At the forthcoming International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo (10-13 May 2018) the Presbyters in the Late Antique West project is organising a session on the role of the lower and middle clergy in the ecclesiastical and social life of the late antique West. In spite of the continuous development of studies on the religious history of Late Antiquity, the research on the development and function of clergy seems surprisingly underdeveloped and the scholarly interest in this group has been hitherto focused mostly on bishops (Rapp 2005). This, of course, is understandable. The impact of bishops on ecclesiastical politics, doctrine, and Christian literature was more important than that of the lower echelons of the clergy. Moreover, bishops are much better represented in the evidence. But by the end of the 7th century in several parts of Christendom, the bishop had become a rather distant figure and most people could have been in day-to-day contact only with presbyters, deacons, and lower clerics, who were the rank and file of the Church hierarchy. A trail of research on these people has been already blazed by scholars focusing on specific regions of the Christian world (Wipszycka 1972 and 1996, Rebillard/Sotinel 1998, Godding 2001, Hübner 2005, Patzold/van Rhijn 2016). A number of questions, however, remain unanswered or even unasked. Thus far, we can say very little with a sufficient degree of certainty on the position of clerics in the local community, their social background, property and sources of income, their lodgings, professional (and non-ecclesiastical) activities, the connections between them and the rest of society and the barriers which set them apart from other people. Even their functions in liturgy remain obscure. The estimations of their number are largely intuitive, and their role is often judged on the basis of well-known, but fairly untypical examples.
This session will seek to answer questions concerning the role and activity of clerics in four areas: ecclesiastical, social, economic, and in the field of mentality. We welcome papers dealing with any of the aspects named above in a broad geographical perspective covering all the regions of late antique Christendom in the period until the year 700.
Those interested in presenting paper at this session are requested to send title and short abstract (100 words) to Robert Wiśniewski (firstname.lastname@example.org) before 15 September. Please note that the project, sadly, cannot cover conference fee and travel expenses.
At the forthcoming Medieval Congress in Leeds (2-5 July 2018) the team of the ‘Presbyters in the Late Antique West’ Project, based at the University of Warsaw, together with Lisa Bailey of the University of Auckland, organizes a strand on the everyday life of clergy. We would like to have a glimpse of what was happening inside the houses of the clerics, especially in the period when they were still running large family households.
This session will seek to answer the following questions:
- What was the legal status of the wives and children of clerics, both from the ecclesiastical and civil point of view?
- What was the position of the servants and slaves in the households of clerics?
- How did the relations with their familiars and neighbours influence the opinions and preaching of the clerics?
- What do archaeology and epigraphy tell us about the living conditions of the clergy in the first millennium?
Those interested in presenting papers on such and similar topics are requested to send the title and a short abstract (ca 100 words) to Stanisław Adamiak (email@example.com) and Lisa Bailey (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 20 September 2017. Please note that unfortunately the project is unable to fund speakers’ expenses.
This year’s International Medieval Congress in Leeds came to an end. The Presbyters Project hosted two sessions that drew a considerable audience. In the first session, David Hunter presented a paper on the clerical profits in the writings of Ambrosiaster which was followed by David Natal’s paper on the Church and private property in Ambrose of Milan. This discussion on the fourth-century Italy was counterpointed by a paper by Marta Szada on the economic status of the local clergy in the seventh-century Spain.
David Natal presenting his paper. In the audience (from left) David Hunter, Robert Wiśniewski and Bertrand Lançon.
In the second session, Isabelle Mossong gave a survey of epigraphical evidence from Italy that could serve to define more precisely the economic role of presbyters, Claire Sotinel presented the material provided by the papal correspondence, and eventually, the P.I. of the Presbyters Project, Robert Wiśniewski delivered a paper on the payments received by clerics for ritual expertise. To our delight, in both sessions, the papers were followed by vivid discussions, especially that the papers probably offered more questions than answers. Hopefully, soon our database will help scholars in all over the world to answer those (and many others) questions about the presbyters in Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages.
This year again the project “Presbyters in the Late Antique West” will be present at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds. We are organizing two sessions on 5 July about income and property of clerics in Late Antiquity.
The schedule of the sessions:
Income and Property of Clerics in Late Antiquity I, 5 July 2017, 09.00-10.30, Social Sciences Building, Room 10.05
- Ambrosiaster and the Problem of Clerical Profit
- David Hunter, Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures and Cultures, University of Kentucky
- Church and Private Property in Ambrose of Milan (d. 397)
- David Natal Villazala, Departamento de Prehistoria, Historia Antigua y Arqueología, Universidad de Salamanca
- The Workman Is Worthy of His Meat?: Economic Status of the Local Clergy in 7th-Century Spain
- Marta Szada, Instytut Historyczny, Uniwersytet Warszawski
Income and Property of Clerics in Late Antiquity II, 5 July 2017, 11.15–12.45, Social Sciences Building, Room 10.05
- Income and Property of Late Antique Clergy: Epigraphical Realities
- Isabelle Mossong, Kommission für Alte Geschichte und Epigraphik, Deutsches Archäologisches InsKtut, München
- Financial Issues Concerning Presbyters in Papal Correspondence
- Claire Sotinel, Centre de recherche en histoire européenne comparée (CRHEC), Université Paris-Est Créteil Val de Marne
- Not a Grand Scandal, but Little Embarrassment: Paying Clerics for Ritual Expertise in Late Antiquity
- Robert Wiśniewski, Instytut Historyczny, Uniwersytet Warszawski
Here the schedule in PDF: Income_Plaw
On 25 May, at the late antique seminar in Warsaw, Bryan Ward-Perkins was talking on the levels of cult and of sanctity as revealed by the Cult of Saints Project. He also announced the official launch of the Cult of Saints database, which will take place on 1 November 2018 (All Saints Day!). He apparently liked our strawberries.
Stanisław Adamiak will talk on 18th May at the After Rome Seminar in Trinity College in Oxford about the Donatists: who was actually rebaptised by them, and why?
On 12 May Robert Wiśniewski presented the project at the yearly meeting of the society Textes pour l’histoire de l’Antiquité Tardive in Paris. He also delivered a paper La construction de l’autorité presbytérale. Robert argued that the presbyters had a very limited access to the means of persuasion and their authority resulted rather from their reputation of religious experts. This in turn was based not so much on their alleged sanctity or moral superiority as on the growing conviction that they differed from the rest of the society in all aspects of their life.