1300 - 1400 AD

from a perspective of women in the Church



before Christ
0-100 AD

The Church was affected by great turmoil during this period.

In 1309 Pope Clement V moved the papacy and his residence to Avignon. This brought him under the influence of the French king which was resented by many in the church. In 1377 Pope Gregory IX returned the papacy to Rome urged, among others, by St Catherine of Siena.

However when Gregory died, the French-dominated college of cardinals first chose an Italian candidate as head of the church: Pope Urban VI. But when he upset the cardinals, they declared him deposed, and elected a Frenchman: Clement VII. Clement VII again set up his papal court in Avignon, while Urban continued holding court in Rome. England, Scandinavia, Germany, and northern Italy supported the Roman Pope. France, Scotland, Naples, Sicily, and the kingdoms in Spain supported the French Pope. This schism remained unresolved until a truce in 1409 and reunion in 1417.

In 1347 the Plague began to ravage Europe. An estimated 20% - 40% of the population is thought to have perished within the first year alone. The Black Death brought out the worst and the best in Christians. In France and Germany many Jews were held responsible for the outbreak of the epidemic. Many were tortured and killed. In Italy Bernardo Tolomei, founder of the Benedictine Congregation of Santa Maria di Monte Oliveto, died along with 82 of his monks after leaving the safety of his monastery to tend to plague victims in Siena.

The work of carting off the dead bodies and burying them was highly dangerous. In some towns, when no men could be found, women were forced to undertake the job.



Medieval theologians who wrote on ‘women priests’:

Many of the church lawyers and theologians of this time were second-rate. Few were original thinkers. They mostly confirmed the opinions of theologians who lived in the previous century.

He wrote on “why women cannnot be ordained”
He said women were excluded from holy orders because Paul forbade them to teach in church
Dominican theologian. He claimed that a state of subjugation becomes women.
c. 1275-1357
Wrote that women could not be ordained using arguments from St.Paul and with reference to Deborah.
born 1290?
A Franciscan who maintained women were excluded 'through a divine decree'
He arged that: “the female sex cannot signify pre-eminence” and were therefore not qualified for ordination
died 1347
He follows Scotus in his arguments against holy orders for women.


The theme of Mary’s priestly dignity
1300 - 1400

The tradition of venerating Mary as the prototype of Christian priesthood continued. Its main exponent during this period was the saintly Franciscan Ubertinus de Casalis.

ca 1330
He wrote that “the Virgin was, after Jesus Christ, the greatest of all priests”


Women's Emancipation 1300 - 1400

In spite of the extremely challenging circumstances, some women managed to make an impact on the society of their time.

Jacoba was a skilled midwife and healer practising in Paris


She attempted to control prostitution.


She was crowned “King”- an affirmation that she was sovereign in her own right.


1347 - 1380
She felt she had a vocation to the priesthood as is clear from her writings. In 1970 she was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church. She is the patron saint of Italy.


14th cent
Prioress who featured in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales


The star rating indicates the importance
for the advance of women



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

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