Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: May 2010

7 - The secular Church


The discussion so far has tended to analyse the Church from above, from the viewpoint of popes and kings, or through its most important benefactors, most of whom came from the higher ranks of the aristocracy. Given the inherent bias of the sources, such concerns are inevitable, and it would be rash to downplay the importance of these influences upon the south Italian Church. However, one also needs to examine the internal structures and the personnel of the Church, and to attempt to glean (insofar as one can) something of its spiritual life and religious interaction with the laity. There was after all more to the Church than simply law, administration and patronage, significant as these undoubtedly were. How therefore did churchmen fulfil their mission to minister to the spiritual welfare of their flocks, and ultimately to save their souls, if they could?

One feature of the south Italian Church which has already been noted was the proliferation of bishoprics, and the small size of many of the resultant dioceses. Given that relatively few bishops, at least on the mainland, had a political role or would have spent much time at the royal court, and that such occasions as papal councils were infrequent, the majority of prelates are likely to have spent most of their time within their diocese, resident at their cathedrals.