Skip main navigation

What is apostasy?

Apostasy is the term for when monks and nuns leave their religious houses without permission. Watch Dr Sethina Watson explain more.

When a monk or a nun left their religious house without explicit permission, this was called ‘apostasy’.

In this video, Dr Sethina Watson explains how the laws of the medieval Church condemned apostasy, the serious consequences for apostates, and some of the reasons why nuns chose to risk those consequences by leaving their nunneries.

Over to you

If you were in the position of a nun in late medieval York, would you choose to stay in your nunnery or take the risk of being an apostate, and why?

Please share your comments with colleagues using the Comment function

This article is from the free online

Discover the Hidden History of York

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education