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12th C Priests, Deacons & Church Hierarchy

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stu1883
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12th C Priests, Deacons & Church Hierarchy

Post by stu1883 » Mon August 22nd, 2011, 8:01 pm

Hi everyone - I would love to pool your collective knowledge and try and get some clarity on a potential sub-plot in my current WIP. It is based in the 12thC in Bristol. Now, within a two minute walk from the centre of the old town there are 4 churches that were built in/around the time I am writing about.

I have two camps (good & evil) and each party has a religious man on their side, one (the baddy) will be a Priest whose church is the most important in the town. Now on the goody's side, a lesser church but one of great prominence with increasing wealth, resides a Deacon or subordinate of the Priest.

Would a priest be in charge of all four churches, but have deacons to whom he would delegate the day to day running of each church? Sort of like a medieval supervisor?

Is it correct that something like this would happen? The Deacon has a moral & ethical dilemma. He uses the income from his church wisely and properly but is under pressure from his superior to circumvent the majority of donations towards him, personally. (Money goes to the Priest, not the charitable causes favoured by the Deacon).

The deacon wishes to enter holy orders but is being blackmailed by the Priest who will only support his "application" provided the income keeps finding its way into his coffers.

Is this a realistic scenario? Would this have happened? Sorry if I haven't explained myself properly, but I hope you can work out what it is I am saying.

Thanks everyone!

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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon August 22nd, 2011, 10:50 pm

Deacon in the 12th C didn't mean what it does now. An Archdeacon was just under a bishop, and outranked a common priest by quite a few levels.

Priests came in different levels of prestige, too, mostly depending on what class they were from. Then there were the religious orders: the Cistercians, reclusive, wealthy, and generally noble; versus the Augustinian canons, who tended to be oriented more towards the middle-class urbanites.

I just finished Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages. Volume 2 is packed with the kind of detail that would probably help your plot.

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Post by SGM » Tue August 23rd, 2011, 5:37 am

[quote=""MLE""]
I just finished Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages. Volume 2 is packed with the kind of detail that would probably help your plot.[/quote]

This takes me back a few years. I used that book when I was at school and still have it sitting in my bookcase along with the Owen Chadwick and John Bossy ones. They are absolutely invaluable -- which is probably why I still have them. Looking at the prices on some of the books I have had so long always makes me smile -- especially when the price is in "old money".
Last edited by SGM on Tue August 23rd, 2011, 5:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by stu1883 » Tue August 23rd, 2011, 6:27 am

Thanks for the info - but is there anyone who can give me an answer quickly? The book is on order from the Library! Thanks MLE & SGM

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Post by Margaret » Tue August 23rd, 2011, 5:07 pm

I have no answers for you - just jumping in to say I think there's really no substitute for doing one's own research. While on the track of the answer to a particular question, one's liable to find out all kinds of interesting and unexpected tidbits which could turn out to be invaluable to the story.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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Post by SGM » Tue August 23rd, 2011, 6:20 pm

Sorry, it hasn't been my period of history for many many years and to answer that I would have to go and look it up in the book again myself. All I can say is you are awaiting a really good research text.
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Post by annis » Wed August 24th, 2011, 2:10 am

I don't think there is a quick fix for this query, Stu. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church is incredibly complex, and hasn't changed all that much over the centuries, except in as it relates to the monastic orders

"The Catholic Church, the most hierarchical of all Christian traditions, maintains a complex system of clergy and laity. Deacons, priests, and bishops comprise the ordained clergy, who are members of the diaconate, the presbyterate, and the episcopate. Among the hierarchy of bishops, there are metropolitans, archbishops, patriarchs, and the pope, who is the bishop of Rome. Cardinals are nearly always bishops, but that was not always the case. Some cardinals in the past were nonordained prelates. Unless they originally received Holy Orders to the diaconate, they were not part of the clergy and could not administer the sacraments of the church. Among those typically nonordained and considered to be part of the laity are nuns, friars, and religious brothers and sisters."

Further info on the diaconate, presbyterate and espiscopate here at Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Order ... lic_Church)

You may well find that you need something like MLE's book to help you untangle who's who, but if you get stuck you could fire off an email query to the historian at the helpful Catholic Enquiry Centre. This particular centre is in Australia- you may have one nearer at hand, though with email the physical address isn't particularly important.

Overview of the Catholic Church over the past 2000 years
http://www.catholicenquiry.com/about-ce ... story.html

Contact form
http://www.catholicenquiry.com/contact- ... entre.html

Here's a glossary of terminology relating to the medieval Church, put together by a writer to help other writers. It probably won't help with your current issue, but might come in handy regardless.
http://medievalwriting.50megs.com/churc ... /index.htm
Last edited by annis on Wed August 24th, 2011, 7:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by stu1883 » Wed August 24th, 2011, 7:24 am

Thanks Annis! You are a gem - I knew there was a quicker way of getting the info. The book MLE told me about is on my amazon wishlist so I can order it when I get some spare cash!

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Post by stu1883 » Thu August 25th, 2011, 9:00 pm

Just checked Amazon for the book suggested by MLE and there is an "as new" copy for sale for £2 + £2.80 p&p!! Purchased and ready to get stuck into it as soon as it arrives!

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