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The organization of the early Christian churches : eight lectures delivered before the University of Oxford, in the year 1880 online

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the eighth century, however, when there was one of
those antiquarian revivals which have taken place from
time to time in the history of the Church, it was

5 The name for the district to which a city formed the centre of administration
was 'regio' (Siculus Flaccus, ed. Lachmann, Gromatici, p. 135), ' territorium '
(Digest. 50. 16. 239. 8), Sio'iKijois (Cic. ad Fam. 13. 53). The two latter names
came to be used for the same districts in their ecclesiastical relations to the
bishop of the city church: ('territorium' is so used: e.g. 2. Cone. Arelat. c. 23,
1 Cone. Aurel. c. 1 J, 3 Cone. Aurel. c. 18) : ' dioecesis ' was sometimes also used for
the district entrusted to a single presbyter — the modern ' parish,' ' paroecia (paro-
chia),' being used in the wider sense of the bishop's district ; ultimately, however,
though not until far on in the middle ages, * diocese ' came to be generally used in
the wider, ' parish ' in the narrower sense : for some instances of the variations in
the use of the terms see Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, s. v. ' Parish,' vol. ii.

P- *554-

6 For the details of organization of country districts which were not within the
'territorium' of a city see Marquardt, Romische Staatsverwaltung, Bd. i. pp. 7-17.

' First mentioned in Cone. Ancyr. a.d. 314, c. 13, Cone. Neocaes. a.d. 314, c. 14,
Cone. Nicaen. c. 8, Cone. Antioch. c. 10. For an important indication of the rela-
tion of chorepiscopi to city bishops see Basil's letter to his Chorepiscopi (Epist. 54
(181), Op. ed. Ben. vol. iv. p. 148).

* Denzinger, Ritus Orientalium, vol. i. p. 121, following J. S. Assemann, Bill.
Oriental, vol. iii. pars ii. p. 829, says that the Maronites have two kinds of chor-
episcopi, one being a survival of the ancient rural bishops, the other being equivalent
to the city archpiesbyters of the Western organization. Among the Nestorians
(Denzinger, vol. i. p. 126) the chorepiscopi survive as rural officers, but with the
rank and functions only of the rural archpresbyters of the West.

198 The Parish and the Cathedral. [lect.

instituted in the Frankish domain : but some incon-
veniences soon arose : the pseudo-Isidorian Decretals
made the system a principal object of attack : and
in the tenth century it had almost altogether passed
away 9 . Of the other system the chief early traces are
found in the suburbs of the greater cities, especially
Rome and Alexandria. At Alexandria, for example, the
Christians who lived in the outlying suburbs, and
in the adjacent district of Mareotis, were regarded as
members of the bishop's church, and, though the several
congregations met in separate buildings, they had no
separate constitution, but a presbyter was detached
from the bishop's church to preside over each of them 10 .
They were analogous to the ' chapels of ease ' of our
own organization. The presbyter who presided was
apparently competent, quoad sacra, to perform the

B The only mention of chorepiscopi in Western canons before the ninth century
is in Cone. Regens. a.d. 439, c. 3, which treats an irregularly ordained bishop as
the Council of Nicaea had resolved to treat Novatian bishops : i.e. it gives him the
inferior rank of chorepiscopus. But in the eighth century, when, as is evident
from the translation of early Eastern canons and their repeated incorporation in the
Capitularies, there was a determined effort on the part of some Frankish bishops to
revive the early Eastern usages, the office of chorepiscopus was revived. In the
following century a strong reaction set in, the chief reason for which was probably
the fact that the civil power used the chorepiscopi as a foil against the bishops.
Hence the pseudo-Isidore (e. g. Damasi, De vana Corepiscoporum Super stitione
vitanda, ed. Hinschius, Decret. pseudo-Isidor. p. 509) set himself to show in
vehement language that the chorepiscopi, in spite of their name, were properly
not bishops but presbyters, and therefore incompetent to discharge episcopal
functions : on the other hand, Hrabanus Maurus defended their episcopal cha-
racter (De Chorepiscopis, Opusc. ii. Op. ed. Migne, ratr. Lat. vol. ex. p. 1 195). For
the details of the controversy, especially in relation to the Decretals, see Weiszacker,
Der Kampf gegen dem Chorepiscopat des friinhisohen Reicks in neurit en Jahrhun-
dert, Tubingen 1859 : also an article by the same writer in von Sybel's Historische
Zeitschrift for i860, pp. 42 sqq., and by van Noorden in the same journal for 1862,
pp.311 sqq.

