Brethren of the Free Spirit
The Brethren of the Free Spirit, a lay Christian movement, flourished in northern Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries. Antinomian and individualist in their outlook, the Brethren came into conflict with the Catholic Church and Pope Clement V declared them heretical at the Council of Vienne (1311–1312). They were consequently persecuted by the temporal and spiritual authorities of the time.The Brethren flourished at a time of great trauma in Western Europe. This was the time of the conflict between the Avignon Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperor, the Hundred Years' War, the Black Death, the rise of the Cathar heresy and subsequent Crusade against it, the beginnings of the Inquisition, the fall of the Templars, and strife within the Catholic Church. All these elements lent to the appeal of the Brethren's individualistic and millenarian approach to Christianity and the Bible.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 thus Man's spirituality and salvation became more and more important. Wherever people ceased to find in the traditional Church the spiritual answers they sought, dissident movements such as the Brethren sprang up.