Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Larry J. Simon

Second Advisor

Dr. Robert F. Berkhofer

Third Advisor

Dr. Kevin J. Wanner


Pope Innocent III, almsgiving, preaching, lay spirituality, manuscripts

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The Libellus de Eleemosyna is a short work by Pope Innocent III on the topic of almsgiving. Historians have used this "little book" to understand better Innocent‘s thoughts on the virtue. I have discovered, however, that the Libellus was not originally a "little book", but rather a sermon. In this thesis I attempt to describe and understand the Libellus not as a "libellus" but as the preached sermon: Date Eleemosynam. No other historian has approached the Libellus this way. In the first chapter I examine the previous short studies done on the Libellus, how contemporaries viewed Innocent as a preacher, what he thought of the role, and how preaching as a social and religious phenomena evolved in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. In the second chapter I analyze and describe the sermon itself with the knowledge that the audience was lay. In the third chapter, I examine the manuscript diffusion of Date Eleemosynam and Innocent‘s sermon manuscripts across Europe. I emend Johannes Schneyer‘s Repertorium der Lateinischen Sermones des Mittelalters on several points, and produce an updated number on the manuscript diffusion of Innocent‘s sermons. By arguing that the Libellus should be viewed originally as a sermon, I offer insight into Innocent‘s view of the laity, his propensity for the vita apostolica as later personified by the Franciscans, and make inroads into how clerical culture and education were translated into a lay setting.