10 St. Epiphan. Adv. Eaeres. 68. 4 ; 69. I : Socrat. H. E. 1. 27 : Sozom. H. E. 1.
15 : St. Athanas. Apol. c. Arian. cc. 63, 85. vol. i. pp. 143, 158.

viii.] The Parish and the Cathedral. 199

functions which in the central church were performed
by the bishop : but the high dignity of the bishop of
Alexandria, who reflected and rivalled the dignity and
jurisdiction of the civil prefect, and for whom no higher
title than that of bishop had as yet been found, en-
forced a subordination which in a smaller city might
have been abnormal, and made the district of which
Alexandria was the centre the earliest example of a
modern 'diocese.'

(3) Another group of circumstances was that of
the small scattered villages of the East, which were
neither in the neighbourhood of a great city nor in
themselves sufficiently large to furnish the elements
of a complete organization. In them two of the resi-
dents seem to have been appointed as presbyters, and
two others as deacons 11 , but the bishop was itinerant
(■7repioSevTJ]s), travelling from one community to another 12 .
When the later diocesan system came to prevail, the
itinerant bishop preserved his designation but lost his
functions : the name still lingers in some Eastern
Churches, but the functions are only those of a Western
' rural dean 13 .'

11 This is an inference from an existing inscription of a.d. 354 at Eitha (El-htt)
in Batanea (Le Bas et Waddington, Inscriptions Grecques et Latines, vol. iii. No.
2114, = Corpus Inscr. Graec. No. 8819), where the clergy consist of two presbyters,
one of whom was also archimandrite of the local monastery, and two deacons, one
of whom was also olKovofios or • bursar.'

12 Il€p(o5«t/Tat are mentioned in Cone. Laod. c. 57, which forbids the appoint-
ment of any other class of bishops in villages and country districts : in the ency-
clical letter of Gennadius of Constantinople, a.d. 459, ap. Mansi, Concilia, vol. vii.
911, and in Cod. Justin. 1. 3. 42 (41), § 9: also in inscriptions, in the Hauran, Le
Bas et Waddington, No. 201 1, in Palmyrene, ibid. No. 2633, and in Phrygia, Corpus
Inscr. Graec. No. 8822.

is They remain among the Jacobite Syrians, the Maronites, and the Nestorians:
Denzinger, Ritas Orientalium, vol. i. pp. 118, lai, 126.

200 The Parish and the Cathedral. [lect.

(4) Another group of circumstances was that of
the great estates, upon which many Christians were
resident, but which probably lay outside the jurisdic-
tion of the municipal magistrates 14 . The fact that the
owner was supreme, and that all others who lived on
an estate were either serfs or slaves, probably prevented
the free growth of that kind of organization which had
come to exist elsewhere. The owner seems to have
appointed church officers as he would have appointed
farm bailiffs. He could do so of his own mere motion,
without regard to the ecclesiastical organization of
any other place, because there was no one whose rights
were thereby touched. Dioceses in the later sense of
the term did not yet exist, and the system of subor-
dinating one community to another had hardly begun.
But the system led to abuses, especially when Arian
and other non-Catholic opinions were abroad. Some
owners appointed to office on their estates persons whose
opinions were heretical 15 : a limitation of the rights of
owners in this respect became necessary in the interests
of orthodoxy: and the imperial legislation, with its
usual support of the Catholic party, enacted that any
presbyter who was appointed to minister on an estate

u For the internal economy of these great estates, which survived the fall of the
Empire and formed the most important element in the economical history of
Europe during many succeeding centuries, see Savigny, Ueber den romischen
Colonat in his Vermischte Schriften, Bd. ii, and Kuhn, Die stddtische wad burgerliche
Verfassung des romischen Beichs, 1 Theil, pp. 257 sqq.

