1200 - 1300 AD

from a perspective of women in the Church



before Christ
0-100 AD


During this period the Pope assumed unprecedented political and spiritual power over the Christian States of Europe. This sowed the seeds of the abuse of authority by papal administrations in later years.

The main architect of this was Pope Innocent III (1198 - 1216). He was an energetic man who believed in drastic action. He excommunicated King John of England for meddling with church property. He also excommunicated the Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV in Germany for disobeying his demands.

Pope Innocent eliminated the Manichean heretics in the Papal States and then turned his eyes towards France where the Albigenses were growing in numbers and strength. Innocent called for a crusade against them in 1208 and sent Simon of Montfort to lead a campaign to eliminate the Albigenses heresy and restore Southern France to Catholic control. This lead to the formal legitimization of the Inquisition in 1233 for use against suspected heresy in Europe.

Pope Innocent III called the Fourth Lateran Council, one of the most important events in Church history, with 71 statements of doctrine ratified. For the first time in church history, yearly confession was required of all Christians, and transubstantiation became an official part of Catholic doctrine. The Council passed a series of controversial laws, such as requiring Jews to wear distinguishing clothing and forbidding them from holding political office over Christians.

Eleanor was Duchess of Aquitaine in France


Medieval theologians who wrote on ‘women priests’:

During this century the Scholastic theologians nailed the coffin of the ordination of women by inventing 'plausible' reasons to explain the exclusion of women from holy orders, which they took for granted.

Wrote Apparatus ad Decreta in 1215 AD. This became one of the most important books, after the code of Gratian, almost like an official juridical source in the Church.
Thomas Aquinas was the most influential theologian in the Middle Ages. Most later theologians copied their arguments from him. In Thomas’ time women were excluded from the ordained ministries. Thomas had to find justification for this as a theologian. The main reason, he decided, was woman’s inferior nature.
He wrote "About those who can take up orders"

A theologian, he wrote “....a woman is incapable of receiving orders
He wrote on:
Why women cannot be ordained priests
Women cannot hold male responsibilities
Eighteen reasons why women are worse off than men
Arguments against the ordination of women can be found in his Super Quarto Sententiarum
writing in
late 1250s
A Dominican lector, he argued against the ordination of women.
Advanced arguments against women acting in various capacities
He wrote on why women cannnot be ordained.
Author of the Rosarium Super Decreto, written between 1296 and 1300 AD containing references to women

Women's Emancipation 1200 - 1300

During this time some significant changes were entered into civil codes that protected some women from perceived injustices. Among the rules enshrined in the Magna Carta (see detail on the left) specifically protect the rights of women. This was a new departure.

Some women began to assume leading roles in their own spheres. They were forerunners of what was to come.

Widows no longer to be treated as chattels of the King


Formalised the status of widows, especially in regard to dowries


c. 1210-1282
First German woman to write about spiritual matters in her native language


c. 1205-1282
She founded a hospital and two convents


1248 – 1309
Mystic, writer and founder of an Order for women


The star rating indicates the importance
for the advance of women


This website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

See our Documented Appeal to Pope Francis to Request the Re-instatement of the Ordained Diaconate for Women.

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

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