The English parish and its clergy in the thirteenth century

Authored by: C. H. Lawrence

The Medieval World

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138848689
eBook ISBN: 9781315102511
Adobe ISBN:


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By the thirteenth century, parishes were territories with strictly defined boundaries, and a parish church was distinguished from other churches by the exclusive right to possess a font and a graveyard for the service of its parishioners. This familiar parish structure which covered England was the outcome of a slow-working process that extended over several centuries. Some parish churches had originated in Anglo-Saxon times as official minsters or baptismal churches, which had been under episcopal supervision from the outset. Others, the greater number in fact, sprang from the initiative of landlords, monasteries and townsmen of the tenth and eleventh centuries, who built churches for themselves or their tenants on their estates and in the newly populous towns. It was through their efforts that the monk Ralph Glaber had in his lifetime seen Europe ‘clothed in a white robe of churches’ (France 1989: 114–17).

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