Reginald Pecock

Reginald Pecock (1390?-1460) was an Oxford-trained theologian and author of numerous Middle English religious tracts designed to refute doctrinal error and to foster a faith based on reason and understanding. In 1447, as Bishop of St. Asaph, he excited controversy by preaching a sermon defending bishops (like himself) who do not reside in their sees and who do not much occupy themselves with preaching. The written word, he claimed, was a more effective means of instruction. Though he presented himself as a vigorous defender of orthodoxy against the errors of Wycliffism, in 1457, Pecock, by then Bishop of Chichester, was himself accused of heresy. Forced to abjure his errors, he confessed, among other things, to privileging reason over the authority of Scripture. His books were banned and burned, and he was stripped of his bishopric and relegated to Thorney Abbey in Cambridgeshire. There he spent the balance of his life confined to a single room, with little to read and no means of writing.

Though Capgrave would surely not have approved of Pecoock's views of preaching, an activity he extols in his saints' lives, he shared some of Pecock's other views, including a commitment to an informed and reasoned Christianity. Capgrave demonstrates that commitment most fully in his Life of Saint Katherine, where abstruse doctrines (e.g., adoption, the Trinity) are expounded and established through reason.

Further Reading

Pecock's Writings

Selected Scholarship