CfP: Clerics in Church and society up to AD 700

CfP: Clerics in Church and society up to AD 700

The Presbyters in the Late Antique West is a 5-years project, run at the University of Warsaw and investigating the role of the middle clergy in the Church and society. Our team has been collecting the evidence concerning clerics withina searchable database, still under construction, but accessible on-line: editor, password: editor123!).

The project is slowly coming to its end, and we are organising the closing conference “Clerics in Church and society up to AD 700”. The conference will take place in Warsaw, on 26-27 April 2019. The word ‘clerics’ include bishops, but our main interest lies in the presbyters, deacons, and subdeacons etc.  We are aiming to achieve a broad picture of their ecclesiastical, economic, and social activity. Among confirmed speakers are: Geoffrey Dunn, Uta Heil, David Hunter, Dominic Moreau, David Natal, and Eric Rebillard.

Those interested in presenting papers are requested to send a title and short abstract (c. 100 words) to Stanisław Adamiak ( by 30 September 2018.

There is no registration fee, but please, note we won’t be able to cover travel and accommodation expenses.

Robert Wiśniewski and Stanisław Adamiak


“Scrinium Augustini” – book already available

The book “Scrinium Augustini: The World of the Augustine’s Letters” is a product of the project based at the University of Nicolaus Copernicus in Toruń of the same title (for the database see: Scrinium Augustini). It contains the proceedings of the international workshop on Augustine’s correspondence that took place in Toruń on 25-26 June 2015. Among the articles, there is also a contribution of the former member of the Scrinium Augustini Project, and the current member of the Presbyters in the Late Antique West, Stanisław Adamiak.

For the table of contents see: Brepols.



Presbyters and their authority in Paris


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.

Early hagiography workshop at Durham

On 11-12 November 2016 Robert Wiśniewski took part in a workshop on late-antique hagiography at the University of Durham. In his paper Robert argued that, unlike monastic vitae, the lives of holy bishops and presbyters showed a sanctity, but rarely a model of life which could be proposed specifically to clergy. This resulted mostly from the conviction that, unlike monasticism, priesthood was not really a way to sanctity. One could become a saint by choosing the life of an eremite, but not by becoming cleric. The relation between priesthood and sanctity was opposite. Ideally, one was made a priest because he was a saint, and not the other way round. Consequently, a complete and specific hagiographical model of clerical life did not develop.

The workshop at Würzburg

On 6-7 October 2016, the member of the team, Stanisław Adamiak, travelled to Würzburg (Germany), where he participated in the workshop on the letters of Augustine, organised by the Zentrum für Augustinus-Forschung at the University of Würzburg ( The topic of the workshop was “Unfriendliness and Polemics in the Letters of Augustine”. Papers were delivered by Danuta Shanzer from Vienna, Ingo Schaaf from Konstanz, Christian Tornau and Christopher Nunn from Würzburg, Rafał Toczko from Toruń, Hildegund Müller from Notre-Dame (Ind), and Stanisław Adamiak, who talked about unfriendly and polemic elements in the letters of Augustine. His presentation was largely based on the data already present in our database.


Presbyters and Saints in Rome – field workshop 18 IX – 24 IX 2016

We left our desks and libraries, we put aside (for the moment!) smoothing up records in our database, and we headed for Rome to held a joint field workshop with the members of the team of the “Cult of Saints”project, based at University of Oxford and directed by Professor Bryan Ward-Perkins. We have spent six intensive days in the Eternal City to study the ancient *tituli*, visit the most important places associated with the cult of saints, examine Late Antique and Early Mediaeval mosaics and frescoes, and dwell on the Christian topography of Rome.


Efthymios Rizos, Paweł Nowakowski, Staszek Adamiak, Marta Szada, Bryan Ward-Perkins, Niklos Aleksidze, and Robert Wiśniewski discussing in front of Santa Maria Antiqua. Photo by: Jerzy Szafranowski.

During our lenghty wanderings in Rome, we visited almost thirty churches, excavations under the basilica of St. Peter (Scavi San Pietro) and under the basilica of Santi Giovanni e Pietro on the Cealian Hill, Vatican Museums (although unluckily Museo Pio Christiano was closed), and, of course, the catacombs. Moreover, on Tuesday morning we called to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. We were received by Father Zdzisław Kijas, consultor in the Congregation, who told us about the modern procedure that leads to the beatification and canonization of saints.


In front of one of the tituli, Santa Balbina. Photo by Jerzy Szafranowski.

Friday was a special day – for more than 8 hours we were visiting the catacombs, guided by two epigraphists, Professori Antonio Felle and Donatella Nuzzo.  We started with those of Domitilla, then those of San Sebastian where we spent a lot of time examining graffiti which attested the cult of Peter and Paul in the famous triclia. Finally, we went to the catacombs of Callixtus where our group’s lengthy stays in the Crypt of the Popes and other interesting cubicula made life uncountable for tourists and their guides…


Paweł Nowakowski and Robert Wiśniewski conferring in the church of Saint Saba on the Little Aventine. Photo by Jerzy Szafranowski.

The members of the Oxford team were privileged, because the signs of the ancient cult of saints were omnipresent. We, the humble presbyters, had much less reasons to got excited. Nonetheless, we got our share in the cubiculum of the presbyter Eulalios in the catacombs of Domitilla. We were also finding presbyters in lapidaries, especially generous for us was the lapidary in San Clemente. And, of course, there was the great mosaic of the presbyter Peter in Santa Sabina, probably the biggest in the world inscription of a presbyter.


The funerary inscription of the presbyter Gerontius, AD 456 (San Clemente), edition: ICUR N.S. 8, 20823 (Antonio Ferrua 1983), Trismegistos ID: 301526. Photo by Jerzy Szafranowski.

The week in Rome passed quickly, but fruitfully. Putting our knowledge of the historical sources in the archaeological and topographical context provoked us to rethink once again our hypotheses, and gave us a fresh look on some of the most difficult conundrums we are dealing with. Certainly then we go back to our desks, libraries, and databases with a new enthusiasm, more profound interest, and fresh ambition.


Imperial Palace on the Palatine. Photo by Jerzy Szafranowski.