any claim to material resources. Nevertheless, riches are not merely material; there exist spiritual riches, so angels in a state of grace would possess these and, therefore, be rich. The book ends with a discussion of the lordship of Christ. FitzRalph concludes that as a result of the Incarnation Christ forwent his divine lordship to be subjected to the civil authority and lordship of men, but regained his rights as God after his resurrection 17 .

Thus far in the work, FitzRalph has not directly addressed the mendicant orders and their understanding of poverty. In Book VI, he begins to define more thoroughly poverty and apply that definition to the friars, the Church, and Christ and his disciples. He begins by distinguishing two broad forms of poverty: the lack of means and resources, and relative lack of wealth. This distinction is further extrapolated to two types of voluntary poverty, one in which all goods are senselessly refused and the other a reasonable and relative lack of wealth which is holy and just. FitzRalph condemns the first of these because it does not allow one to prepare for future needs, which is essential for ministry, and seems to challenge the Church's right to do so. From here, he enumerates various levels of holy poverty from the first where all civil lordship and personal property is retained to the strictest level in which all civil lordship and property is forsaken. It is affirmed that Christ himself lacked any civil lordship because it was superfluous for him and that he only partook of what was held in common, to which he had the right of use by original lordship; however, this observance of poverty is not a virtue in itself but merely a means to virtue. FitzRalph states that the Franciscans, in their emulation of Christ, must also reject any civil lordship, which was attempted through Nicolas III when he declared all Franciscan property as the possession of the papacy. FitzRalph sees this as the main argument against the Franciscans' practice of poverty: that while they claim to hold no civil property, this was, in fact, only a forced fiction and John XXII was correct to reject the papal possession of the order's property. The papacy itself is not condemned for this possession because it is in the spirit of charity and property in general is allowed for the institutional Church as a means to fulfill the needs of ministry 18 .

In Book VII, FitzRalph attempts to show the relations between the papal decrees of Nicholas III and John XXII regarding apostolic poverty. Throughout this book, FitzRalph works to bring the seemingly contradictory edicts of the two popes into as close agreement as possible while maintaining that the friars, and particularly the Franciscans, were not in the spirit of the poverty practiced by Christ and his disciples or even their own claims. He asserts that when the Franciscans agreed to have their property come under the care of the papacy they contradicted their vow of poverty because instead of actually rejecting their worldly goods and relying on alms and offerings they sought exemption through a specious arrangement. As a result of this breach, the Archbishop calls for the complete revocation of the friars' privileges to hear confession and to bury congregants in their cemeteries because the income from these activities violate their vow as well. Overall, in Book VII there are nine ostensible contradictions raised between Nicholas and John, however, FitzRalph is able to explain them all away using his terminology. Nicholas spoke of Christ and the disciples having no civil lordship but implied that their original lordship was intact. John, when condemning the idea of apostolic poverty, was referencing a conception that denied this original lordship, and therefore through the understanding of original lordship these two views are compatible with one another. Then, in the last chapter of Book VII, FitzRalph summarizes the treatise. He states that lordship is fully dependent upon the grace of God and that civil lordship and property are products of the sinful state of man. During the Incarnation, Christ forfeited His state of grace, including his divine lordship, in order to live a perfect human life, however, this state of grace was regained after his Resurrection. Christ lived a life of true poverty and commanded that his followers do the same, as is fitting for their work in ministry and to provide for basic needs. FitzRalph ends this book declaring that his work was not done for any gain or malice but for the praise of God 19 .

The work was originally intended to consist of only seven books, as can be seen from the prologue in which FitzRalph references his "seven books" and also from comments made in the sermons delivered in Oxford in the summer of 1356. In response to the criticism aimed at the original seven books an eighth book was written; however, this book has had very little scholarly attention owing to its scarcity and is still only to be found in three known manuscripts 20 .

When De pauperie was first presented, it ignited fierce debate in Oxford between the mendicants and the secular clergy, after the death of the archbishop the work largely went by the wayside, but its legacy continued. The theory of grace-based dominion would be reexamined by John Wyclif, the more controversial fourteenth century thinker. Wyclif, while being influenced by the thought of FitzRalph, develops this thought along very different lines, aiming not to strengthen the position of the institutional Church but to return the church to a purer apostolic state and weaken the power of the papacy. Current research seems to indicate that the ironclad connection between Wyclif's De Dominio Divino and De pauperie that was asserted in the early work on Wyclif is, in reality, much more general 21 .

This edition of De pauperie was created in accordance with the Wyclif Online Project because of the influence of FitzRalph upon the political thought of Wyclif. The first four books were taken from the appendix to Wyclif's De Dominio Divino edited by Reginald Poole in 1890 for the Wyclif Society. In editing these, Poole used two manuscripts: Bodleian manuscript Auct. F infra I. 2. and Merton College manuscript 113. The Bodleian manuscript, B, is the work of several different scribes and is dated to the late fourteenth century. The Merton manuscript, M, which was owned by Iohannes Ryseborw, fellow of Merton in 1360, seems to also be from the late fourteenth century. The main text of Books I-IV is from B; when the reading of M is used, B is footnoted. Nevertheless, Poole states in the introduction that this edition is not a complete record of the differences in the manuscripts 22 .

