You bet they did!
The real question is why did they do it?
Many anti-Catholics today try and skew this chaining of the Bible as a dig against the Church. They use it to promote the revisionist idea that the Catholic Church didn’t want lay persons exposed to the “real teachings” of the Bible – which, of course, is just more bunk.
[Granted, the Church was being totally unreasonable at the time...something about not wanting a bunch of uneducated people misinterpreting scripture out of the context of the entire Deposit of Faith leading to horrible division (read denominationalism) and destroying unity within the Church. I mean, obviously the Church had no idea what it was talking about. Right. But I digress.]
Yes, the Church chained up Bibles, but they did not do it to keep people from reading them. Ironically, it was the exact opposite.
These Bibles were chained up in public, often out in front of the Church. It would be a pretty silly thing to chain up a bible and leave it out in front of the Church if they didn’t want anyone to read it. Wouldn’t you think? It seems that locking it away somewhere in a room or a box would work much better.
When we go to the grocery store checkout stand and pay for our groceries, there is usually a little pen there for everyone to use to write with. Often times this pen is chained to the checkout stand.
Is that because they don’t want anyone to use it? Or is it because they want to make it available for everyone to use?
It was precisely because they wanted everyone to have access to the Bible that they left it out where everyone could read it! But because they wanted it to still be around for everyone to read, they had to chain it to something to keep it from walking off.
Keep in mind, this is largely back before the printing press. Books, particularly the Bible, were very expensive because they were all hand copied. They could cost thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in today’s currency.
Nobody in their right mind would leave something that expensive just sitting around for anyone to take. So the Church did what it could to make it available – and keep it available.