15 This is clear from the repeated provisions of the Civil Law for cases in
which heretics were allowed or appointed to minister on estates : viz. laws of
Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius in a.d. 392, Cod. Theodos. 16. 5. 21 : of
Arcadius and Honorius in A.D. 398, ibid. 16. 5. 34, in a.d. 399, ibid. 16. 5. 36,
in a.d. 407, ibid. 16. 5. 40: of Honorius and Theodosius in a.d. 414, ibid. 16.
5. 54» § 6.

viii.] The Parish and the Cathedral. 201

should first be approved by the bishop of the neigh-
bouring city 16 . This enactment seems to have been
evaded by ceasing to appoint presbyters. The imperial
legislation consequently interfered again, and prohibited
laymen from meeting for public worship without the
presence of an authorized officer ". But, subject to this
limitation, the right of an owner to appoint his own
church officers remained, and probably constituted the
principal source from which has flowed the modern
system of patronage 18 .

(5) The circumstances out of which the modern
Parish was more directly produced were those of Gaul
and Spain. The original Christians of those great
provinces of the West seem to have consisted almost
entirely of inhabitants of the Koman towns. These
towns were the civilized centres of semi-civilized
districts, and they were seldom situated off the lines
of the great military roads. Each of them had a

16 Justin. Novell. 57, c. 2, A.D. 537.

17 Ibid. 123, c. 32 : 131, c. 8, a. d. 545.

18 It is clear, from the repeated enactments on the. subject in the Carolingian
capitularies, that, in spite of both civil and canon law, laymen frequently appointed
and dismissed clerks without reference to a bishop : but the legislation of the
Frankish kings, though sometimes at variance with their own practice, was
decisive in favour of the rights of bishops, and at the same time guarded that right
with the provision that a bishop should not reject a clerk who was presented for
approval, except in case of evident scandal: (Karoli M., Edictum pro Episcopis,
a.d. 800, ap. Pertz, M. H. G. Legum vol. i. p. 81 : Capit. General. Aquens. a.d. 802,
c. 13, ibid. p. 106 : Gapit. de Presbyter, a.d. 809, c. 2, ibid. p. 161 : Except. Can.
a. D. 81 3, c. 2, ibid. p. 189 : Hludowic, Capit. A quisgran. A. D. 81 7, c. 9, ibid. p. 207 :
Constit. Wormat. a.d. 829, c. 15, ibid. p. 337: Constit. Wormat. Ft tit. c. 12, ibid.
p. 340: Capit. Wormat. c. I, ibid. p. 350 : Convent. Ticin. I.e. 18, a.d. 850, ibid.
p. 399: Convent. Ticin. II. a.d. 855, ibid. p. 431 : Karoli II. Edict. Pistens. c. 2,
a.d. 861, ibid. p. 489). For a sketch of the history of patronage see my article
'Patron* in the Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, vol. ii. p. 1575: and for a
more complete account Hinschius, Das Kirchenrecht der Katholiken und Pivtesta-nttn
in Deutschland, 3 or Bd. Berlin, 18S0.

202 'I he Parish and the Cathedral. [lect.

municipal organization, and each of them had also its
place in the perfect framework of the provincial system.
So closely did the ecclesiastical organization follow the
civil organization, and so firm was its hold upon society,
that in the France of the present day, with hardly an
exception, there is a bishop wherever there was a
Roman municipality, and an archbishop wherever there
was a provincial metropolis 19 . As the municipal organ-
ization became weak the ecclesiastical organization
became strong: Christianity was so enormous a factor
in contemporary society, that the bishops gradually
took the place of the Roman magistrate and exercised
some of the civil jurisdiction which had belonged to
him. Consequently, when the native Celts or the
newly-settled Teutons began to be converted in large
numbers to Christianity, the ' castellum ' or ' pagus ' in
which they lived, instead of receiving a separate organ-
ization with a bishop at its head, was regarded as being
under the control of the bishop of the chief town of the
civil district within which it was situated. The church
officers of such a 'castellum' or 'pagus' were properly
officers of the bishop's church, temporarily detached,

