England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075-1225

By Robert Bartlett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
The Institutional Church

From the seventh century, when it was established, to the sixteenth, when it underwent fundamental transformation, the English Church was one of the most dominant, visible, and pervasive forces in English society. In the period covered here, Christian baptism and Christian burial were virtually universal, while, to an ever-increasing extent, those who married did so through the forms of Christian matrimony. All these rites of passage were handled by ritual specialists, the priests and other clergy, whose legal standing, dress, and appearance set them off from others. Ethics and theology were in their hands. Writing and formal education were largely the monopoly of clerks or of the religious (monks and canons regular). The Church was rich. At the time of the Domesday inquest in 1086 it owned one-fifth of the wealth of the country. It laid claim to one-tenth of the income of all Christians. Such a combination of economic power, ubiquity, and psychological intrusion made the Church a fundamental and formative institution.


I. THE HIERARCHY

Clerks

'Clerk and lay' was a contemporary verbal tag conveying a basic distinction. Certain men would be marked out, initially simply by their haircut, the tonsure, as members of a different order of society from their lay brothers. Once the ceremony of shaving the crown of their head had been performed, they would enjoy the privileges and face the obligations of clerks. Clerks were a minority—perhaps 5 per cent of the adult male population—but they were to be found everywhere, serving not only as parish priests and cathedral clergy but also as chaplains, secretaries, and teachers. They were meant to wear monochrome clothing, avoid taverns and tournaments, and renounce the carrying of weapons.

These clerks constituted the secular clergy—as distinct from the monks and regular canons of the religious orders—and were organized into a hierarchy. It was a hierarchy partly of office and partly of 'order' or clerical status.

-377-

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England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075-1225
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • General Editor's Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Contents xi
  • Plates xiv
  • Figures xv
  • Maps xvi
  • Tables xvii
  • Abbreviations xviii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter I - Political Patterns 4
  • Chapter 2 - England and Beyond 68
  • Chapter 3 - Lordship and Government 121
  • Chapter 4 - The Aristocracy 202
  • Chapter 5 - Warfare 252
  • Chapter 6 - The Rural Foundations 287
  • Chapter 7 - Towns and Trade 331
  • Chapter 8 - The Institutional Church 377
  • Chapter 9 - Religious Life 450
  • Chapter 10 - Cultural Patterns 490
  • Chapter 11 - The Course of Life 543
  • Chapter 12 - Cosmologies 624
  • Chronology of Political Events 701
  • The Sources 703
  • Index of Persons and Places 715
  • Index of Subjects 773
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