chapter  2
Ecclesiastical Attitudes to Novelty c. 1100–c. 1250
ByBeryl Smalley
Pages 19

In this chapter, the author begins by quoting examples of attitudes to novelty. She illustrates an attitude to new ideas from a sequence in honour of St Francis of Assisi, ascribed to friar Thomas of Celano, who died soon after 1260. The polemic gives us a birdseye view of changing attitudes to novelty. The anti-mendicant polemic and the friars' defence of themselves in the thirteenth century offers an anticlimax from the point of view of attitudes to novelty, although this pamphlet warfare has many other interesting features. Robert Grosseteste claims that any measure of ecclesiastical discipline which aims at correcting and improving fallen man will be pleasing to God, however novel it may be. His strong language amounts to a provocative rephrasing of the canon law maxim that custom, however old and venerable, must give way to truth, as defined by the church.