Shepherds, uncles, owners, scribes
Priests as neighbours in early medieval local societies
in Neighbours and strangers
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This chapter explores the position of early medieval priests within local rural societies and the influence they had on the social cohesion of rural settlements. As pastors who taught and preached, they communicated ideas of good and bad behaviour towards relatives, neighbours and God, and in their capacity as confessors and advisors, they played an important role in settling disagreements between members of their flocks. Priests were in a unique 'hinge' position to transmit new rulings from the bishop or the royal court to local audiences, because they were generally capable of reading and understanding Latin, and were trained to translate and rephrase sophisticated knowledge into vernacular messages understandable to illiterate audiences. Priests did not only spend their days praying, preaching, performing rituals or reading books. They were firmly rooted in the lay world and often seem to have been members of local families. Their ministry usually came with landownership and, like other landowners, priests bought, sold and gave land and moveable goods. They were also active in writing charters for local people, in effect performing notarial services for them.

Neighbours and strangers

Local societies in early medieval Europe


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