chapter  4
16 Pages

Sacred Outlaws

Outlawry and the Medieval Church
ByCandace Gregory-Abbott

This chapter examines two meeting points between outlawry and the sacred. It examines criminous clerks and addresses the question of what happened when sacred men became outlaws. Secondly, it includes a concise study of how the church offered a last chance of succour to outlaws and criminals, lay and clerical, through benefit of clergy and sanctuary. The Coterel gang and its associated criminous clergy are certainly among the most notorious examples of clerical injustice from the middle Ages. On 2 August 1328 several members of the Coterel gang, including James, John, and Nicholas Coterel, attacked the vicar of Bakewell, Walter Can, in the church and stole ten shillings from the offerings. Robert Bernard, who most likely was in the custody of the archbishop, was no longer with the Coterel gang and was thus exempt from the declaration of outlawry. Sanctuary was thus another instance of the intersection of the sacred with outlawry.