Brethren of the Free Spirit

Brethren of the Free Spirit

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The Brothers, or Brethren of the Free Spirit, was a lay Christian movement which flourished in northern Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries.Antinomian and individualist in outlook, it came into conflict with the Catholic Church and was declared heretical by Pope Clement V at the Council of Vienne (1311–12). They are often considered similar to the Amalricans. They flourished at a time of great trauma in Western Europe during the conflict between the decadent Avignon Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperor, the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Death, the rise of the Cathar heresy and the subsequent Crusade against them, the beginnings of the Inquisition, the fall of the Templars and the internal strife of the Church — all of which helped fuel the appeal of their individualistic and millenarian approach to Christianity and Scripture.

In this time of crisis within the Church and society as a whole there was a strong sense that the end of the world was coming and so the issue of Man’s spirituality and salvation became more and more important. Where people ceased to find the spiritual answers they sought from Rome, dissident movements like the Brethren sprang up all across Europe preaching an alternative view of Christianity. They fell foul of the Church and were persecuted as heretics by the temporal and spiritual authorities of the time