- Followers of the 14th-century English theologian and heretic John Wyclif. After Wyclif's death in 1384, the English ecclesiastical courts forced most of his university followers to recant their heretical doctrines, and during the reign of Henry IV, a Parliamentary statute made heresy a capital offense. Ownership of an unauthorized copy of the Bible in English came to be regarded as prima facie evidence of heresy. The Lollards' educated leadership had been destroyed or silenced by the 1420s, but the movement survived as a clandestine sect of simple, pious people, many of them artisans and small merchants. What held the underground groups together was mainly rejection of the authority of the official clergy and insistence on laymen's free access to the Bible in English translations made by Wyclif's early followers.Lollardy was a phenomenon of the later Middle Ages and had no connection with Renaissance culture. But clusters of Lollards survived, sometimes in significant numbers, in various parts of England, and there were still Lollards in England in the early 16th century. An issue debated among historians of the early English Reformation is whether Lollard beliefs contributed to the spread of Lutheranism and prepared the way for the official Reformation begun by Henry VIII in the 1530s.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.