Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: March 2010

12 - The Christian church as an institution

from Part III - Christianity in the Social and Political Order


We live in a post-ecclesiastical world. Popular and scholarly surveys repeatedly confirm that fewer and fewer people possess strong feelings of identity with specific ecclesial bodies. As the majority of studies in this volume demonstrates, medievalists have in recent decades exchanged an almost exclusive focus on institutions and high theology for new foci on ordinary people and lived experience. Nevertheless, in the Middle Ages, Christianity was inseparable from the institutional frameworks through which Christianity spread and functioned.

This chapter, which stretches in summary fashion from Ireland to Mesopotamia, will pursue three lines of inquiry in an attempt to form a sense of the church as an institutional reality. First, we shall look at the ebb and flow of institutional existence itself as new ecclesiastical hierarchies were created while others were disrupted or even disappeared. Second, we shall explore, by means of some illustrative examples, how the institutional church actually functioned. Third, we shall ask how the church thought about itself as an institution by taking some soundings in the complementary fields of ecclesiology and institutional identity. In other words, we shall see how common understandings of structure, office, law, and ideas transcended time and place.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

The Cambridge History of Christianity
  • Online ISBN: 9781139054225
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *
Adam, of Bremen. Storia degli arcivescovi della chiesa di Amburgo. Ed. Pagni, I.. Turin, 1996. Eng. trans. Tschan, F. J.. History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen. Records of Civilization 53. New York: Columbia University Press, 1959.
Addleshaw, G. W. O. The Development of the Parochial System from Charlemagne to Urban II. St. Anthony’s Hall Publication 3. 3rd ed. York: St. Anthony’s Press, 1970.
Agnellus, of Ravenna. Liber Pontificalis ecclesiae Ravennatis. Ed. Deliyannis, D.. Corpus christianorum continuatio mediaevalis 199. Turnhout: Brepols, 2006. Eng. trans. Deliyannis, D. M.. The Book of Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2004.
Amalarius, of Metz. Liber Officialis. In his Opera liturgica omnia. 3 vols. Ed. Hanssens, J. M.. Studi e testi 139. Vatican City: Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, 1948.
Angenendt, A. Das Frühmittelalter: die abendländische Christenheit von 400 bis 900. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1990.
Annales Bertiniani. Ed. Grat, F.. Paris: Klincksieck, 1964.
Anton, H. H. Studien zu den Klosterpriviligien der Päpste im frühen Mittelalter. Beiträge zur Geschichte und Quellenkunde des Mittelalters 4. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1975.
Atiya, A. S. A History of Eastern Christianity. Rev. ed. Milwood, , NY: Kraus Reprint, 1980.
Aubrun, M. La paroisse en France des origines au XVe siècle. Paris: Picard, 1986.
Baldovin, J. The Urban Character of Christian Worship: The Origins, Development, and Meaning of Stational Liturgy. Orientalia Christiana Analecta 228. Rome: Pontificium institutum studiorum orientalium, 1987.
Barford, P. The Early Slavs: Culture and Society in Early Medieval Eastern Europe. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.
Baumgartner, F. J. Behind Locked Doors: A History of Papal Elections. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
Baus, K. et al., eds. The Imperial Church from Constantine to the Early Middle Ages. Vol. 2 in Handbook of Church History. Ed. Jedin, H. and Dolan, J.. Trans. Biggs, A.. New York: Herder and Herder, 1980.
Birch, D. J. Pilgrimage to Rome in the Middle Ages. Studies in the History of Medieval Religion 13. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1998.
Blair, J. The Church in Anglo-Saxon Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Blair, J., and Sharpe, R., eds. Pastoral Care before the Parish. London: Leicester University Press, 1992.
Blumenthal, U.-R. The Investiture Controversy: Church and Monarchy from the Ninth to the Twelfth Century. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988.
Boyd, C.E. Tithes and Parishes in Medieval Italy: The Historical Roots of a Modern Problem. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1952.
Brink, S.The Formation of the Scandinavian Parish: With Some Remarks Regarding the English Impact on the Process.” In The Community, the Family and the Saint: Patterns of Power in Early Medieval Europe. Ed. Hill, J. and Swan, M.. Turnhout: Brepols, 1998.
,Capitula episcoporum. Ed. Brommer, P., Pokorny, R., et al. 4 vols. Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Hanover: Hahn, 1994–2005.