For Books V-VII, the unpublished dissertation of Richard Brock entitled, "An Edition of Richard FitzRalph's "De Pauperie Salvatoris" Books V, VI, and VII" was used. This was written in 1954, as part of Brock's PhD of History from the University of Colorado. The Brock edition is comprised of four manuscripts. The first two of these are the same as those used for the Poole edition, Merton College 113 and Bodleian Auct. F infra I. 2, labeled in Books V-VII as A and B, respectively. The manuscript labeled C is the Bibl. Nat. Lat. 15373, which is a late fourteenth century manuscript from the Sorbonne. The final manuscript used is Corpus Christi College MS 180, D. MS 180 is dated to ca. 1375 and was originally penned for the Cardinal of St. Cecilia and Dean of York, Adam Easton. 23

In accordance with the Wyclif Online Project, this online edition of De pauperie Salvatoris was created from these previous editions in an attempt to make this work accessible in a searchable form to scholars around the world. The first step in developing this was to use a document camera and photograph each individual page, which was done with great assistance from the UNL Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. The next step in the process was to use text-rendering software to convert the images into text files. This software was very useful; however, it lacked the ability to account for the footnotes in the Brock edition, which required that each page of Books V-VII required reformatting. In addition, The Poole Edition, because of its early compilation, had only notes in the margins, which had to be converted to footnotes. After this, the footnotes were added back into the work. Then the final step was to methodically proofread the work to ensure that no mistakes were made.

This online edition of De pauperie Salvatoris is merely a step towards the end of creating an authoritative edition of the work. In order to accomplish this, the next step would be to transcribe and edit Book VIII, which can be found in Corpus Christi College MS 180 (a microfilm of which is in UNL's Love Library), Bibl. Nat. lat. 3222, Paris, and MS Magdeburg, Domgymnasium 47, Deutsche Staatsbibliothek Berlin 24 . Although this edition is a beginning step, there remains much work to be done on the thought of Richard FitzRalph.


Brock, Richard. "An Edition of Richard Fitzralph's "De Pauperie Salvatoris" Books V, VI, and VII," (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Colorado, 1954)

Dawson, James Doyne. "Richard Fitzralph and the Fourteenth Century Poverty Controversies," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 34.3 (1983)

Lahey, Stephen. Philosophy and Politics in the Thought of John Wyclif, (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Poole, Reginald. Iohannis Wycliffe De Dominio Divino Libri Tres, (Truber & Co, London, 1890)

Walsh, Katherine. A Fourteenth Century Scholar and Primate: Richard Fitzralph of Oxford, Avignon and Armagh, (Oxford University Press, 1981)

Walsh, Katherine. 'Fitzralph , Richard (b. before 1300, d. 1360)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004) [http://0www.oxforddnb.com.library.unl.edu:80/view/article/9627, accessed 5 March 2008]


1 Katherine Walsh, A Fourteenth Century Scholar and Primate: Richard Fitzralph of Oxford, Avignon and Armagh (Oxford, 1981) 1–3. [back]

2 Walsh, 71–72 [back]

3 Walsh, 65–84 [back]

4 Walsh, 95 [back]

5 Katherine Walsh, 'Fitzralph , Richard (b. before 1300, d. 1360)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://0www.oxforddnb.com.library.unl.edu:80/view/article/9627, accessed 5 March 2008] [back]

6 Walsh, ODNB [back]

7 James Doyne Dawson, "Richard Fitzralph and the Fourteenth Century Poverty Controversies," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 34.3 (1983), 320 [back]

8 Walsh, ODNB [back]

9 Dawson, 316–318 [back]

10 Dawson, 322–324 [back]

11 Dawson, 326 [back]

12 Dawson, 324–329 [back]

13 Reginald Poole, Iohannis Wycliffe De Dominio Divino Libri Tres (London, 1890) xxxvii–xxxix. [back]

14 Poole, xxxix–xl. [back]

15 Poole, xl–xlii. [back]

16 Poole, xlii–xlvi. [back]

17 Richard Brock, "An Edition of Richard Fitzralph's "De Pauperie Salvatoris" Books V, VI, and VII," (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Colorado, 1954) lvii–lxi. [back]

18 Brock, lxi–lxxiii. [back]

19 Brock, lxxiv–lxxxii. [back]

20 Walsh, 389–390 [back]

21 Stephen Lahey, Philosophy and Politics in the Thought of John Wyclif, (Cambridge, 2003) 49–51. [back]

22 Poole, 259–264 [back]

23 Brock, xxxix–xlv. [back]

24 Walsh, 472 [back]