19 E.g. in the province of Lugdunensis Senonia ( = quarta), Sens, the ancient
metropolis, is still an archbishopric, and of the other municipalities which are
mentioned in the Notitia Provinciarum et Civitatum (of the fourth century a.d. ;
see Desjardins, Giographie de la Gaule d'apres la Table de Peutinger, p. lxxx. table
iii : Brambach in the Rheinisches Museum, 1868, vol. xxxiii. p. 262 sqq.) : Chartres,
Auxerre, Autun, Orleans, and Meaux, are bishoprics, and Paris an archbishopric :
(some, probably later, MSS. of the Notitia add Nevers, which became a bishopric
in the fifth century : see Brambach, I. 0.) : so in the province of Lugdunensis
Secunda, Bouen is still an archbishopric, and the other civilates of the ancient
province are bishoprics, Bayeux, Avranches, Evreux, S^ez, Lisieux, and Coutances.
Kuhn, Ueber die Entstehung de)- Stddte der Alten, Leipsig, 1878, p. 439, says that
the existence of a bishop in a given city is a proof of its having had municipal

viii.] The Parish and the Cathedral. 203

but required at certain periods to return and always
liable to recall 20 . The important modification of this
system by which such church officers became permanent
is the result of endowment. For the endowment of a
church, in either a small town or a country district,
came to be regarded as constituting the duly appointed
officers of that church tenants for life : they could not
be ejected, except after due process of law, either by
their congregations or by the bishop and his council :
nor were they any longer dependent upon the bishop for
their means of subsistence 21 . At one time the detach-

* Cone. Tarracon. a.d. 516, c. 7, requires all parish clergy to return to the
bishop's church on Saturday evenings ' quo facilius die dominico solemnitas cum
omnium praesentia celebretur:' 1 Cone. Arvern. a.d. 535, limits this necessary
presence in the bishop's church to the clergy of oratories or chapels, and to the
greater festivals: Cone. Emerit. a.d. 666, empowers a bishop to recall parish clergy
from their parishes and attach them to his cathedral.

11 Lands were originally given to the church of which a bishop was the imme-
diate head, i.e. to what in later times would have been termed a cathedral or
a diocese : unlike the ordinary oblations, which were divided in certain propor-
tions between the bishop and the clergy, they were in the special disposition of
the bishop (1 Cone. Aurel. a.d. 511, c. 14: so even of lands specially given for the
endowment of parish churches, 3 Cone. Tolet. a.d. 589, c. 19, 4 Cone. Tolet. a.d.
633, c. 33), and from the point of view of a canonist the origin of ecclesiastical
benefices is that 'ipsa bona ecclesiae quasi in quasdam portiones singulis titulis
annezas dividi et a communi massa bonorum ecclesiae separari coeperunt' (Van
Espen, Jus. Eccles. Univ. pars ii. sect. iv. tit. i. 3). The usufruct of certain of
these lands was granted by a bishop to the clergy either of his own church or of
detached parishes : provision was made on the part of the church that the ordinary
law of prescription should not apply (1 Cone. Aurel. c. 23, Cone. Epaon. a.d. 517,
c. 18), and on the part of the grantees that the grant should not lapse on the death
of the grantor (3 Cone. Aurel. A.D. 538, c. 17). How this system, in which the
endowments were personal, fused with the system of endowing churches on private
property, in which the Popes disallowed permanently -appointed presbyters (St.
Greg. M. Epist. 2. 12, ad Castor. Arim. 9. 70, and 12. 12, ad Passiv. Firman. 9.
84, ad Benen. Tundar.: St. Zachar. Papae, Epist. 8 ad Pippin, c. 15, ap. Codrx
Carolinus, ed. Jaffe, p. 26, probably quoting pseudo - Pelag. Papae, Epist. ad
Eleuther. ap. Holsten. Coll. Rom. vol. i. p. 234), and developed into the later system
of ecclesiastical benefices, in which particular lands were assigned in perpetuity fo
particular churches, and in which also the holder of the benefice was immovable,

