Book Series Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, vol. 6

Shepherds of the Lord

Priests and Episcopal Statutes in the Carolingian Period

C. van Rhijn

  • Pages: 246 p.
  • Size:160 x 240 mm
  • Illustrations:6 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2007

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-52319-4
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-56062-5
  • E-book
  • Available

This book illuminates for the first time rural priesthood by tracing the rise and emergence of both local priests and episcopal statutes that aimed at driving their behaviour, during the Carolingian period.


"On voit combien est riche la problématique envisagée dans ce lvire dont on recommandera la lecture à tous les historiens de l'époque carolingienne et dont on espère de prochains prolongements." (G. Bührer-Thierry, dans: The Medieval Review, 08.01.20)


This book is the first study of the rural priesthood, its significance, and the statutes written for them in the time of the Carolingians. It seeks to trace and explain the rise and emergence in the Carolingian period of both local priests and episcopal statutes that aimed at steering their behaviour. It was in the context of Carolingian ideals of reform, formulated in court-centred circles from the late eighth century onwards, that local priests increasingly came to be seen as those that held the key to turning the local Frankish population into ideal Christians by their word and living example. First of all, however, these educators needed to be educated themselves, hence the emergence of the Episcopal statutes, a new tool to direct the local diocesan clergy into becoming the ideal 'Shepherds of the Lord' that they needed to be. Smooth as this process of empire-wide reform theoretically was, however, obstacles lurked, both from a top-down (episcopal) and a grass-roots (local) perspective on the status, role, and function of priests. Nevertheless, the ninth century saw the emergence of the priesthood and the development of their role as an important group that connected bishops with the lay inhabitants of their dioceses and, from a higher-up perspective, those who opened up the vast Carolingian country-side to the implementation of the ideal society in the minds of contemporary reformers.