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The Proprietary Church in the Medieval West$
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Susan Wood

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198206972

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198206972.001.0001

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The converging of private and parish churches

The converging of private and parish churches

(p.66) 3 The converging of private and parish churches
The Proprietary Church in the Medieval West

Susan Wood

Oxford University Press

In the early sixth century, there was a sharp distinction, in Gaul at least, between the old public or baptismal churches and the emerging private oratories. In the cities, all baptisms took place in the cathedral or an attendant baptistry. In the country, the parish church serving a large area was normally in a vicus, a substantial rural settlement, often a pre-Christian cult centre. A private oratory, on the other hand, was usually built more recently, by a landlord on his villa, probably for his own and his household's convenience rather than for his tenants. Between the poles of great baptismal church and private oratory a continuum would form, of churches and chapels varying in antiquity, prestige, wealth, rank, and rights, their total number multiplied many times over. Functions and revenues once reserved to a few major churches drifted to many lesser ones, most of which would eventually rank as parish churches; while proprietary attitudes and concepts once restricted to private oratories came to be applied to major, ancient, and once public churches.

Keywords:   private churches, parish churches, proprietary church, property, Catholic churches, Gaul, baptisms

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