204 The Parish and the Cathedral. [lect.

ment of such churches and their officers from the
bishop threatened to be complete : but the legislation
of the Carolingian kings restored the waning jurisdic-
tion of the bishops 22 : the bishop of the district within
which churches were situated was empowered to visit
them and their clergy were compelled to receive him :
he was entitled to receive certain specified dues, to
enquire into the degree to which the clergy conformed
to ecclesiastical rules, to hold courts of discipline, and
to perform that part of the baptismal ceremonies which
had come to be regarded in the Western Church as his
special function 23 . And so grew up those relations

except upon a sentence of an ecclesiastical court, confirmed by the Roman See,
(Decret. Eleuth. c. 2, Hinschius, Decret. Pseudo-Isid. p. 125), is a question of too
great intricacy to be discussed here : reference may be made to the general history
of 'beneficia' in Roth, Geschichte dts Beneficiahcesens, Erlangen, 1850, and to
Hinschius, Das Kirchenrecht der Katholiken a. Protestanten in Deutschland, Berlin,
1878, Bd. ii. pp. 293, 366.

21 This is an inference partly from the fact mentioned above, note 18, that pres-
byters were frequently appointed to and ejected from parishes without reference
to the bishop, and partly from the repetition, which would have been unnecessary
if the rule had been generally acknowledged, of the enactment that presbyters
shall be subject to their bishop : e.g. Pippin, Capit. Vern. duplex, A.D. 755, c. 8,
Pertz, i. 24 ' ut omnes presbyteri qui in parrochia sunt sub potestate episcopi
debeant de eorum ordine et nullus presbiter non praesumat in ille parrochia nee
baptiznre nee missas celebrare sine jussione episcopi in cujus parrochia est:' so
Karlomann, Capit. a.d. 742, c. 3, Pertz, vol. i. p. 17: Pippin, Capit. Suession. c.
4, ibid. p. 21 ; Karol. M. Capit. General, a.d. 769, c. 8, ibid. p. 33. So also in the
Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals, Epist. Clem. I. c. 36, ed. Hinschius, p. 41, and c. 70,
ibid. p. 57.

ffl The visitation of detached churches by the bishop within whose district they
were situated is found, as early as the fourth century, in e.g. Alexandria (St.
Athanas. Apol. c. Arian. c. 65, vol. i. p. 143), and in Gaul (Sulp. Sever. Dial. 2. 3,
ed. Halm. p. 183 : Cone. Tauiin. a.d. 401, c. 2). The earliest express enactment
is probably 2 Cone. Brae. a.d. 572, c. 1, which requires bishops to go round their
dioceses and examine their clergy ' quomodo ordinem baptismi teneant vel missarum
et quaecumque ofheia quomodo peragantur ; ' after which they are to assemble the
people and warn them to flee from idols and from mortal sins. The rule is recog-
nized and repeated, though different objects are assigned for the visitation, in 4
Cone. Tolet. A.D 633, c. 36, Cone. Emerit. ad. 666, c. 11, Karlomann, Capit. a.d.

viii.] The Parish and the Cathedral. 205

between the bishop of the central church and the
officers of detached churches which have lasted with-
out essential modification until modern times.

While the parochial system was thus shaping itself
the bishop's church preserved the main features of its
original constitution.

In early times, as we have seen, the bishop was not
what he has in many respects come to be in later times,
in the position of a monarch, but in that of the pre-
sident of a council. The presbyters who sat round him,
the deacons who stood immediately below him, were
integral elements in ecclesiastical administration. With-
out the assent of his council he could not legitimately
either deal with the church funds, or administer disci-
pline, or appoint persons to church office. On the
death of a bishop the earliest system of church govern-
ment revived : the council administered ecclesiastical
affairs with a complete authority 24 . Before the final
establishment of the parochial system all the presbyters
and deacons over whom the bishop presided were
ordinary members of that council. The fact that some
of them were temporarily detached to minister in
separate churches did not destroy the closeness of their

