- Start date: 1 October 2016
- End date: 30 September 2019
- Funder: Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship
- Primary investigator: Dr Maroula Perisanidi
This study will provide the first in-depth analysis of the authority which clerics wielded over the laity in East and West through a comparative examination of Byzantium, England, and Northern France.
The lives of clerics across these areas varied markedly. Differences in marital status, educational standards, living arrangements, and social standing affected their authority vis-à-vis their flocks.
Despite such differences, clerics were central to the social functioning of medieval society in both Eastern and Western Christendom. My key question, therefore, is where clerical authority came from and why it remained universally acknowledged across medieval Christian Europe.
More specifically, I examine three key aspects which conditioned the relationship between clergy and laity: the use of knowledge as power; the exploitation of spiritual capital attached to liturgical and pastoral roles; and the restriction of authority along gendered lines.