Charles-Edwards, T. M. Early Christian Ireland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Claussen, M. A. The Reform of the Frankish Church: Chrodegang of Metz and the Regula canonicorum in the Eighth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
,Concilia aevi Karolini. Ed. Werminghoff, A.. Monumenta Germaniae Historica Concilia 2. Hanover: Hahn, 1906–1908.
Constable, G.Monasteries, Rural Churches, and the cura animarum in the Early Middle Ages.” In Cristianizzazione ed organizzazione ecclesiastica delle campagne nell’Alto Medioevo: espansione e resistenze. Settimane di studio 28. Spoleto: Centro italiano di studi sull’alto medioevo, 1982.
Cubitt, C. Anglo-Saxon Church Councils, c. 650–c. 850. London: Leicester University Press, 1995.
Darrouzèes, J. Recherches sur les offikia de l’église Byzantine. Archives de l’Orient chrétien 11. Paris: Institut francçais d’études byzantines, 1970.
Dell’arche, M. Scomparsa del cristianesimo ed espansione dell’Islam nell’Africa settentrionale. Rome: Fiamma Nova, 1967.
,Die Konzilien der karolingischen Teilreiche 843–859. Ed. Hartmann, W.. Monumenta Germaniae Historica Concilia 3. Hanover: Hahn, 1984.
,Die Konzilien Deutschlands und Reichsitaliens, 916–1001. Ed. Hehl, E.-D.. Monumenta Germaniae Historica Concilia 6. Hanover: Hahn, 1987.
Dvornik, F. Byzantium and the Roman Primacy. New York: Fordham University Press, 1966.
Etchingham, C. Church Organisation in Ireland, A.D. 650 to 1000. Naas: Laigin Publications, 2002.
Fennell, J. L. I. A History of the Russian Church to 1448. London: Longman, 1995.
Flodoard, of Rheims. Annales: les annales de Flodoard. Ed. Lauer, P.. Paris: Alphonse Picard et Fils, 1905. Eng. trans. Fanning, S. and Bachrach, B. S.. The Annals of Flodoard of Reims, 919–966. Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures 9. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 2004.
Gams, P. B. Series episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae. Repr. Graz: Akademische Druck-und Verlagsanstalt, 1957.
,Gesta episcoporum Neapolitanorum. Ed. Waitz, . Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores rerum Langobardicarum et Italicarum. Hanover: Hahn, 1878.
Gil, M. A History of Palestine, 634–1099. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Giuzelev, V., and Pillinger, R., eds. Das Christentum in Bulgarien und auf der übrigen Balkanhalbinsel. Vienna: Verein “Freunde des Hauses Wittgenstein,” 1987.
Gottlob, T. Der abendländlischen Chorepiskopat. Kanonistische Studien und Texte 1. Repr. Amsterdam: P. Schippers, 1963.
Gregory, VII. The Correspondence of Pope Gregory VII. Trans. Emerton, E.. New York: Columbia University Press, 1932.
Gresser, G. Die Synoden und Konzilien in der Zeit des Reformpapsttums in Deutschland und Italien von Leo IX. bis Calixt II: 1049–1123. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2006.
Hartmann, W. Die Synoden der Karolingerzeit im Frankreich und in Italien. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1989.
Hauck, A. Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands. 5 vols. in 6. Repr. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1952–53.
Hincmar, . Capitula quibus de rebus magistri et decani per singulas ecclesias inquirere, et episcopo renuntiare debeant. In his Opera omnia. Patrologia latina = Patrologiae cursus completus. Series secunda in qua prodeunt patres… ecclesiae latinae. Comp. by Migne, J.-P.. 221 in 222 vols. Paris, 1844–64. 125.
Hincmar, . Collectio de ecclesiis et capellis. Ed. Stratmann, M.. Monumenta Germaniae Historica Fontes iuris Germanici antiqui in usum scholarum separatim editi 14. Hanover: Hahn, 1990.
Hrabanus, Maurus. De institutione clericorum libri tres. Ed. Zimpel, D.. Freiburger Beiträge zur mittelalterlichen Geschichte 7. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1996.
Hughes, K. The Church in Early Irish Society. London: Methuen, 1966.
Hussey, J. M. The Orthodox Church in the Byzantine Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Imbart de la Tour, P. Les élections épiscopales dans l’Église de France: étude sur la décadence du principe électif. Repr. Geneva: Slatkine, 1974.
Imbart de la Tour, P. Les paroisses rurales du IVe au Xie siécle. Paris: A. Picard, 1900.
Imbert, J. Les temps carolingiens (741–891): l’église: les institutions. Paris: Cujas, 1994.