742, c. 3, Pertz, vol. i. p. 17. Pippin, Capit. Suession. a.d. 744, c. 4, ibid. p. 21.
Karoli M. Capit. General, a.d. 769, c. 7, ibid. p. 32 : but at the same time pro-
vision was made against the tendency of bishops to exact excessive fees and to
require excessive hospitality ; 2 Cone. Brae. A.D. 572, c. 2, 7 Cone. Tolet. A.D. 646,
c. 4, Karoli M. Capit. Langobard. c. 5, Pertz, vol. i. p. no, Karoli II. Synod, ap.
Tolos. a.d. 844, c. 4, ibid. p. 379, Hludowic, Convent. Ticin. a.d. 855, c. 16, ibid. p.

a * This is shown by the action of the presbyters and deacons of Rome on the
death of Fabian, and by Cyprian's letter to them (St. Cyprian. Epist. 30 (31), 9 (3),
pp. 549, 488, ed. Hartel).

206 The Parish and the Cathedral. [lect.

relation to the original church. When the bishop oi'
Rome came to have a preponderating influence in
Western Christendom, his council became so important
that some of the greatest dignitaries in Christendom
were willing to become, in name at least, parish clergy
in Rome, in order to have a voice in it. And hence it
is that, in at least the theory of its constitution, the
college of Roman parish clergy, who have retained in
the name ' Cardinal ' the original designation of the
permanent clergy of all parishes, has preserved to this
day the outline of the primitive type 2C .

In the greater part of the rest of Christendom
another system grew up inside the primitive system.
It arose out of the practice, of which I have already
spoken, of the clergy living together in the bishop's
house 26 . In Gaul and Spain that practice tended in

55 The term ' cardinalis ' (from which the verb ' incardinare ') was transferred
from the civil service of the Empire to denote a fixed officer (for its civil use see
Booking, Notit. Dignit. Orient, c. 5. 2, vol. i. pp. 24, 205). There is no early evi-
dence of its having been originally applied to other than presbyters and deacons :
but in the eleventh century it is used of acolytes {Comment. Election. Greg. VII. ap.
Jaffe, HTonum. Gregor. p. 9), and of the seven bishops of neighbouring sees who
officiated by turns in the church of St. John Lateran, and who were consequently
• Ecclesiae Lateranensis cardinales' (St. Petr. Damian. Epist. 2. 1, ap. Migne,
Patrol, hat. vol. cxliv. p. 254 : the uncertain authority of the Liber Pontificalis,
Yit. Steph. III. (IV.) vol. ii. p. 284, assigns an earlier date to the creation of these
cardinal bishops). In the letters of Gregory the Great (e.g. lib. 1. 15, 79), and
elsewhere, the word is in ordinary use for the permanent clergy of a parish, and it
is found as a common title in all the great churches of Christendom: e.g. Constan-
tinople, Milan, Naples, Cologne, Treves, Compostella, and London (see Muratori,
Antiq. Ital. vol. v. p. 163, and Hinschius, Das Kirchenreckt, Bd. i. p. 318). The
admission of prelates and others from various parts of Christendom to the positions
which properly belonged to the actual clergy of the city of Rome dates from the
time when the holders of those positions came to have the uncontrolled election of
the most important personage in Christendom. The modern restriction of the
term to the Roman College dates from 1567, when Pius V formally disallowed its
use in any other sense.

26 See Lecture VI, p. 162. The later canon law baaed the practice upon a sup-

viii.] The Parish and the Cathedral. 207

the sixth and seventh centuries to become general. It
was fostered partly by the facilities which it offered
for guarding the celibacy of the clergy, and partly by
the introduction of that important change by which
instead of church officers being freely chosen by the
several communities from their adult members, youths
were dedicated early in life to the service of the
Church. The bishop's house was thus partly a monas-
tery, though without a monastic rule, and partly a
school at which younger clerks were taught and
trained 27 . Those who so lived in it, whether old or
young, bore the name which had originally been ap-
plied to all who were on the church-roll, and who were

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