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IMC 2019: Sessions

Session 408: Annual Early Medieval Europe Lecture: Creating a Temple Society in the Early Medieval West (Language: English)

Monday 1 July 2019, 19.00-20.00

Sponsor:Early Medieval Europe
Introductions:Marios Costambeys, Department of History, University of Liverpool
Roy Flechner, School of History, University College Dublin
Speaker:Ian N. Wood, School of History, University of Leeds

The post-Roman World is usually categorised in political terms, as a world of Successor States. It can just as easily be described as a Temple Society (or perhaps Societies). It was dominated by the Church, which influenced every aspect of society, from its ritual observance to the behaviour of the individual. Of course, religion also affected most aspects of the pagan Roman Empire. What was new in the Christian World was the development of the Church as an institution. By the 7th century it was supported by vast landed endowments, and the numbers of clergy were equivalent to the numbers of Roman soldiers in the early 4th century. Although pagan Rome had plenty of temples, for the most part they were endowed with treasure, not land, and priests were often notables holding largely honorary, temporary posts. In terms of religious organisation, the Christian World of the 7th century seems to have been more akin to the temple societies of the Hellenistic and Pharaonic Worlds, or to those of East Asia and Central America, than to that of the High Roman Empire.

How did this come about? Peter Brown has revealed the emergence of a spiritual economy concerned with personal salvation, but the origins of the landed endowment of churches remain obscure. The evidence of charters and ecclesiastical histories suggests that large-scale transfer of property to the Church was a development of the late 5th and 6th centuries. To what extent did the collapse of the Roman Empire encourage donation to the Church? Or did the natural disasters of the 6th century cause an Age of Anxiety, which took refuge in religion? Whatever the cause, the end result was a 7th century dominated by an institutionalised Church (or churches) at least as much as by warrior kings.

The journal Early Medieval Europe is pleased to sponsor its Annual Lecture at the International Medieval Congress. Early Medieval Europe is an interdisciplinary journal encouraging the discussion of archaeology, numismatics, palaeography, diplomatic, literature, onomastics, art history, linguistics, and epigraphy, as well as more traditional historical approaches. It covers Europe and the Mediterranean World from the 4th to the 11th centuries inclusive. Further information is available at

All those attending are warmly invited to join members of the editorial board after the lecture for a glass of wine. Please note that admission to this event will be on a first-come, first-served basis as there will be no tickets. Please ensure that you arrive as early as possible to avoid disappointment.