Isidore, of Seville, . De ecclesiasticis officiis. Corpus christianorum series latina 113. Ed. Lawson, C. M.. Turnholt: Brepols, 1989.
Jaffé, P. Regesta Pontificum Romanorum. 2nd ed. Leipzig: Veit, 1885.
John, of Avranches, . Ordo servicii de l’insigne cathédrale d’Évreux: édition du ms. 95 de la bibliothèque d’Évreux (XIV siècle) avec les variantes des mss L. 64 et L. 76 (XV siècle). Ed. Delamare, R.. Paris: Picard, 1925.
Kaufhold, M. Europas Norden im Mittelalter: Die Integration Skandinaviens in das christliche Europa (9.–13. Jahrhundert). Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2001.
Kazhdan, A.Constantinople, Patriarchate.” Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Ed. Kazhdan, A.. 3 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. 1.
Kemp, E. W. Canonization and Authority in the Western Church. London: Oxford University Press, 1948.
Kempf, F. et al. The Church in the Age of Feudalism. Vol. 3 in Handbook of Church History. Ed. Jedin, H. and Dolan, J.. Trans. Biggs, A.. New York: Herder and Herder, 1969.
Kéry, L. Canonical Collections of the Early Middle Ages (c. 400–1140): A Bibliographical Guide to the Manuscripts and Literature. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1998.
Kłoczowski, J.La nouvelle chrétienté du monde occidentale: la christianisation des Slaves, des Scandinaves et des Hongrois.” In Évêques, moines et empereurs (610–1054). Ed. Dagron, G., Riché, P., and Vauchez, A.. Vol. 4 in Histoire du christianisme des origines à nos jours. Paris: Desclée, 1993.
Liber Pontificalis. Ed. Duchesne, L. M. O.. 3 vols. 2nd ed. Paris: Éditions de Boccard, 1955–57.
Lot, F., and Fawtier, R., eds. Histoire des institutions françaises aumoyenâage. Vol. 3: Les institutions écclésiastiques. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1957.
Morrison, K. F. Tradition and Authority in theWestern Church, 300–1140. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969.
Morrison, K. F. The Two Kingdoms: Ecclesiology in Carolingian Political Thought. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964.
Nicholas, D. The Growth of the Medieval City: From Late Antiquity to the Early Fourteenth Century. London: Longman, 1997.
Nicholas, I. Epistola 88. Monumenta Germaniae Historica Epistolarum 6 (= Epistolae Karolini Aevi 4). Berlin: Wiedmann, 1974.
Noble, T. F. X.The Papacy in the Eighth and Ninth Centuries.” In The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. 2: c. 700–900. Ed. McKitterick, R.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Noble, T. F. X. The Republic of St. Peter: The Birth of the Papal State, 680–825. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984.
Obolensky, D. The Byzantine Commonwealth: Eastern Europe, 500–1453. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1971.
Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Ed. Cross, F. L.. 3rd ed. Rev. Livingstone, E. A.. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Papadakis, A.Deaconesses.” In Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Ed. Kazhdan, A.. 3 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. 1.
Papadakis, A.Synkellos.” In Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Ed. Kazhdan, A.. 3 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. 3, 1993–94.
Papsturkunden, 896–1046. Ed. Zimmermann, H.. Vol. 1. Vienna: Österreichishcen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1984.
Peri, V.La pentarchia: instituzione ecclesiale (IV–VII sec.) e teoria canonico-teologica.” In Bisanzio, Roma e l’Italia nell’Alto Medioevo. Settimane di studio 34. Spoleto: Centro italiano di studi sull’alto medioevo, 1988.
Picker, H.-C. Pastor Doctus: Klerikerbild und karolingische Reformen bei Hrabanus Maurus. Mainz: von Zabern, 2001.
Potz, R. Patriarch und Synode in Konstantinopel: Das Verfassungsrecht des ökumenischen Patriarchates. Vienna: Herder, 1971.
Price, H.The Christianization of Society.” In From the Vikings to the Normans. Ed. Davies, W.. Short Oxford History of the British Isles. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Rather, of Verona, . Praeloquiorum Libri VI. Ed. Dolbeau, F.. Corpus christianorum continuatio mediaevalis 46A. Turnhout: Brepols, 1984. Eng. trans. Reid, P. L. D.. The Complete Works of Rather of Verona. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 76. Binghamton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1991.
Regino, of Prüm, . Chronicon. Ed. Rau, R.. Quellen zur karolingischen Reischgeschichte 3. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1966.
