The Fourth Lateran Council and Preaching
to the Laity
The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) was called by Pope Innocent III to enact a sweeping program for reform, which was developed in the circle of Peter the Chanter at Paris, and to educate and enlist preachers to advocate those reforms to lay audiences as they preached against sin in various forms, including heresy and usury. Reformers dictated that preachers should teach the laity through sermons and show them how to avoid sin by living virtuously themselves. To educate and aid preachers in their efforts, reformers created numerous pragmatic tools for preaching such as handbooks and confessors’ manuals. Preachers also relied on standard works such as Peter Lombard’s Sentences, a theological reference work, and Peter Comestor’s Historia Scholastica, an account of biblical history from Genesis through the Ascension of Christ. MS Lat 226 is a Latin version of Comestor’s work, which was also translated into the vernacular; Houghton MS Ger 184 is a fifteenth-century manuscript with a German translation of the Historia Scholastica.