This book analyzes the acquisition and use of texts by the parish clergy in the diocese of Eichstätt between 1400 and 1520 to refute the amusing, but misleading, image of the lustful and ignorant cleric so popular in the satirical literature of the period. By the fifteenth-century, more widely available local schooling and increasing university attendance had improved the educational level of the clergy; priests were bureaucrats as well as pastors and both roles required extensive use of the written word.
What priests read is a question of fundamental importance to our understanding of the late medieval parish and the role of the clergy as communicators and cultural mediators. Priests were entrusted with saying the Mass, preaching doctrine and repentance, honoring the saints, plumbing the conscience, and protecting the legal rights of the Church. They baptized children, blessed the fields, and prayed for the souls of the dead. What priests read would have informed how they understood and how they performed their social and religious roles.
By locating and contextualizing the manuscripts, printed books, and parish records that were once in the hands of priests in the diocese, the author has found evidence for the unexpected: the avid acquisition of books; a theological awareness; and an emerging professional identity. This marks an important revision to the conventional view of a dramatic era marked by both the transition from manuscripts to printed books and the outbreak of the Reformation.
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About the Author
Matthew Wranovix is lecturer in the Department of History at the University of New Haven.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Education
Chapter 2: The Priest in the Parish, Diocese, and Territory
Chapter 3: Parish Libraries and Personal Collections
Chapter 4: A Professional Library
Chapter 5: Reading Interests