Regino, of Prüm, . Libri duo de synodalibus causis et disciplinis ecclesiasticis. In Das Sendbuch des Regino von Prüum. Ed. and trans. Hartmann, W. (based on the earlier edition of Wasserschleben, F. W. H., Leipzig, 1840.). Ausgewählte Quellen zur deutschen Geschichte des Mittelalters 42. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2004.
Reuter, T.The ‘Imperial Church System’ of the Ottonian and Salian Rulers: A Reconsideration.” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 32 (1982).
Reynolds, R.Marginalia on a Tenth-Century Text of the Ecclesiastical Offices.” In Law, Church, and Society: Essays in Honor of Stephan Kuttner. Ed. Pennington, K. and Somerville, R.. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1977.
Reynolds, R.The Organisation, Law, and Liturgy of the Western Church, 700–900.” In The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. 2: c. 700–900. Ed. McKitterick, R.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Riché, P.Le christianisme dans l’Occident carolingien.” In Évêques, moines et empereurs (610–1054). Ed. Dagron, G., Riché, P., and Vauchez, A.. Vol. 4 in Histoire du christianisme des origines à nos jours. Paris: Desclée, 1993.
Riché, P.De Grégoire le Grand à Pépin le Bref.” In Évêques, moines et empereurs (610–1054). Ed. Dagron, G., Riché, P., and Vauchez, A.. Vol. 4 in Histoire du christianisme des origines à nos jours. Paris: Desclée, 1993.
Santifaller, L. Zur Geschichte des ottonisch-salischen Reichskirchensystems. 2nd ed. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil.-Hist. Klasse, Sitzungsberichte 229. Vienna: Bohlau, 1964.
Sawyer, B., and Sawyer, P.. Medieval Scandinavia. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.
Sawyer, B., and Sawyer, P.. “Scandinavia Enters Christian Europe.” In The Cambridge History of Scandinavia. Ed. Helle, K.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Sawyer, B., and Sawyer, P.., and Wood, I., eds. The Christianization of Scandinavia. Alingsås: Viktoria Bokförlag, 1987.
Schieffer, T.Der Ottonische Reichsepiskopat zwischen Königtum und Adel.” Frühmittelalterliche Studien 23 (1989).
Somerville, R., and Brasington, B.. Prefaces to Canon Law Books in Latin Christianity: Selected Translations, 500–1245. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.
Stancliffe, C.From Town to Country: The Christianization of the Touraine.” Studies in Church History 16 (1979).
Stutz, U. Geschichte des kirchlichen Benefizialwesen von seinen Anfängen bis auf die Zeit Alexanders III. Repr. Aalen: Scientia, 1972.
Sullivan, R. E.The Papacy and Missionary Activity.” Mediaeval Studies 17 (1955).
Troupeau, G.Églises et chrétiens dans l’Orient musulman.” In Évêques, moines et empereurs (610–1054). Ed. Dagron, G., Riché, P., and Vauchez, A.. Vol. 4 in Histoire du christianisme des origines à nos jours. Paris: Desclée, 1993.
Ullmann, W. The Carolingian Renaissance and the Idea of Kingship. London: Methuen, 1969.
Ullmann, W. The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages. 2nd ed. London: Methuen, 1962.
Urbańczyk, P., ed. Early Christianity in Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Semper, 1997.
Van Engen, J.The Christian Middle Ages as an Historiographical Problem.” American Historical Review 91 (1986).
Van Engen, J.The Future of Medieval Church History.” Church History 71 (2002).
Vlasto, A. P. The Entry of the Slavs into Christendom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970.
Vodola, E. Excommunication in the Middle Ages. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1986.
Vogel, C.Les échanges liturgiques entre Rome et les pays franques jusqu’ à l’époque de Charlemagne.” In Le chiese nei regni dell’Europa occidentale e i loro rapporti con Roma sino all’800. Settimane di studio 7. Spoleto: Centro italiano di studi sull’alto medioevo, 1960.
Vollrath, H. Die Synoden Englands bis 1066. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1985.
Walafrid, Strabo. Libellus de exordiis et incrementis quarundam in observationibus ecclesiasticis rerum. Ed. and trans. Harting-Correa, A.. Mittellateinsiche Studien und Texte 19. Leiden: Brill, 1996.
Waldmüller, L. Die Synoden in Dalmatien, Kroatien und Ungarn: Von der Völkerwanderung bis zum Ende der Arpaden (1311). Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1987.
Wallace-Hadrill, J. M. The Frankish Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.
Wood, I. The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450–751. London: Longman, 1994.
Wood, S. The Proprietary Church in the Medieval West. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.