* Warriors at Battle

Ælfstan ðe Preost

* horizontal rule
Bishop Thurlac looking at his most pious, and most commanding at the same time

The first thing to be said about any Priest who lived 1000 years ago was that he was basically a normal everyday person, who was possessed with the same emotions, vices and social mores as anyone else who lived back then. However pious, there were times when he too aspired to higher status, wielded his influence to his own ends etc. His rank was equivalent to that of a Thegn, which goes a long way to explain peoples reverence to priests even to this day.

All this may give the impression that they were all bad. Not so. Because they lived in the community, you could expect your parish priest have been more worldly than his Monastery bound colleagues. It is also quite likely that he was married- an aspect that the church conducted infrequent 'witch-hunts' about since the married state was seen to be at odds with a truly pious life(There was also the danger that any offspring of the priest would be due some land upon his death, thus reducing the Churches holdings).

It was quite common for the youngest son in a family to enter the church, so that the eldest could by tradition inherit the farm and the middle son would then be free to see to other family duties (such as hob-knobbing with the ruling family, becoming a semi-professional soldier, or trading abroad). The daughters had by and large just one destiny in life, and that was to become wedded to hopefully a wealthy man of influence. Even in the earlier part of the twentieth century entering your son for the church was still regarded in many countries as a means of ensuring that he received a good education if your family could not afford to pay for it.

The priest held regular services at the church. In the unlikely event that there was no church in the area he would have held them at the site of a newly dedicated plot for a church, or where a standing cross had been erected. Your presence at service was expected, not optional. Throughout the year, additional services would occur for festivals and the celebration of a number of saints days. These too would require your presence. And the religious year would be scattered with baptisms, marriages, and funerals where the priest would officiate. At all times, the Priest was the person to whom the locals would look for advice and arbitration (the thegn of the locality could be elsewhere or indeed be the 'other' party). In times of famine, which were all too often, (especially in the early winter months), the Priest was a spiritual shoulder to lean on. If the case of hunger was great, there was a chance he might be able to assist.

At an appointed time of year, your local priest would collect the tithes that were due. This was another opportunity to see his flock and keep up with the gossip. The tithes, in addition to funding the church and Priest's activities, would also be used to maintain the fabric of the local church and help the poor of the district.

The pictures here all show Regia's 'Bishop' rather than the village Priest. This is mainly because the images were taken at a 'wedding' of the local Norman lord, where the Bishop was officiating, and the Priest had to oversee a pressing funeral of a poor local farmer. Nothing changes
*A Wedding

Depending upon the size and influence of the parish, the priest may have also run a 'school'. This is not the kind of school that taught all of the village's children, but one that taught selected individuals to read and write Latin. These people then ensured that aspects of government and transactions were dealt with. This included keeping records, duplicating deeds, diplomas etc, and keeping accounts. They became known as Clerks and Clerics, a term that was at that point fairly interchangeable. This gave rise to the 'civil service' that became so dominating later on. Priests were also often 'employed' by wealthy noblemen in the capacity of personal secretary. Another less well documented task the priest performed was to act as a witness to business that needed no formal records other than the reliable witness of a highly regarded member of the community.

Although there was no question as to the reality of God and the lawful activities of the Church on Gods behalf, the symbol we regard today as representing Christ was a rare thing. Crosses as pendants were very, very infrequent, and if one looks at finds from archaeological contexts, one could suppose that they were not even the norm.

The Church could be said to have been a powerful and influential force and as a great landowner was not averse to some deeds of self interest in order to preserve its assets. Bishops and Archbishops were appointed from popular priests without any formal training and the king often had a say in who was elevated and to what. As today appointments could still be made on merit or for deeper political reasons.

* Warriors at Battle * horizontal rule