The Presbyters on the Late Antique West Project has come to an end.
We have organised a conference, a workshop and over dozen sessions at international congresses in Leeds, Kalamazoo and Oxford, and preached the good news about our research at several seminars and other scholarly meetings.
The database is freely-accessible and operational and can be consulted here.
Out of the team members one became a professor, rector of a seminary, and a canon, proving the applicability of this research. One is about to submit and another defend their theses, and the PI started to wear glasses.
In the most recent issue of the Journal of Early Christian Studies (vol. 27) you can find a new article by our team-member concerning the problem of rebaptism in the Trinitarian controversy: “The Debate over the Repetition of Baptism between Homoians and Nicenes at the End of the Fourth Century”:
Among the differences that separated the Nicenes and the Homoians, their approach to converts baptized in another church was one of the most evident. This article argues that their adherence to contrary opinions on heretical baptism was not a consequence of a straightforward inheritance of two incompatible theologies of the past, but a direct result of the fourth-century debates over rebaptism that took place in the last phase of the Trinitarian controversy. A careful examination of those discussions makes it possible also to assess the role of such aspects as innovativeness, custom, and tradition in the forming of orthodoxy.
Stanisław Adamiak published in 2019 two papers related to the research on the Late Antique clergy. The first one, “Who Was Rebaptized by the Donatists, and Why?” (Journal of Late Antiquity, 12/1, Spring 2019), deals with one of the most important issues of contention between the Donatists and the Catholics: the repetition of baptism. Adamiak argues that rebaptisms could not have been very frequent, either at the beginning of the schism or later, when they may have been occasioned by marriage, by moving to a place where the Donatists constituted the only or dominant community, sometimes by genuine religious conviction, and sometimes by coercion. The most interesting cases in which rebaptism was a component involved the conversions of clergymen from Catholicism to Donatism. For them, conversion-cum-rebaptism often was an occasion to advance through the ranks, but also to escape from the censures for their misbehavior. For their new church, it may have been a remedy for shortages of clerical personnel, but in the end, it was always a substantial coup from a propagandistic perspective, especially for the Donatists who inevitably were rebaptizing the ex-Catholic clergymen.
The second article is in Italian, as it was firstly presented at the Patristic Conference at Augustinianum at Rome in May 2017. It deals with the families of the clergy (“I figli dei chierici nella legislazione dei concili occidentali nel IV e V secolo”), namely with the issues regarding their children, their legal position, the moral requirements and the inheritance issue. The paper was prepared exclusively with the help of our database, where the categories covering “Family life” are included in the “Life of the presbyter” section.
Jerzy’s article – “The Life of the Jura Fathers and the Monastic Clergy” (Augustinianum 59.1, 2019) – challenges a still popular belief in modern scholarship that the monastic communities before the 7th century were predominantly lay. A closer look at the early 6th century Life of the Jura Fathers shows monasteries rich in monks who were at the same time presbyters and deacons. Jerzy’s paper investigates the reasons behind the clerical ordinations of monks and examines the various roles of presbyters and deacons in their monasteries. Finally, it considers the ways in which the ordained monks could have destabilised the community and the measures employed to counter their negative influence.
At XVIII. International Conference on Patristic Studies in Oxford we’ve organised a workshop From Elders to Priests. The Presbyters in the Late Antique West. The speakers included Patout Burns, Geoffrey Dunn, David Hunter and Stanisław Adamiak. On another session Robert Wiśniewski who also presented a paper “Wherever you go… or the origin of the clerical tonsure”.
On 26–27 April 2019 we were happy to host at the University of Warsaw the conference “Clerics in Church and Society”. Our conference, the highlight event of the Presbyters project, brought together a fine crowd of researchers passionate about new paths in reasearch on various roles of the clergy in the late antique and early medieval societies. We have discussed about the law and clerical discipline, creation and transformations of the hierarchic order, the relationships between clerics and laymen, liturgy but also the ways of researching the late antique clergy through the lens of material evidence (a full programme is available on the website of the conference).
We thank all participants for their thought-provoking papers, vivid discussions during the sessions (but also in more informal settings) and friendly atmosphere which they created, without which scholarly pursuits would be less pleasurable to follow. Many papers also proved that our database – though not yet finished – is a valuable tool of research which allows to deepen and broaden our understanding of the late antique clergy and be useful not only to the historians focusing on the West but also those mainly interested in the developments in the East. Certainly, a lot is still to achieve in the field – the conversation has just begun and we are happy that the instrument we designed in the project would be an important part of the process.
On 26–27 April we will held at the University of Warsaw our final conference “Clerics in Church and Society up to 700”. The programme is already accessible on the conferences website: http://clericsconference.ihuw.pl/. All interested are welcome but please register on the website.