Clergy and Commoners: Interactions between medieval clergy and laity in a regional context

Clergy and Commoners: Interactions between medieval clergy and laity in a regional context

By Andrew W. Taubman

PhD Dissertation, University of York, 2009

Abstract: This thesis examines the interactions between medieval clergy and laity, which were complex, and its findings trouble dominant models for understanding the relationships between official and popular religions. In the context of an examination of these interactions in the Humber Region Lowlands during the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, this thesis illustrates the roles that laity had in the construction of official and popular cultures of medieval religion. Laity and clergy often interacted with each other and each other‟s culture, with the result that both groups contributed to the construction of medieval cultures of religion. After considering general trends through an examination of pastoral texts and devotional practices, the thesis moves on to case studies of interactions at local levels as recorded in ecclesiastical administrative documents, most notably bishops‟ registers. The discussion here, among other things, includes the interactions and negotiations surrounding hermits and anchorites, the complaints of the laity, and lay roles in constructing the religious identity of nuns. The Conclusion briefly examines the implications of the complex relationships between clergy and laity highlighted in this thesis. It questions divisions between cultures of official and popular religion and ends with a short case study illustrating how clergy and laity had the potential to shape the practices and structures of both official and popular medieval religion.

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