Document Type


Publication Date





The death of Bishop Robert Hallum of Salisbury in September 1417 had profound consequences for the outcome of the Council of Constance (1414-18), which for several months had been deadlocked over the issue of whether the council should first enact sweeping reform legislation on its own authority or immediately elect a new pope to heal the schism that had continued for nearly forty years. As the acknowledged leader of the natio Anglicana during this so-called ‘priority conflict’, Hallum had firmly adhered to the ‘reform party’ in this controversy. But after his death the English delegation proposed a compromise that led first to the enactment of several important pieces of reform legislation and then the conclave that would elect Martin V. This compromise solution was apparently announced in Richard Fleming’s eulogy for Hallum, Spiritus erit in gloria, which was first discovered about a century ago by Jean-Marie Vidal. Because the location of Vidal’s manuscript has been unknown until recently, scholars have had access to only a few short excerpts that he published. In proposing a new explanation of the events surrounding Hallum’s death, this essay examines several items of documentary evidence, in particular a passage that was not included in Vidal’s article in which Fleming treats the cardinal virtue Prudencia in exhorting the council to take immediate action because of pressing circumstances. Although the precise nature of this exigency is not clearly stated, there are several points of internal and external evidence which suggest that Fleming and his countrymen were genuinely concerned that an outbreak of disease, probably pneumonic plague, could soon bring the council to a sudden, fruitless conclusion; yet there is also evidence which indicates that they were reluctant to change their position in this dispute and did so only after significant delay.


This article was originally published in Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum, 38(1): 183-198. © 2006 Ferdinand Schöningh. Reproduced with permission.