This book examines in what ways and how far medieval churches were treated as items of property. It ranges over most of Western Europe, from beginnings in the late Roman Empire and post-Roman kingdoms, into the Carolingian empire and its neighbours and successor states; and through the Gregorian reform, up to the late twelfth century when property in churches was patchily superseded by the canon-law right of patronage. The approach is as much social and religious as legal and
administrative, and explores ideas and assumptions as well as practical exploitation and property dealings. - ;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.
The book 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 Finally the book discusses how property in churches was imperfectly superseded by the new canon-law patronage, in the increasingly bureaucratic post-Gregorian Church. - ;This is a book that adds substantially to the sum of knowledge - Julia Barrow, Medium Aevum;No other scholar has treated this subject in so comprehensive and detailed a way as Susan Wood. - TLS;Wood has shown that proprietary churches were an integral part of Christian society. - ;The research is exhaustive; the writing is appealing in its clarity; and the judgements are based on long and wise reflection. The author has written a truly great book. - Dr Nicholas Orme, Church Times;[A] formidable, fascinating, actually readable book - Richard Kay, American Historical Review;the new locus classicus for those looking for a definitive, comparative and long-tearm study of how and in what way churches were owned in the early Middle Ages, and of when and in what ways that changed. - Charles West, Ecclesiastic History
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