The Proprietary Church in the Medieval West

Author(s): 
Wood, Susan
ISBN: 
9780199552634
Date published: 
November 2008
Paperback
Price: 
£35.00

Although there have been many regional studies of the proprietary church or particular aspects of it, this is the first extensive study of it covering most of western Europe, from the end of the Roman Empire in the West to about 1200. The book aims at a broad survey in varying degrees of intensity and with a shifting geographical focus; and it asks questions that are as much social and religious as legal or administrative.

The book vindicates, for village and estate churches, Ulrich Stutz's basic concept of a church with its possessions, revenues, and priestly office as an object of what we can reasonably call property. But it largely rejects his and his followers' application of this to great churches, and sees the position of intermediate churches (such as small or middling monasteries) as various, changeable, and ambivalent. Above all it turns away from Stutz's view of the property relationship as a distinct institution or system of 'Germanic church law', presenting it rather as a fluid set of assumptions and practices taking shape as customary law.

Susan Wood considers also the changing background of ideas and the bearing on it of important polemical writings (with some questioning of their established interpretations). Finally the book discusses how property in churches was imperfectly superseded by the new canon-law patronage, in the increasingly bureaucratic post-Gregorian Church.